Balcony beauty! Balcony booty! And what better way to get this than a hanging basket or two? For many people spring and summer are on their way or just around the corner if not already ‘there’ and as you all know, for container gardeners especially, there is much to do.
I think New Year’s resolutions stretch easily when it comes to container gardening and along with the changes in seasons, everyDAY can be a new year just beginning. Works for me as it is my chance to start again.
Follow these simple guidelines, add a touch of you and you will get stunning results far greater that the effort you need to make – what a pleasure!
WHAT YOU NEED
* The usual suspects plus a bit of DIY (for hanging the baskets and/or connecting them). Usual suspects? Well of course we mean sunshine, soil, water and position.
* Hanging baskets or containers in three different sizes if you choose to plant up more than one. Think of a way of connecting your pots and as I have seen elsewhere, you can grow miniature ivy up the chains to get a covered look.
* Basket liners of peat moss or coir. You can use plastic and newspaper too.
* Soil mixed with some river sand to improve drainage for the succulents.
* A compatible mix of plants
* Mulch (optional)
CAVEATS aka Watchpoints, Hints, Tips and Tricks.
- Mix and match your plants so that they are like-minded in one presentation. The ones you choose should like and need the same amount of watering, sunshine, and soil.
- Hang your baskets at the right height so that caring for them is low maintenance and easy to get to, remember they dry out quickly. They will be easy on the eye, you will remember to water them and you will not be disappointed. It's no use hanging them too high where they will be out of sight and difficult to look after.
- Hang them in the right place to protect them from too much of anything like hot glass, direct sun, and other fixtures. Remember these are not creepers that attach themselves to eaves or walls or trellis. The plants or flowers you choose for this purpose are stand alone and hang alones. When a hanging basket bashes or brushes against the wall, leaves may break off, get damaged and die off, then your basket becomes lopsided and may go on strike.
- Remember soil is heavy once potted up so use strong wire and chains to secure your hangers and ensure hooks are the right size to take the strain and the weight of a just watered basket. Simple DIY caution.
- Hang a pot from a pot from a pot. Wot?! Yes, it looks good. Smallest basket goes at the top and hangs onto the ceiling, roof rail, then the medium basket is attached underneath with the largest basket coming last.
- Go for herb hangers, flower hangers or succulents only … or even mix and match (though this is harder to maintain than just one look) A friend of mine has done this and I am going to copy her. Top basket is cacti, middle basket fillers and spillers of falling flowering plants and herbs (which she keeps trimmed) and in the bottom and biggest basket she is growing cheery fall-about cherry tomatoes.
HOW TO PLANT UP YOUR HANGING BASKET
It is simple and fulfilling to plant up your own baskets (I like the shopping part) and if I am in a hurry I may even buy a couple already planted up for me. But I keep the long term in mind as I know that later or next season I will be planting up my own.
* Choose your basket or hanging pot to suit the plants you will be using. Generally the bigger the basket/pot, the longer the plants and flowers will last.
* You can (and should) choose a variety of plants that include colours, leaves, flowers and fruit; or you could go for a theme like white only or herbs only or cacti only. A single repeated theme done with three in a row hanging basket has a lot of impact for a cleaner and simpler ‘less is more’ look.
* Put the coir or peat liner in the frame of the basket, make sure it is right sized to suit and that it is a snug fit. Then put in a lining of plastic, punctured thus making holes (this slows down the drainage) and then line the plastic with torn strips of black-and-white newsprint. The newsprint is optional, but it is what I would do to give my roots a tad more protection especially from any extreme temperatures.
* If you are potting up cacti and succulents, mix together one to three parts of soil and river sand. This is for easy drainage.
* Put the soil into the baskets, nearly up to the top, remove the seedlings and plants and position them as you want to grow them. Play around with a few looks until you are satisfied.
* Remove excess soil from the bottom of the root ball (not too much) then plant them pushing them in snugly; “put them to bed nicely,” as my garden assistant says.
* Top up the soil or make sure there is no air around the top of the plant, or use a natural mulch like small bark chips or peanut shells.
CARING FOR YOUR BASKETS
- Watch out for watering needs, do not let your baskets dry out completely, and keep them moist all the time and give a good watering at least once a week.
- Look out for pests and diseases and treat immediately. (Have you got a stock of natural garlic/chillie and soap spray?)
- Maintain the baskets, deadhead, trim, prune, cutback and generally make sure they stay looking good.
- Feed at least monthly with a soluble food. If it is high in potassium even better – grow sticks are good and also slow release. If there is a bully in your playground, trim it more rigorously, don’t allow one faster growing plant to take over the whole pot.
- After a while and probably at least twice a year, repot your basket replacing soil and spent plants.
WHAT PLANTS YOU CAN USE
Any plant to suit your conditions! I really like Coleus for its stunning coloured leaves and easy planting. I love any of the Echveria (Mexican rock roses), I use Allysum and Lobelia to great effect, I really like Vygies (Mesembryanthemum) and Portulaca with their bright flowers; I have used all the herbs including creeping rosemary, thyme and mint and I have mixed orange Marigold with trailing Nasturtium for a really colourful splash. Go see your nearest nurseryman or garden centre. They always have what is seasonal, what’s in and what’s suitable for your zone and area. The ideas are up to your imagination and you know what a gift that is.
What do you want your container garden to do?