As part of a project designed to sow ideas, grow inspiration and cultivate futures, 300 London schools are growing their own picnic this summer and their reward could be a £500 voucher from GardenSite.
Hanging baskets are such a quintessential part of the British summer, bright and colourful they really light up the landscape with natural vibrancy. Nathan James Dodd has got a few suggestion on the most effective planting techniques.
To create a substantial display you need a large deep basket that can be planted on top and through the sides to create a colourful ball of flowers, these are usually made from wire mesh.
The basket will need to be lined before filling with compost. There are several choices of liner: moss that can be bought from a florist or garden centre, coco fibre, wood fibre, sisal, jute etc. In addition to whatever you choose, also place a piece of plastic around the inside. The basket will then look attractive from the outside and the plastic liner will give it added water retention.
Steady the basket by placing it on top of a bucket. Once the basket is lined, half fill with a compost specifically formulated for hanging baskets or containers, or a soil based multi-purpose compost and include water retentive granules such as Gardman Watergel together with slow release fertilizer.
Make some holes through the liner, spaced evenly around the sides and slightly above the compost. Now push through, root ball first from the outside, some plants that have been well watered. Add more compost up to about an half an inch under the rim before adding further plants with the smaller and trailing ones nearer the edge and surrounding a larger central plant.
These are the key plants to be found in basket displays:
Summer: trailing Fuchsia and Begonis, Lobelia, Impatiens (Busy Lizzie), Nasturtium, Petunia, Pelargonium, Nemesia, Calibrachoa and Convovulus.
Winter: Pansy, Viola, Primula, winter flowering heathers and Ivy
A good tip is to cut off the top of a plastic water bottle. Top up the compost while inserting the top half of the bottle upside down. Hanging baskets dry out very quickly and if you water through the bottle it will go straight to the plants' roots.
Make sure the basket is well watered and if the weather is hot and dry, leave it for a day or two in the shade before hanging in direct sun.
Baskets are high maintenance, they will need feeding weekly during the summer with a liquid fertilizer and watering at least once daily preferably in the evening. Regularly deadhead the flowers to prevent them going to seed.
If you don't have a helpful neighbour to look after the baskets when you go on holiday, consider installing automatic watering such as the system manufactured by Hozelock, never let them dry out.
Watering and feeding aren't so crucial for winter hanging baskets. The plants will benefit from being located in a sunny, sheltered position and think about covering with fleece in the coldest weather.
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