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Friday, September 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Gardening: With right care, baskets can hang around longer

Bobette Tuchek’s shady patio on Spokane’s South Hill is perfect for a beautiful bunch of hanging begonias. The soft light that comes through the translucent panels overhead highlight the soft apricot, yellow and pink flowers.

“We grow them to remind us of my late husband, Ted, he was the gardener,” Tuchek said.

“Some of them got too heavy so we had to take them down before they fell down,” added Gretchen Robinson, Tuchek’s daughter who helps care for them.

It’s been a good summer for hanging baskets, so here are some tips for getting the best out of them until frost.

By this point in the summer, most baskets are leggy and aren’t producing as many flowers. They basically have used up all the nutrients in the soil. Apply a good 5-10-10 fertilizer to each container, following the label directions. It is easy to over fertilize these containers so be careful. The numbers represent the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium respectively in the fertilizer mix. Nitrogen is responsible for leaf growth while the other two are responsible for flower production.

Most baskets can be cut back quite hard now to stimulate new growth as the weather cools. The new growth will fill out in a couple of weeks and with that will come new flowers. If you have baskets that have been out in the hot afternoon sun all summer, rotate them with others from a shadier place. Out of the sun, the baked ones will revive quickly.

Deadheading spent flowers will encourage more flower production. As the flowers fade, the plants shift into seed production mode and put all their energy into seed production. By picking off the flowers, you fool the plant into thinking it must start all over again

Watering is still crucial. The soil in the container is now full of roots that easily dry out, especially if it gets windy or hot. If your baskets don’t seem to be able to hold water, the root ball has probably dried out enough that it can’t easily take up water. If this is the case, take them down and place them in a large tub of water to rehydrate for several hours. It’s not too late to install a drip line set on a battery-powered timer to water your pots as often as needed. There are kits available that will allow you to place emitters in each basket that slowly soak the soil without flooding. Make sure your containers drain well though, it’s easy to drown a container plant if the water is left standing in the roots.

Most hanging baskets will survive a light frost around 32 degrees if they are under the protection of a porch roof. Traditionally we have a light frost about mid-September followed by a few more weeks of frost-free weather. However, if the forecast is for 30 degrees and lower, take the baskets into the house or garage for the night or wrap them gently with a tarp.

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