Plant your own hanging baskets
Hanging baskets will brighten up any outdoor space.
You can use all sorts of plants, so it's easy to create interesting and colourful displays.
Use this handy calculator to work out how many paving tiles you require.
Hanging basket compost
Specially formulated for high moisture absorbtion and retention, containing the ideal balance of essential nutrients for healthy growth and blooms.
Moisture control gel
Reduce the need for watering by using water storing crystals that absorb and release water when plants need it. Can also be used in flowerbeds and vegetable patches.
The Hi-Lo is a great little gadget that enables easy lowering and raising of hanging baskets for watering by means of a spring and ratchet mechanism. It's also ideal for topping up bird feeders in trees.
1 Place the liner in the basket and half fill it with compost. Use a specialist moisture-retaining compost for hanging baskets and planters. Add moisture control gel and slow-release fertiliser to help keep plants moist and nourished throughout the season.
2 For the sides of the basket, gently push the roots of trailing plants through the liner and firm them into the compost. Do this all the way round the outside of the basket and add a little more compost.
3 Place the remaining plants in the top of the basket: one centrally and the rest near the edge. Firm more compost around the root balls, keeping the final level a few centimetres below the top of the basket, to allow room for watering. Then water well.
Nice and steady
To stop a hanging basket from rolling about while you're planting it, stand it on a bucket, pot or even a small saucepan.
Hanging baskets come in a variety of styles. Traditional plasticcoated wire needs to be lined, as does wicker. Solid-sided baskets in terracotta, ceramic or even polished steel have built-in water reservoirs and are ideal for hot, exposed conditions.
Lining your basket will help to retain moisture and prevent compost from falling out. The traditional lining material is sphagnum moss, which is farmed for this purpose and should not be collected from the wild.
Many gardeners prefer alternative materials, such as coconut fibre. Purpose-made options include thick, felt-like liners made from recycled fibres and solid liners which, with care, should last for several seasons.
If using a solid liner, make sure it’s deep enough for your chosen basket.
Almost any small plant can be used for a hanging basket, as long as it doesn't outgrow its container.
Spring and summer bedding plants
These are the most common plants used for hanging baskets. They can also be interplanted with bulbs.
Young small shrubs
Grow these temporarily. For instance, place evergreen hebes in hanging baskets to provide colour throughout the winter; then pot them out into the garden in spring.
Keep herbs, such as basil and thyme handy for cooking by hanging them near the kitchen door.
Trailing varieties are perfect for hanging baskets.
Make sure the plants you use are well watered when planting.
Like tomatoes, strawberries are an interesting edible addition to a hanging garden.
A fully planted basket is surprisingly heavy to support - especially one that's just been watered. So make sure that the bracket holding up your hanging basket is securely attached to the wall.
Hang baskets well above head height to avoid accidents, and consider installing a pulley system to raise and lower them - this will make baskets easier to care for (see Ideal for the job).
1 Mark the fixing holes in pencil and check they are vertical with a spirit level. Drill into the brick, not the mortar.
2 Insert the right-sized wall plugs for the hole and screws. Fix the bracket to the wall and check that it is firmly attached.
3 Hang the basket to the bracket using the chains.
Late spring is the best time to plant summer bedding in baskets and planters. This gives plants a few weeks to establish, so they will give you instant impact when you hang them up outdoors. Keep your plants somewhere frost-free until it’s safe to move them outdoors; if this isn’t possible, then wait until all risk of frost has passed before planting. If the plants are not tender, it should be fine to plant them midspring, when they will start to grow properly. Winter displays should be planted in early autumn, at the same time as spring-flowering bulbs.
The secret to successful hanging baskets is regular watering and feeding. Even with the help of water-retaining granules in the compost, hanging baskets dry out incredibly quickly.
You will need to water them at least daily, and often twice a day at the height of summer. This long-reach hose attachment with a shower-head sprayer is an ideal tool for watering hard-to-reach areas, such as hanging baskets.
Feeding is also extremely important. The average planter or basket contains only a small amount of compost relative to the amount of plant growth it supports, and nutrients will quickly become depleted.
Slow-release fertiliser comes in granules, sticks and nuggets that you can easily push into the compost. These are fantastic in the long-term and can be supplemented with liquid feeds, which give plants an instant lift, but need to be dosed regularly. As with all annuals and perennials, regular deadheading will prolong flowering and should be done weekly.
Do your plants (and the environment) a favour, by collecting and recycling rainwater.
As well as being free, rainwater is better for plants than tap water, because it contains more nutrients and doesn’t increase the alkalinity of soil, like hard mains water can. The best way to collect rainwater is in a water butt connected to a downpipe.
You can also recycle water that you've used in the home ('grey water'), as long as it's not contaminated with too much soap, cleaning product or food residue. Don't store grey water, though: use it as soon as it's cool. And never apply it with a sprinkler or other watering system.
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