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Spring Arrives in a Basket: Part 2

How to nurture hanging baskets

A full, well-grown hanging basket is an attractive and appealing addition to a porch or landscape. To keep your hanging basket green and growing requires routine daily maintenance. Here’s how to groom your hanging basket to look its best.

Buy a hanging basket that has been growing in a greenhouse with uniform lighting. In most home conditions, the light will be filtering in on one side only. Unless the basket will be hung outdoors in full sun, rotate it 180 degrees twice monthly to prevent its growing lopsided. Hanging baskets require more frequent irrigation than similar plants grown in pots on a shelf. Because they’re surrounded by air, the rooting medium warms more rapidly, and more water is lost by evaporation. Since the rooting medium is warmer, plants tend to grow faster, further increasing water needs.

When the plants are small and temperatures are cool, there is less demand for frequent irrigations. When temperatures rise and the plants grow larger, however, their need for water increases. So by mid July and through August, you must water the plants two to three times daily. Allowing these plants to dry out even once can mean poor recovery or death.

Proper irrigation is equally as important as frequent irrigation. Always add enough water so that excess liquid drips from the bottom of the container. You may need to place a saucer under the hanging basket to capture the excess water, if it’s indoors. Apply a sufficient amount of water each time you irrigate, or you will only moisten the surface of the soil and the plants will dry out more quickly.

The combination of frequent irrigations and fast-growing plants means you’ll have to apply fertilizers. When you purchase a hanging basket, ask if it has been treated with a slow-release fertilizer prior to sale. Or inspect the rooting medium and look for small round granules the size of BBs. If the granules are present, this is a good indication that either Osmocote or Nutricote has been applied. These granules will release a complete nutrient supply for four to six months. If there are no granules present, establish a fertilizer program with water-soluble fertilizers such as 20-20-20 or fish emulsion. Or apply a teaspoon of 10-10-10 granular monthly.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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