GARDENING: Plant your hanging baskets now but make sure you protect them – Brian Kidd

Frost guide: once hawthorn blossom has died off, there won't be another.
Frost guide: once hawthorn blossom has died off, there won't be another.
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It’s time to start planting hanging baskets for a great show of summer flowers. There’s plenty of time to do this job but it takes ages just thinking about it. However, inspiration encourages us to get on with it.

If you live ‘over the hill’ it’s a good idea to make up the baskets but keep them in the greenhouse until May 21 to avoid frost damage.

We have not had a serious spring frost at Waterlooville for more than 10 years, but there were two fogs in March which means there could be two frosts in May.

Another good guide is to look at hawthorn bushes where you live.Once this ‘May’ blossom has died off, there won’t be another frost that spring. The hawthorn in my neighbour’s garden hasn’t started to come into flower yet so we aren’t taking any chances.

If there is a frost forecast, horticultural fleece is easy to obtain and it’s very cheap and easy to use to cover tender plants or to envelop hanging baskets. Fix it to the chains using pincer pegs. The whole basket will now be protected from  frost or very cold winds.

A few useful tips.

When planting, put rounded baskets ones on a bucket half-filled with sand to stop it falling over. Put in the liner or moss and push the foliage, not the roots, through the mesh. This will ensure the plants start to grow straight away because they have perfect roots. I have never seen this done on TV so perhaps the presenters didn’t have an apprenticeship in gardening.

We all love perfumed plants so try to include at least one petunia called Blue Vein. There are others but this one is easy to find. They can be planted either in the side at the front of the basket or in the top.

It grows to become a big bush as well as a trailing plant. In fact only three are required to completely fill a 16in-diameter basket.

Hanging baskets can be difficult to establish in windy areas but there are alternatives.

Take a look at flat-backed baskets with a round front. These are fixed to a wall by using rawlplugs and screws. The wall gives the plants a lot of protection.

If silver or grey-leafed plants such as helichrysum are included in your selection of plants, these are very good growers especially near the sea and give shelter to more delicate plants such as busy Lizzies and petunias.

Baskets need to be watered regularly even if it rains because they are in a relatively small amount of compost and wind dries out the compost  quickly.

Feeding is also essential and it’s a good idea to give them a weak feed every third day rather than steak and chips once a month!

The next tip is deadheading which needs to be done as part of the regular watering regime.

Dead flower heads are removed and composted; the reason for this is to prevent the flowers producing seeds. If seeds are not allowed to form the plants produce more flowers because they need to produce seeds in order that the species can continue.

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

If you notice worms lying on  paths it’s because they have tried to get some water but can’t get back into the soil. Pick them up and put them underneath the soil. Once out of the ground, they  can’t get back.