Planting summer hanging baskets – The Pizza Method

I usually make hundreds of hanging baskets for customers for the summer but this year, due to lockdown, this has not been possible.  Instead I have written this blog and made a video to give a tutorial about how anyone can do it for themselves.  I call it the Pizza method!

Size Matters!

If you love Pizza then you will know that size matters!  The larger you can go the better and it is the same when you are choosing the size of the basket for your summer flowers.  A larger basket allows room for more compost.  This means that there is plenty of space for the roots to grow to give longer lasting flowers.  During hot days it takes longer for the compost to dry out so that the plants are less likely to be under stress and survive better all summer.  I prefer a basket to be at least 14” diameter.  If you have a bigger basket it initially costs more to fill but looks better, lasts longer and is easier to maintain.

Making the Dough.

Getting the ingredients right is imperative.  Luckily, for hanging baskets, you just need a good multipurpose compost.  You can use a tub and basket compost if you like but it really is not necessary.  What is important is the seasoning!  I use slow release granules and some water retaining gel.  This means that, every time you water your flowers, they will be receiving a natural dose of fertiliser and a top up of water for the gel.  If you forget to water one day, or it is exceptionally hot then the compost can absorb the extra moisture from the gel.  Fill the basket with compost to  ¾ full then mix in thoroughly before topping up with compost.

Choosing the Toppings.

Choosing the flowers are the best bit.  Just like on a Pizza, you need to have a plan as to how many varieties you would like.  Firstly, you need something in the centre.  I recommend a geranium, osteospermum or upright fuchsia.  Then you need to place other toppings equally around the edge of the basket.  These need to be trailing. This is where you can go to town and ‘make it your own’.  Any trailing plant works.  I love bacopa, brachycome, trailing fuchsia and trailing geraniums.  You could also use million bells (Calibrachoa) or trailing petunias (Surfinia).  You can have all the same or a complete mix.  Some people like a colour scheme but I prefer to have a riot of cheerful colour.  I recommend three trailing plants for a 12” basket, four for a 14” basket and six for a 16” basket.  Do not worry too much though.  Just put in what you like and what you can afford, just like when you are looking at that Pizza menu!

Adding the Cheese.

These are the plants that you sprinkle around the basket to hold it altogether.  I suggest a few upright plants as they usually come in 6 packs so are more economical.  Just place one plant in between each trailing plant as you work your way around the basket.  Petunias, upright verbena, busy lizzies and begonias would all work.  If you are doing several baskets then you can mix and match. . . .  a bit like having mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan!

Cooking the Pizza

In the same way as a pizza needs to cook, your basket needs to grow in and stay warm.  If you are making it in May be careful there could still be frosts.  Bring summer bedding into a greenhouse, or if you do not have one, just bring them into a conservatory or porch on cold nights.  After a couple of weeks, it will be ready to go!  Bon Appetit!

Here is a Youtube video I made to demonstrate the method.  You can subscribe to my channel Ruth Goudy – The Flower Writer for other videos with gardening tips and ideas.