Growing Summer Hanging Baskets

Our first client is our local Pub which is popular all year round for being right on the South Downs Trail in Hampshire, serving fresh cooked food and providing warm beds for tired legs.

They were looking for big and beautiful summer hanging baskets to give the pub some fresh colour especially to the outdoor terraced dining area.

We’re sharing our experience from start to finish including which plants we used, compost, fertiliser and a review of the whole process. Including failures!


We went for a mix of trailing, spreading and upright plants that would give good variation and different colours were chosen for boldness and good contrast! We also wanted to grow as much as possible from seed.

Starting seeds indoors

If your short for space you may have to sacrifice a sofa from your front room to fit in your set up!

If your growing on a small scale I would highly recommend investing in an electric heated propagator with a lid. I used a table with heat mat and a sunny window. Underneath I had a low voltage grow light hanging from the centre giving us double the grow space.

We started with trailing, upright and bush varieties of Petunia so we would hopefully have a huge selection when the time came to pot up the baskets later in Spring.

Waiting for signs of life under the table

Below is a terrible example of seed sowing! Less effort in the beginning results in more effort later!

The middle bunch grew so much faster and had to be potted on way before these lot came through

If your patient enough to sow seeds individually, do it. If you have space to start them in bigger cells from the beginning, do it!

As soon as the seedling grew their true leaves, they were moved into simple propagators with lids into the Polytunnel. At this point we were getting minus 0c temperatures so the mini environment created by the propagators was essential to keep the seedling surviving and thriving through the depths of winter.

Lids need to be removed daily to allow the plants to breath fresh air and as the weather warmed, the lids we’re ditched all together.
Healthy young plants at 10 weeks
Trailing Petunia at 12 weeks

Compost

The Master Gardener Sharon showing me how its done

We went for a mix of Jack’s Magic multi purpose as this is a light sandy soil mixed with some added slow release Fertiliser and perlite for aeration.

Drainage holes were put in the sides of our liner as apposed to at the bottom and this means that it will hold some moisture at the bottom making it harder for the baskets to completely dry out.

If your lucky enough to have a Master gardener there to give you advice and guidance then you will know that planting in odd numbers is essential if you want an even looking basket!

After one week the baskets have settled in nicely and ready to go outside first week of May
After being hardened off, the baskets are ready to go down the pub where we hope they will continue to grow and provide colour until October.

Plants we used

We grew many different petunias for their qualities such as ‘Prism Sunshine’ for their upright habit and ‘Purple Velvet’ for its proven trailing skills.

Petunia prism ‘Sunshine’
Purple Velvet

Geraniums in pink and Red for the Central height and colour, and some double Fushcia for their lovely big blooms. I wasn’t organised enough to grow these from seed so I bought them from a local Nursery as very small plug plants and grew them on inside.

For filling in the gaps we used Bacopa which can be sown in early spring and Creeping Jenny which we cut and grow on from our bunch growing around a tree trunk base.

How did they perform?

Now we’re well into autumn, I’m keen to show you just how well our first hanging basket project went.

Nine baskets went down to our local pub where they were hooked up to a watering system to ensure they did not go thirsty (this system was already in place from when the company before used to provide their baskets).

29th June 2019

As you can see the plants really took off once in their final positions and by mid summer they were in full bloom and our client had already asked us to provide the winter baskets. Winner!

The Creeping Jenny and Bacopa were more or less hidden from the huge amount of foliage and flowers from the Petunias!

By late September the Petunias became very straggly and a bit of an eye sore but then Fushcia, Bacopa and Geranium completely took over!

We also Provided some planters to go alongside our hanging blooms but we changed them up with Dahlias and Inpatients

Some Lessons Learnt

I kept a few of the same baskets myself and did NOT prune or deadhead. I wanted to see how it would compare and in all honestly I think letting them go, gave a better overall result! I would say they were more foliage than flowers but in the end looked much more even and full, though slightly less flowers.

One of my own on a grey mid summer day

Too many plants or not enough plants. Be sure to keep an eye on plant development and cut back any that are taking over too much. If you have big gaps, it’s never to late to fill it in!

Fertilise. Even though I added slow release on planting day, I gave the baskets some feed maybe once a month through summer to give them a boost! I used a general tomato feed on those at the pub and a special brew of Comfrey tea for my own! Which overall did perform better. (and that’s with neglect and weather dependant watering!)

Rotate. You can help your baskets grow evenly and maintain a balanced look about them by rotating them round to give the other side a bit of sun! We did not do this at the pub as they were secured in place (due to previous robbery!) for the whole season. They were quite uneven by the end! We though this added to the natural cottage garden theme anyway. Although next year I think I will rotate!

Petunias can rot easily if they are over watered so remember to turn off the auto water system during wet weather!!

June 15
Purple Velvet Petunia trails well into October

Since we’re well into Autumn we are now planting up winter baskets to replace those sad looking summer ones!

We hope this inspires others to have a go at growing their own Summer Hanging Basket displays.

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