Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Basket Bonanza – Part 20

If there’s one easy way to instantly transform the appearance of your house and garden, it’s to add a container or two of colourful plants. Hanging baskets at the front door, patio planters and even just a window box of fresh, flowering plants bring drama and interest to an otherwise bare and boring area. The secret to success is to keep them fresh and healthy by regular watering and feeding and also plenty of TLC. There’s nothing worse than a basket of dead plants or a patio pot full of weeds.

Greenhouses and garden centres around the UK are packed full of summer bedding patio planter plants ready to transform the nations baskets, pots and planters into the stars of the show. It’s the quickest way to create instant impact in your garden and greenhouse gardeners always get a head start. That’s not just because most of the summer bedding plants are tender and need frost protection, but also because the nature of a glasshouse utilises the rays of the sun to enhance plant growth ahead of plants growing outside. In essence it means that planters and baskets planted up now and kept in the greenhouse to grow on will quickly establish and start flowering. So the greenhouse looks good for the few weeks it is nurturing the plants and when the time comes to safely put them outside (a few weeks yet I fear), they are blooming nicely and looking established. It’s a great way to get ahead with hanging baskets. Your plants grow within the basket compost and start to cover the basket and chains and you can hang them in the greenhouse eaves so they don’t even take up any floor or staging space.

Plus there’s an added bonus, many patio plants create strong shoots ideal for cuttings so if you get propagating now you will have a few more plants to spread around your baskets and containers in a few weeks. Do check whether there are plant breeders’ rights relevant to the plants (you’ll find a note on the label), and of course if there is you can’t sell your cuttings at a plant fair or summer fete. I believe you can still take cuttings for your own use though.

Getting back to baskets. There are a few tips to getting the best from your hanging baskets. The first is to line them inside the ornamental liner with some polythene. When you plant through the sides of the basket you need to plant through the polythene too. This extra layer helps to conserve moisture in the compost and stops the wind drying the basket out so quickly.

Next place a flowerpot saucer in the base of the basket, this will catch excess water and hold it as a mini reservoir within the basket. It’s a useful tool for when the basket compost has dried out and is difficult to rewet. The reservoir will gently feed water back to the compost and the plant roots.

When you plant your basket, choose a top quality container compost. This will usually contain a wetting agent and a material to aid water retention. It will also be rich in plant nutrients that are essential for plants growing in confined spaces.

Don’t over plant. Too many plants in one basket will not perform to their full potential and will quickly starve and dry out making them difficult to maintain easily.

As your plants develop pinch out the growing tips of shoots that are strong and healthy, this will encourage the plants become bushier.

Feed, feed, and feed. Choose a plant food dedicated to flowering plants or container plants and follow the instructions. If you are short of time then employ slow or controlled release pelleted fertilisers that you simply mix into the compost. If you like the hands on approach then choose a concentrate that you dilute in water and apply when watering.

Deadhead your plants regularly removing the whole flower and any forming seedpod. This will encourage your plants to make new flowers in their quest to create mature seeds.

Finally, if you find you have placed your hanging baskets outside too soon, keep a few carrier bags handy and simply slip one over the whoa basket on any night that frost threatens and remove in the morning. This will provide a degree or two of protection to your plants. Or, try and move them back into the protection of the greenhouse for a few more days until the weather improves.