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How To Create a Hanging Garden

By Rebecca Richmond

Keen to add some colour to your outdoor area? If you’re short on space, why not install a small hanging garden? Hanging gardens – also sometimes known as container gardens – are compact, functional and can be very beautiful. Here’s some handy tips to get you started installing your own.

Helpful hints
When using porous linings like coconut fibre, place plastic inside to help retain water, but punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Use a variety of fern species in large baskets for an attractive contrast of foliage. White baskets hung below each other create an interesting column effect, but ensure the hooks attached to the beam are strong enough.

Step 1: Choose your plants
What to grow is your first consideration. The range of plants that will flourish in baskets is limited only by your imagination since almost any plant, depending on its size, can be grown by this type of gardening. Plants fall into two main categories. Indoor plants, including many of the ferns, are obviously well-suited to units or small flats where they will be kept indoors most of the time. For outdoors, there is greater variety. Ferns grow well as do many of the flowering and foliage plants common in the normal garden. You can also plant vegetables and herbs – they not only look good but provide you with a ready source of fresh produce for your kitchen.

Your choice of plants also depends on where you intend to hang them. For example, is the position sunny or shady? Or, if outdoors, is it very windy? – if it is, this may become a burden in keeping water up to them during hot, windy conditions. Is it hot, cold or draughty? Remember, different plants have different needs and your local Mitre 10 Gardener centre qill be quite happy to advise you on your choices.

It is impractical here to list plants suitable for all situations. But generally, select plants that are of a weeping nature or have drooping flowers. They can be either climbers that will fall over the edge of the basket, or climb the supporting chain, or be low ground covers with soft stem that will weep down from the basket edge. Some plants with attractive droopy flowers or with a dwarf habit of growth also look most attractive as basket plants.

Step 2: Choose your basket
Select a container that suits the plant and the situation. There’s a large variety available, from older-style wire baskets to modern self-watering types. You can use ceramic or clay containers, too. Plastic baskets are popular because they are lightweight and many of them have a drainage saucer attached which helps to avoid messy watering problems. They are particularly suitable for indoor basket gardens as they come in many styles and colours to match almost any decor.

If you choose a wire or cane basket, you will need to add lining material inside the basket to retain the potting mix. Suitable lining materials include the following: Coconut fibre: pre-formed liners ready to cut to the required basket shape. They are very easy to use. The liner is open and free draining. Suitable for all types of basket plants.

Loose coconut fibre: similar to coconut fibre, but comes in packs of loose fibre. Paper bark: paper bark comes in rolls and needs to be formed and cut to shape. It provides a very earthy appearance and soon weathers attractively. Suitable to most plants but particularly attractive with ferns and indoor plants.

Sphagnum moss and bush Moss: these are living plants that produce lush green growth from the sides of the baskets as well as support the potting media. They are best suited to outdoor baskets of ferns that soon grow through the sides to create a most attractive effect. Plastic mesh: synthetic material pre-formed or in sheets that are placed in the baskets to retain the potting media. Old stockings and shade cloth can be used to similar effect. The appearance, however, can be rather disappointing.

Step 3: Your potting mix
Your potting media must be free-draining but still retain an adequate amount of water and nutrients for your plants to flourish. Commercial brands of potting mix will probably give you the best results. But for small quantities, a good quality loam mixed with equal amounts of well-composted leaf litter and course sand will do a good job. The potting mix also requires nutrients.

Applying one of the commercial brands of slow release fertilizers every six months or so, such as Osmocote or Nutricote, will save you the need for regular feeding. However, do not overfeed the plants – always use the rates recommended on the pack for the size of container you’ve used.

Step 4: Plant your basket
Plastic baskets are planted much the same as you would plant any ordinary pot. Place a little potting mix into the bottom of the basket. Position your plants in the basket so that the surface of the mix is about 10mm below the basket rim. Fill around the plants and firm the potting mix down.

Water in well to settle the mix and to get the plants started. Add fertilizer to the top of the basket at the rate recommended on the pack. Wire and cane baskets require a little more work because the basket walls will need to be lined with one of the liner materials shown in the chart. Pre-formed coconute fibre or plastic liners are simply placed in the basket and you pot in the same way as for plastic baskets.

Paper bark liners need to be pre-soaked in a bucket of water for an hour or so before using to make them pliable. Then place a sheet at a time into the basket, covering the sides and making sure they overlap at the joints. Leave a little sticking out above the basket, pot up as before, and then cut off the excess liner from the top when finished.

Moss linings are perhaps the most difficult to use but can be the most attractive. For example, ferns that produce creeping stems will often grow through the moss to produce a pleasing effect.

Starting at the bottom and working up the sides, form the moss around the inside of the basket by pressing it against the sides so that it stays in place. Work carefully as the moss is not stable until the potting mix is added – handle too roughly and it will fall away from the sides and the mix will drop out. Then pot up in the same way as the other types. Loose coconute fibre is treated in much the same way as with moss. After potting, remember to add fertiliser to water in well.

Step 5: Displaying baskets
Your plants need to be displayed where they will grow best, so keep in mind the preferred growing position for each plant. To hang your baskets, you’ll need chains and hooks. They come in different types and styles. Be sure the ones you choose are strong enough as baskets, especially larger ones, can be quite heavy after watering. Metal chains are stronger than plastic types, but may rust and discolour over time.

If hanging inside, make sure you hang from a structural part of the house and not just a plaster wall or ceiling, as you could do some damage. Outside, a pergola beam, veranda post, fence or brick wall shouldn’t pose any problems.

Step 6: Caring for baskets
Correct maintenance is the secret to success and watering is the first on the list. Your baskets should not be allowed to dry out. If you have a number of baskets hanging in an area of the garden, consider installing a drip watering system. It’s easy, saves time and esnures your plants get all the water they need.

Fertilising and pruning are other important after-care tasks. If you have potted the plants with a slow release fertiliser, it will keep the plants growing but you will need to re-apply at the start of spring to feed the plants for another year. If no slow release fertilizer was used, feed with regular applications of a Liquid fertilizer following the recommendations on the pack.

When plants start to get too large for the basket, repot into large ones or plant out in the garden. Most basket plants also need to be pruned to shape. Once they become too leggy and woody, they may need to be pruned back hard to encourage new growth in spring. This is particularly important for Fuchsias. Finally, check regularly for any pests and diseases.


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