Caring for your hanging baskets

Large hanging baskets packed full of flowers have become a traditional gift for Mothers Day. Its a real treat to see such a lush show of color early in the season like that. But to look their best for Mothers Day those baskets need to be started weeks before. They are pretty much at their peak in early May, and theres still more than 3 months left of summer. There are a few things you can do to help your baskets last as long as possible; the first is water. Plants are packed in to those baskets for a full effect and they quickly become root bound. When you water a root bound plant (this is true for houseplants as well) the water tends to run down the outside of the root ball along the inside of the pot rather than soak through the dense root ball. And because these baskets are usually hung, the air blowing around them speeds up evaporation. Youll need to soak these baskets at least once a day, even twice depending on their location and size. Fertilize them with a water soluble fertilizer every two weeks, mark your calendar so you dont forget. And hardest of all, make yourself give them a good haircut when they first start to fade. Cut all the stems back by half, even though this means youre cutting off a lot of flowers. A basket that has had this haircut is going to look better longer than the basket that did not. If you dont believe me do your own experiment this year and cut one but not the other and see for yourself how they respond. Treat both baskets the same in every other way and see which one looks the best the longest. Even with a good haircut its next to impossible to keep these early gorgeous baskets looking good the entire summer. Enjoy them in their glory but consider having a backup plan for the last half of summer. Now is an excellent time to start some baskets that wont reach their glory stage until July and this would make a nice transition as your Mothers Day baskets finally fade. There are all kinds of young plants for you to use in making your own hanging baskets or planter boxes. Anything goes now and Ive seen some beautiful planters with tropical plants, grasses, and even vegetables mixed in with the flowers. Have fun with it! Amy Ivy is executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County.More information may be found on-line at ecgardening.cce.cornell.edu or by sending an e-mail to a Master Gardener volunteer at askMG@cornell.edu.

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