Making Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets can give a splendid show in any season, but are particularly successful through the summer and autumn months. You can use a wide range of plants, so it's easy to plan a colour scheme, using different ranges of plants for the summer and winter - for which Sussex Country Gardener recommend hanging basket liner alternatives.

Suitable Composts

Specialised and formulated composts for hanging baskets and containers are available, which tend to be a little more expensive than ordinary, multi-purpose composts. The specialist compost will already have these additives, but a multi-purpose one can be adapted by adding water-retaining gel and slow-release fertiliser. Both the peat and peat-free multi-purpose composts can be used for this purpose.

Choosing a Basket

Wire basket

Buy the largest and deepest basket possible that will fit in the location you have in mind, as the more compost it contains, the less frequently plants will need feeding and watering. A 35cm (14in) diameter basket is typically the best recommended size for general use. These are normally open-sided and need to be lined. Don't forget you'll need a strong, well secured bracket to hang your creation on!

Solid basket

We also keep a range of nominally solid baskets, in that they are od a woven basket design complete with a polythene liner.

Optional extras - Hanging Basket Liner Alternative

A range of liners area available to suite different styles of basket. These include traditional sphagnum moss, coco fibre, sheet sponge, compressed preformed paper or peat, micro punched black polythene and wool fleece.

Solid liners are popular as, with care, they will last for several seasons. They come in a range of materials, from cardboard to coco fibre, and many have a disc of capillary matting at the bottom to help retain moisture. Different sizes are available to fit all diameters of baskets. Check that the liner selected will be deep enough for the chosen basket.

Slow-release fertilisers

Hanging baskets are hungry feeders. Failure to keep them well fed will result in the basket running out of steam later in the season. Plants can be kept well-fed by using slow-release fertilisers. These come in granular, pellet or tablet form, and should be inserted into the basket when planting or mixed with the compost as appropriate. They gradually release their nutrients over time, but thought should also be given to keeping up a regime of regular liquid feeding of the basket.

Water-retaining gel crystals

These can be added to compost to improve its ability to hold water. When water is added to the dry crystals, they quickly absorb the liquid to swell to several times their original size. These form gelatinous pieces, which release water as the compost dries out. Add them to the compost when making up baskets, after swelling them first in water. They will keep on working for the whole season.

Basket construction

Remove one of the hanging chains and stand the basket on a flower-pot or bowl to keep it steady. Cover the inside of the basket with an even layer of your chosen lining material such as coconut fibre or sphagnum moss.

Line at least the bottom of the hanging basket with polythene, making sure to form a dish shape. This will allow some water to pool in the bottom of the basket when you water and will keep the basket moister between irrigations. Some people even like to put an old saucer in the bottom!

Firm in some potting mix at the bottom of the basket. At this soil level, make some holes evenly spaced around the circumference of the basket.

Push suitable small plants through the holes (Petunias, Lobelia, Impatiens, etc) and make sure the rootball is in firm contact with the first layer of compost. Add some more compost to just cover these rootballs and gently firm. Continue adding layers like this depending on the depth of you basket, finally allowing enough depth at the top for the final plants.

If you are creating a traditional basket, then finally add the centre piece plants such as geraniums, fuchsias, etc. Surround the edge of the basket with more trailing species, making sure the basket looks comfortably full, with no obvious "holes" in your planting scheme.

It is important that you leave a lip so that the liner edge is higher than the final compost level, otherwise when you irrigate, all the water will just run off!