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Long lasting hanging baskets

As I look around my neighborhood I now see hanging baskets with few or no flowers, brown leaves, just a few sticks in some cases. A month ago these same baskets looked great. So what has gone wrong?

In the early summer lots of people go to the garden centre. They fork out lots of money to buy beautiful, imaginatively planted baskets. They take them home and hang them up. Their property is transformed so every morning and every night they water the baskets. Feed them too. And they look great. Then along comes the summer holiday. It’s difficult to find someone to water them. Even if you do they maybe don’t have the care and attention you would yourself. After two weeks the baskets are in decline. The ones on the local pub look better. The pride is gone. Now it’s a chore to water them. But…

…it need not be this way. It is possible to feed and water your baskets automatically. It is not expensive, it is not difficult. It is the WaterWand Heliomatic solar garden irrigation system. This will water your baskets every 3 hours in the daytime. It uses water from your water butt or even a cistern if you have no garden. No taps, hosepipes or electric wires are needed. No water up your sleeve. The tubes are only 6mm – not much bigger than a phone line, so they are easy to conceal. You can hang the pumps out of reach so no one can steal them.

Add some Miracle Gro to the water. Then you know the secret of really good baskets that last and last. People will start to ask how you do it. Just smile sweetly.

Garden irrigation and root veg – does it help?

This blog is my root veg irrigation recommendation based on our trial (of which you can see more details at my Solargardener blog) and my personal experience.

Carrot, parsnip and beetroot seeds benefit hugely from regular irrigation when they are germinating as do the plants in the early stages of growth. Germination is more even and plant establishment much faster, leading also to fewer losses from slug/snail damage. (I would still recommend sprinkling a few slug pellets prior to germination, but cover with fleece to keep the birds away)

Beetroots can be harvested earlier and will yield much more with continued irrigation, without any loss of quality. Early sown crops will get very large if left in, so a succession of sowings is needed if you like small beetroots.

Although yield is heavier in carrots and parsnips which continue to be watered, there is a loss of skin quality, an increase in splitting and a reduction in root length when watered in accordance with our trial specs (Once every 5 days). In well drained soils continued watering is probably beneficial, but my recommendation would be to try 2 days watering every 2 weeks – a heavy enough application to really soak in, but without the waterlogging associated with more frequent irrigation.

As an alternative to seephose, use drippers spaced about 30cm (12″) apart. Turn the irrigation on to see where the wet patches are. Using a broom handle make a shallow depression in each wet patch and sow 4 or 5 seeds in it. As the plants grow pull the biggest root to eat, but leave the smaller ones to grow on in the extra space created. Weeds are easier to hoe out as you can hoe both ways. Water usage is reduced. The plant tops and roots spread to catch the light and water, so yields don’t suffer much. I have done this with beetroots and it has worked really well. I will try carrots and parsnips next year, but think pulling them one at a time may be more challenging.