This is the time to savor what’s left of the summer. Get outside and put your hands in the dirt. Then go and learn something new by attending many of the events this week. But don’t forget to nurture your own lawn, garden and houseplants. This week, Linn County Master Gardener Deb Walser describes how to give some new life to the plants in your hanging baskets.
Q: My hanging baskets are looking tired. What can I do to fix them?
A: Hanging baskets need constant attention to keep them looking their best. Keep in mind that baskets require a lot more time and attention than plants in the ground. Hanging flower baskets may need watering twice a day, in the morning and again in the evening. If you are going on vacation you may need to find a sitter that will water your baskets morning and night.
Hanging baskets also need to be fertilized often to keep them blooming. If you are planting the basket yourself, use a time release fertilizer. Then every time you water throughout the summer, fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer. Choose a water soluble fertilizer with a big middle number. This is phosphorus heavy fertilizer for flower power.
Sometimes our baskets dry out so badly that the water runs out the bottom without wetting the root ball of the plants. That’s when we need to dunk them, literally. Using a bucket, washtub or sink, submerge the basket until it stops breathing (bubbling). This will allow the plants and soil to soak up lots of water. After they have been dunked, let them drain so the extra water comes out and rehang. This is a way to save the plant that didn’t get watered well.
Another practice needed to maintain nice flower baskets is to perform selective cutting back of the plants. Cutting off whole branches that have stopped blooming may be necessary. This improves the look of the plant and encourages the plant to branch out. Cut back the branches one third at one time. When the cut back branches start to push new growth, cut back another third. Repeat again.
Sometimes whole plants may have died in your basket. That’s the time to look for replacement plants. Of course as summer goes on, plant choice of annuals may be greatly limited. You may not be able find the same plant that died. That’s why it’s a great idea to have flower baskets that provide a variety of colorful plants.
To start, dig out the dead plant carefully, trying not to hurt the roots of the other plants in the basket. If the new replacement plant is root bound, cut the bottom quarter inch off the root ball and rough up the rest of the root ball. Plant the new plant, making sure to water well. Sometimes replacing dead plants may stress out the remaining plants in the basket, and sometimes a basket that was balanced or symmetrical will be a little hard to fix. But that’s part of the joy of hanging baskets, they can change and you can add variety back into an existing basket.
Hopefully these tips will help spruce up your tired baskets and you’ll have future success with your hanging baskets going forward.
A Taste of Herbs Workshop, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at First Congregational Church UCC, 361 17th St. SE, Cedar Rapids. Linn County Master Gardener Judy Bemer will share some herbal goodies and handouts, discuss how and where to grow herbs and introduce some new guys on the block. The class also will make something using herbs. Contact: Marissa Haas, (319) 377-9839, www.extension.iastate.edu
Annie’s: Managing for Today and Tomorrow, 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays through Sept. 17 at the Johnson County Farm Bureau office in Iowa City. Learn to create and plan a successful farm transition through a five-session course with help from ISU Extension and Outreach specialists and area professionals. A light dinner is provided. $75. Register: Janet Smith, (319) 385-8126, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Ryan Drollette, (319) 337-2145, email@example.com
Make ‘Local’ Last All Winter with Rachel Morey, 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at New Pioneer Food Co-op in Coralville. Learn about canning, drying, fermenting, and root cellaring. $15.
Eastern Iowa’s Third Culinary Ride, Sept. 22. Registration due Thursday. A bicycle tour featuring local farms and local food of Iowa, Washington and Johnson counties. Savor food prepared fresh by local chefs, and handcrafted beverages while roaming the farms. Proceeds benefit the Iowa City Community School District Farm to School chapter. Register: Culinaryride.com.
Restoration Ag 101: Keyline Farm Design — Perennial Food and Forage, 7 p.m. Friday to Aug. 25 at University of Iowa Memorial Union, 125 N. Madison St., Iowa City. Held at VersaLand Farms in Iowa City for workshops.
Mark Shepard will teach about developing perennial farmstead, implementing Keyline design, multispecies grazing, fruit and nut crops, vegetable alleycropping, and using electric tractor power. $249 per person or $449 for partners. Contact: Grant Schultz, (319) 830-9700, firstname.lastname@example.org. Register: www.versaland.com/workshops.
NewBo City Market Learning Garden Talk, 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids. Linn County Master Gardener Buela Dvorak shares the results of years of tending a huge vegetable garden as well as many perennial gardens at her Mount Vernon home. Contact: Victoria Wims, (319) 377-9839 Ext 323.
Brucemore Garden & Art Show, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Brucemore Estate, 2160 Linden Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids. More than 60 artists and garden vendors from across the Midwest will share their expertise by showcasing unique products, vivid presentations, and pertinent information, including ceramics, plantings, jewelry, sculpture, glass, textiles, lectures and demonstrations. $6. Contact: (319) 362-7375.
Questions on gardening, land use or local foods? Contact Michelle Kenyon Brown, community ag programs manager at Linn County Extension, email@example.com.