The Beast has finally gone back home East, and spring is just around the corner. We made it! It’s time to start thinking about getting some fresh planting in place so you can look forward to blooms and tasty produce in the months ahead. There’s nothing like checking in on how our new plantlings are coming along and the joy at seeing the first flowers or tiny beginnings of something tasty appearing from under a leaf. Yeah, we know – giant plant nerds.
Hanging baskets, window boxes and pots are perfect if you don’t have much of a garden – but even if you do, they are a great way to bring flowers closer to home and have easy access to edibles. The beauty of hanging baskets is, of course, that they let plants trail down dramatically. Flowers will always look amazing, but also consider summer salad ingredients for a bit of garden-to-table eating. Let nature’s bounty surround you! Grow a mini herb garden next to your kitchen and some sweet-smelling flowers by your bedroom window.
No outside access? Live on the fourteenth floor? Don’t despair. You can have an inside hanging basket and pot garden too. See below for some inside planting ideas.
Window boxes and pots, how to
1. Give your window box or pot a good clean, then add a layer of pebbles or broken pots (or broken crockery) to the bottom for drainage.
2. Half-fill it with compost, then arrange your plants on top until you’re happy with how it’s all looking – go for taller plants in the middle or at the back, and smaller or trailing ones around the edges. Have a look at the label to see how deep they need to be planted. (It will probably also say on the label to space them well apart, but as this is going to be a fairly temporary display, we say it’s fine to cram them in a bit…)
3. When it’s all looking Monty Don, top with more soil and press down fairly firmly around the plants to keep them in place. Leave about 2cm space at the top so that it doesn’t flood when you water it.
Hanging baskets, how to
1. First, you’ll need a liner. This stops the soil falling out and also helps keep moisture in. Line your basket with a hanging basket liner or hanging basket moss. Cut a few smallish holes – three or four – around the outside of the liner, about half-way up the basket, so you can add plants around the edge. If your basket isn’t very big or you don’t think you can get any plants through the side, you can just plant trailing plants around the top edge instead and they’ll drape down.
2. Place a circle of plastic or the drip tray from underneath a plant pot in the bottom to help keep in the water.
3. Evenly mix compost with some water-retaining granules – this is optional, but helps prevent the plants from drying out as quickly. Fill your basket about half-way up with the compost. Now you can start planting!
4. Carefully poke your trailing plants through the holes in the liner. Cover their roots up with more compost and press them in fairly firmly.
5. Depending on how big your basket is, you may only have room for one or two more plants in the top. Firm them in with more compost.
6. Hang it up and give it a good water. It’ll also appreciate a feed every so often during the summer months.
What to plant?
Spring bulbs – There’s not much more cheering than a traditional display of spring flowers greeting you when you pull the curtains in the morning. At this time of year, buy them as little plants, with shoots already coming up. Go for a mixture of miniature daffodils, paperwhites, tulips, hyacinths or grape hyacinths. These are best suited to pots and window boxes.
Cyclamen – A bit of a nan classic, but we love our nan! Cyclamen provides bright colourful flowers when not a lot else is going on.
Trailing sweet peas – Instead of growing them up bamboo teepees or along a fence, choose a dwarf trailing variety in your hanging basket and enjoy their amazing scent every time you open the window. Keep picking the flowers so they produce more.
Bacopa – Almost impossible to kill, these grow very enthusiastically and are covered in pretty little white or blue flowers. They’re good on their own if you like to keep things simple, or mix them in amongst your other planting.
Pelargoniums – A hanging basket classic, these look a bit like geraniums and come in a huge range of colours. Some even have amazing scented leaves – such as lemon, mint, rose, apple, strawberry and peach. They don’t mind the heat so are perfect for a sunny spot. They don’t even mind if you forget to water them for a bit... If you’re planting them in a hanging basket, check they’re the trailing type. To encourage more blooms, pick off the flowers when they’re done.
Lobelia – Ideal for trailing over the edges of pots and in hanging baskets, these are generous with their blue, purple and white flowers all summer long. Butterflies love them too.
Tobacco plants – For more great scent in almost every colour you can imagine.
Ferns and ivy – If you haven’t got a lot of sunlight then ferns and ivies are a good option as they love a bit of shade. These work well in hanging baskets as well as pots and window boxes.
Farm to table
Trailing tomatoes – You won’t be able to fit much else in your hanging basket, but how impressive will it be to reach out your kitchen window and pluck a still-warm cherry tomato?
Nasturtiums – You can eat the flowers and leaves – they’re great in salads – and they’ll trail down to a metre in length. The orange variety is the one most of us know about, but they also come in other colours, including white and purple.
Herbs – Go for the basics with basil, mint, coriander and thyme. Or try something a bit different with chervil, sage or lemon thyme. Herbs grow well alongside pelargoniums if you want to try some companion planting.
Salad leaves – Great in window boxes, pots and hanging baskets. These don’t trail, but growing them up high means they’re out of the way of hungry snails and slugs. Choose cut-and-come-again varieties so you can pick leaves whenever you need them.
Strawberries – These require a bit of patience and you’re not likely to get more than a punnet or two but there is something pretty special about growing your own strawberries – and nothing will taste sweeter.
Inside planting ideas
Most plants will grow reasonably happily inside. Spring bulbs, cyclamen, ferns, ivy, tomatoes, herbs, salad leaves and strawberries are probably your best bet from the list above. But we’ve seen whole vines and jasmines grown across interior walls, so who’s making the rules here? You can always just give it a go and see what happens. A few other good options include:
Spider plants – These are perfect for inside hanging baskets. Their leaves reach out and down, and they shoot out little baby spiders.
String of pearls, burro’s tail and string of hearts – These are all trailing succulents so if you’re going for group planting, best to plant them with other succulents, so you don’t risk over-watering them. They like plenty of sunshine, so position them nearish a bright window, but don’t let them get sunburnt.
PUBLIC SAFETY ANNOUNCEMENT!
Make sure your window box, hanging baskets and pots are securely attached to wherever you put them. Consider brackets for your window box so it doesn’t fall off. If it looks like it’s going to be particularly windy, bring them inside, especially if you’re up high.