Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Herbs For Hanging Baskets

Herbs can be grown in hanging baskets to great effect; my fool proof plan for keeping them in tip-top condition begins with a liner, I use coconut fibre liners these days, but you could use hessian sacks, old wooolies, and even empty compost bags they’re usually black on the inside, just make sure the inside faces out and prick a few holes in the plastic for drainage.

Before I add compost, I place a saucer - or in my case a shallow dish - in the base of my basket, a trick my Grandad taught me when I was first learning to garden over 40 years ago, WOW I'm getting old! Hanging baskets are notorious for drying out quickly on hot summer days, so anything you can do to help retain moisture in the basket will help. I also add water retaining crystals, I use a type called Gardman Nutrigel - Water Retaining Crystals & Plant Food, the crystals which hold water are also pre-mixed with plant food that lasts all season which feeds your baskets throughout the growing season.

Next add a good compost suitable for hanging baskets, I’ve had great success with Horizon Organic Peat Free compost in the past but it’s got harder to obtain locally, so I favour using Westland Jack’s Magic All Purpose Compost, it’s enriched with seaweed and is a multi-purpose variety. I’ve seen good results so far and the herbs seem to like it and thrive. For best results pick low growing herbs for your herbal hanging basket, tall growing herbs won’t thrive in a basket.

Plant your herbs up fresh every season, previous seasons plants can be reused, the chives in my basket are from last year’s display, I divided them and replanted in fresh compost. Keep baskets well watered and harvest regularly to keep the herbs producing new leaves and looking their best. If you don’t use slow release plant food, make sure you feed your herbs every 3 weeks or so during the growing season. I purposefully leave gaps and add seeds of herbs such as nasturtiums, basil and alpine strawberries, so new things emerge in the baskets as the season progresses.

You can plant baskets with just one variety - a basket of variegated lemon balm can add a splash of colour to a shady spot - or have themes. The basket I planted up above has a ‘Sunday Roast’ theme, chives, marjoram, oregano, sage and 2 varieties of thyme, are all ready for adding to meat and veg for roasts. You could add garden mint or an excellent flavoured prostrate rosemary like ‘Blue Lagoon’ to the mix if you like, which will hang down the sides of the basket. Different themes you can try include: - Chamomile, chocolate mint and lemon thyme for herb teas, Italian herbs for pizza and pasta, herbs for the BBQ or add calendula, lavender and thyme to an herbal first aid basket.

A few years ago I visited Yorkshire Lavender and came across a cracking idea for herbal hanging baskets using single varieties of butterfly lavenders in baskets to make aromatic balls of colour. Something I’m keen to copy this year for hanging near my new seating area. That idea led me to think about ways to showcase single varieties of herbs and I’ve hit on the idea of tying two baskets together that have been filled with compost, and I've experimenting with lawn chamomile, small leafed basil Piccolino, and tiny leaved and highly aromatic, creeping Corsican Mint to make single herb balls, much better than those artificial ‘herb’ balls that some people seem to be favouring these days, even if you do have to keep watering them!

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