From milk cartons to baked beans tins, colanders to old pullovers, green fingered growers at Garden Organic are encouraging gardeners to get creative with their hanging baskets to help protect the planet and their purses.
With more and more of us taking up gardening, the horticultural charity is expecting a big uplift in the popularity of hanging baskets. But if you don’t already have a regular basket to reuse, before visiting the garden centre check what you might have lying around at home that could be transformed into a sustainable container.
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Former Blue Peter gardener and Garden Organic’s head of horticulture, Chris Collins, says: “I live in a flat with a balcony, so container growing and hanging baskets are an important part of my organic growing life.
“You don’t need to spend a lot of money; you can make your own highly original ‘basket’, which can be a delight throughout the year. Many can be made from your household rubbish – much better for the environment and an excellent talking point.”
Four common household items to upcycle into hanging baskets
An old colander, with its ready-made drainage holes, is ideal. “Just make sure you line it with a layer of grit or matting (such as recycled jute, sisal or coir), moss or even an old woollen jumper – this must be 100 per cent wool as synthetic fibres can break down into the soil – to prevent the compost blocking the holes or falling out,” Mr Collins advises. “They will have a tendency to dry out quicker than other baskets, but are a perfect home for plants that don’t mind dry conditions, like succulents or thyme.”
2. Old gumboots
Old gumboots make quirky additions to the patio and if you haven’t much ground space, you can simply hang them up on a post or wall and then fill them with compost and pretty trailing plants.
3. Tin cans
These can be painted in bright colours or in subtle tones, depending on the effect you want, with drill holes in the base for drainage and the sides so you can suspend them with string from posts. Some people make feature walls and posts of different coloured cans, cascading with bright flowers.
“Bold new baskets can be filled with repeat flowerers like pelargoniums, petunia and begonia, which will keep blooming through the summer,” says Mr Collins.
4. Single-use plastics
“Hanging baskets aren’t just for decoration. They’re also great for growing herbs and vegies,” says Mr Collins. “My strawberries did well last year in their milk bottle tower and I’ve got tomatoes growing in DIY containers, too.
“Coriander, basil and parsley leaves will make delicious additions to your dinner. Chives and thyme will also give delightful flowers that pollinators will love as much as you.
“Tumbling tomatoes and chilli peppers will all flower and fruit so long as they are in a sheltered, sunny position. By growing your own in this way, you’re helping to reduce your food miles and cut down on single-use plastic packaging.”
How to achieve hanging basket success
Get the right soil mix: “All plants grown in containers need plenty of nutrients, especially flowering ones. Get your potting mix right by using peat free potting compost or making your own,” says Mr Collins.
“A combination of soil with homemade compost and grit to give good drainage will make an ideal growing mix. Top up with a liquid feed every couple of weeks. Make your own from comfrey or nettle leaves steeped in water or buy a certified organic fertiliser.”
Deadhead often: “Keep deadheading regularly. This prevents the plant from setting seed and encourages further blooms.”
Site your basket sensibly: “Choose your hanging place wisely. You need plenty of sun and shelter from wind.”
Do you have any hanging baskets? What do you have sitting around the house that you could transform?
– With PA
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