West Coast Gardener – Hanging Basket – On a Budget

story & photos by Cynthia Philp – 

Gardeners tend to be a thrifty sort. We reuse soil, pots and plants. Although we often exchange plants and seeds with friends and neighbours, we know gardening budgets will be stretched this year.

Flowers lift my spirits – my summer indulgence is a lushly blooming hanging basket bringing joy right up from the ground. While a standard 10-inch mixed annual hanging basket will be pricey in the garden centres this year, this is luckily one of the easiest DIY projects that can result in a lovely display and big savings. Here’s how.

Reuse Planters. The plastic hanging baskets that you purchase each year are surprisingly durable. While the soil and plants inside can be tossed into the compost pile, a good scrub and a refill with new potting soil keeps the planter out of the landfill and money in your pocket. Purchased potting soil holds the moisture longer than our sandy soil, but does need to be augmented with a dollop of fertilizer – always read and follow instructions.

Start Early. Annuals that come in six-packs are cheaper per plant than ones that are purchased in four- or six-inch pots, because what you’re really buying is the time the plant has sat in a grower’s care. We are blessed that annuals in starter six-packs arrive on the shelves here in March. Pick some up, harden them off in a protected spot outdoors, and plant three to five plugs per pot (depending on how large the finished plants will be). Let them sit and grow in a protected spot – babying tender greenhouse-pampered plants with our temperamental spring weather is part of the gardening game. By the end of June, you’ll have a full basket for a fraction of the price.

Creative Plant Choices. You can save a few extra dollars if you take divisions from your garden. I’ve created some astounding planters using a dug-out piece of snow-in-summer (cerastium tomentosum) or the ivy (hedera) that annoyingly pops up at the edge of my yard. Just keep in mind the individual plant needs of light and water while you’re scavenging and be open to unconventional plant choices. Once, I filled a low-hanging basket with a small piece of sod discreetly pulled from our lawn. Left to grow in a shady spot, it created a very mod and lush display.

Pick Tough Plants. Hanging baskets are often challenging in our hot dry summers because the roots dry out so quickly. Choose drought-tolerant plants – there’s a reason for the classic combination of cheerful geraniums (pelargonium), fluffy white dusty miller (senecio cineraria) and tough ivies (hedera).

If you do purchase or are gifted a hanging basket, save the pot for next year. Check to see if any of the plants can be fostered over the winter in your garden or garage. That way, you’ll already be saving money for next year’s gardening season.
The last step is to enjoy – both the savings and the blooms!

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