Make A Hanging Basket From Scratch

With annuals on sale, and with seeds and those you have grown yourself or wintered over, now is the perfect time to make your own hanging basket from scratch.  It is much cheaper to make your own–I ended up with four baskets for the price I would have paid for purchasing a single basket, so that worked for me.

I learned how to make baskets from a garden talk given by April Yarder, who has created the gorgeous hanging baskets that decorate downtown Camas.

You will need a few supplies.  I try to reuse from year to year as much as possible, to save money on this project:

  • hanging basket
  • burlap (You can buy this at a hardware store)
  • scissors for cutting burlap and plastic
  • clear plastic for baskets that will hang in the sun; black plastic for shade baskets
  • annuals (some I bought, some wintered over in my garden, and some I started from seed inside earlier this year)
  • seeds (trailing nasturtiums, whatever else you like)
  • potting soil
  • gardening gloves to protect your hands

1.  Cut burlap and plastic to fit your basket, making sure that the burlap and plastic will really go down into all the corners of the basket.  Then line the basket with the burlap first, and tie the corners of the burlap to the top metal ring of the basket.  My burlap is pretty old and I should replace it, but I didn’t have time to do so this time around, and frankly when the plants fill in it doesn’t show at all, so I was not too worried about it.

2.  Then line the basket with clear plastic.  You will want to fold the corners under, so that they do not show when the basket is filled with soil.  The plastic is used to help the basket retain water–do not poke any holes in the plastic.  You will not waterlog or rot the roots in this type of growing situation.  Most baskets dry out too quickly, so this is the reason for the plastic.

3.  Add potting soil to the basket.  I reuse my potting soil from year to year.  I do not waste money on fancy potting soils, because it simply makes no difference in how well the plants grow.  After the first 5 to 10 times that you water the basket or it gets rained on, any nutrients from that soil will have been washed out.  After that, the plants in the basket are completely dependent on you to provide them with fertilizer for their food.  This is one reason why baskets are high maintenance.  But it’s worth it, because they are beautiful!

The soil should be formed so that it creates a well in the center, and a very firm rim around the upper lip.  The rim helps to keep the water inside the basket from running out when you water it.  I use my hands and grab handfuls of soil from the center of the basket and then squash it up at the rim with both hands, moving the basket to the side to form more of the rim, until I have worked my way all around the basket.  Keep adding soil as needed.  The rim needs to be really firm, or you will have problems watering the basket for the whole rest of the growing season, so do not skimp on this part.

4.  Add the plants.

There are three types of plants that you will use, and this terminology comes from Fine Gardening magazine–thrillers, fillers and spillers.  Thrillers are the tallest plants that will be featured in the center of the basket.  Fillers fill in the spaces in the middle of the basket around the thriller, and spillers are trailing plants that will fill in the lower parts of the hanging basket.  You basically alternate fillers and spillers around the rim of the basket, and they are planted horizontally, with the rootballs touching each other in the well that is in the center of the basket.  Don’t be afraid to plant them tight–remember, you are feeding the plants fertilizer, so this is a whole different thing than proper spacing if you are growing them in a garden bed.  Leave a little room in the center for the thriller’s root ball, and the thriller will be planted last in a normal vertical position.  After the plants are in place, fill in with more potting soil any little holes that remain in the basket.  Make sure all the rootballs are thoroughly covered with potting soil.

The plants that I used for this basket include fillers of  purple petunias, orange and red marigolds (purple and orange are opposite each other on the color wheel, so they help to make each other’s colors really pop in the basket) and feverfew that was growing out in the garden, plus a pelargonium, common name geranium, that features yellow and red leaves and the flower, when it blooms, is violet as the thriller.   Spillers are Golden Creeping Jenny, which winters over in my garden and is a ground cover that also trails out of containers nicely, and ‘Cambridge Blue’ lobelia that I started myself from seed–a gorgeous light sky blue flower.  All of these work fine for a basket that will live in a full-sun spot.  This is the fun in growing hanging baskets–you can play around with the flower choices endlessly to get different looks, so pick your favorite plants!

5.  Finally, add some seeds to the basket.  April recommends that you place two nasturtium seeds at the base of each rootball of the fillers and spillers that you plant in the basket.  I play around with the depth of the seed placement, because I find that they need to be planted a little more shallowly so they germinate.  Anyway, add some nasturtium seeds, which will also help to fill out the basket nicely when they germinate and finally flower.

6.  Hang your basket up where it will live, and then carefully water it until water starts to drip out.  Each time you water, make sure to give it enough water so that it starts to drip out of the basket.

That’s all there is to it.  To maintain the basket, water every day that it does not significantly rain, and once the plants reach the stage where they are overhanging the rim of the basket, fertilize with Miracle Grow once a week throughout the growing season.  Deadhead the flowers to keep them flowering.  The petunias will need deadheading mostly in this arrangement.

I have pictures to add to this, but Comcast and WordPress are conspiring against me this morning, so I will come back later and see if I can get them to upload.  (Update:  Actually, it was Firefox conspiring against me this time.  I am discovering that you don’t have to be smart to troubleshoot computer issues, just have to think like a computer.)

Leave a comment if you like–what plants are in your hanging baskets this year?  Do you make your own baskets or purchase them?  I’d love to hear from you!


1 Comment

  1. May 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Beazley. Richard Beazley said: Make A Hanging Basket From Scratch « Minerva's Garden Blog […]

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