Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland



Tips on making a colourful hanging basket this summer
IT'S not too late to prepare your summer hanging baskets and for those of you who venture out into your garden for the traditional barbecue season, here's how to spruce up your patio.

Conveniently situated at eye level and providing terrific colour in vertical lines, hanging baskets can transform restricted spaces.

Start by lining your basket with moss or wool. (Tests have proved wool works just as well as moss.) Then place a saucer at the bottom of your basket to help water retention.

Shovel in two inches of wet compost then lay the rootless of three trailing lobelia and two trailing Nepeta inside the basket, gently pushing foliage through the wire and moss.

Add more wet compost then plant your Surfinias (three should do for the top) and to finish if off nicely include a Pelargonium in the middle of the basket.

Unlike in blue Peter I can't say 'Here's one I've made earlier', so you'll have to-picture it.

The lobelia will cascade quick colour, especially important until your Surfinias bush out. The Nepata will create the vertical lines of beautifully variegated foliage while the action below will be matched by your flowering Pelargonium reaching upwards.

Don't plant the roots too close - put at least two and a half inches between plants.

Annuals are hungry and thirsty beasts so the real trick is frequent watering and feeding.

Baskets inevitably get neglected and dry out quickly, so try to use weed control fabric on any exposed compost on top of the basket to reduce evaporation.

You could also insert a plastic tube into the heart of the basket to pour water straight down so that it reaches the roots faster, a technique used on trees! A little lateral thinking always helps.

Make a note to water daily in hot weather and check every two days in fair weather - just lift up the basket and see how heavy it is.

A final thought - what about a herb basket hanging next to the barbecue? Just reach up and grab somefresh basil or sage for your steak - delicious.

Safe to put out those bedding plants

BEDDING plants should all be planted, now that five letter word 'frost' is no longer a menace.

Your hanging baskets shouldn't be put out until June, however. Bad weather in May frequently hinders hanging basket development, plus the longer they are sheltered, the bigger, better and bolder the flowers will be.

Of course here we have to watch out for an attack of the Clones, which could have devastating effect

I'm not talking about the latest offering from Lucasfilm productions, but I speak of Greenfly, whitefly, and all the little creepy crawlies we know and love so well.

They are back with a vengeance, particularly so at a time of warm humid weather when their reproduction rates seem to triple.

The horticultural laser sword with which to wipe out these pests ... all of them is Roseclear, surprisingly effective on lots of flowers.

Of course there are some plants very sensitive to these chemicals including Fuschsias and Geraniums, in which case you should blast the enemy with old washing up liquid.

Try 'companion' planting, French Marigold under roses attract hoverflies which feed on aphids! Try this combination in a summer pot - mint or garlic confuses the attacking pests, handy for interplanting with fragrant flowers like Ten Week Stocks.

As for how bedding should look some say it is best to repeat a pattern of three colours. Some say big old swathes of colour either in rows or flowing like a river would look good under shrubs. Perhaps in a circle bed divided into five with a white edge of Alyssum.

A good focal point here would be a slender Box topiary specimen or Cupressus macrocarpa 'Goldcrest'; a striking upright conifer which smells of wine gums! Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

Watering and feeding are vital if you want bedding to look best Miracle-Gro is excellent, but in my experience potash rich tomato food is just as good.

Don't forget you can use this on anything which flowers or fruits, including those obstinate old shrubs reluctant to flower.

Look for the NPK ratio on the back of the plant food packet N is the Nitrogen and makes foliage, P is for Phosphate and roots, and K is Potash for flowers.

Start feeding now weekly and it will make a big difference, but don't forget to deal with your pests too, otherwise they will turn your garden to the dark side!

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