Keep your baskets in tip-top condition

A colourful hanging basket
A colourful hanging basket
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A lot of gardeners are complaining that hanging baskets are not looking so good this year. They lack vitality and the flowers don’t seem to last as long.

So what’s the answer? Hanging baskets can be really beautiful if we remember that the plants are growing in a very small container. There are about 21 plants in a basket which has only got just over a bucket of compost in it.

It isn’t very long before the minerals are washed out of the compost. John Innes Number 3 compost is less likely to lose the trace elements because they are ‘locked’ in the loam, whereas loamless composts quickly lose these in the water.

Once the minerals are washed out and the roots have absorbed them, the plants then realise they are going to starve and in order that the species suvives they quickly produce seed so that seedlings can take over. It’s all part of Mother Nature’s great plan.

The best advice is to take off every dead bloom every day. Petunias are really important because if they are allowed to set seed, the parent plant will turn brown and die.

It can be difficult to find the dead blooms, but the rolled-up one at the tip of each stem is a flower bud, not a dead flower.

If dead flowers are left on the plants, after a few days they become crisp. A pair of sharp scissors, using just the tip,will do the trick. The dead heads can go into the compost bin.

Bidens in baskets are just wonderful. The flowers tumble down to make a waterfall of yellow blooms in the early part of the season.

They just look like ferny foliage, but once they become established they will bloom their socks off, right up until the frosts arrive as long as they’re dead headed every day.

This is a very time-consuming task and whilst doing it I often feel I should be doing something else. But this job is essential and doesn’t take so long if it’s done regularly.

Going back to the small amount of compost in the baskets, the plants need to be fed regularly. This is very important and when judging it is easy to see who feeds regularly.

Some gardeners buy the recommended feed but don’t use it. If you use it, it will work and will transform your baskets.

Feeding is very important indeed and we need a different approach. Chemical fertilisers feed the plants, but if we look at the biological process we need to feed the compost.

If we do that the plants will take out the nutrients and grow beautifully. Try Maxicrop Complete liquid fertiliser.

Tomato feeds have a high percentage of potash and if these are used during very hot weather it prevents the plants attaining the correct size.