Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Hanging basket and container garden care

Summer has finally arrived!  Now wonder why we planted so many flowers! 
Primarily heat stress, lack of fertilizer and intermittent missed watering schedules make for bleak looking hanging baskets and container  gardens.  The key to successful container gardening is consistent watering and plenty of fertilizer.  There is so little soil in the pots and when we water consistently like we are supposed to do, very few nutrients stay in the soil. 
The soil becomes nutritionally depleted and the plants – which have become very large by this time of year – lack the adequate nutrients to remain viable.  In hanging baskets, the plants have grown so long that the center or top of the basket can become sparse looking.  Here are some tips to breathe new life into your container gardens for continued enjoyment for the remainder of the season.

In the early morning or late evening, cut off excess foliage hanging beyond 3 inches past the bottom of the pot.  Lightly mist the plant with water. This will stimulate more growth from the top of the plant yielding a fuller look.


Water when soil is dry to touch and then saturate soil.  Water until it runs through the drainage holes in the container because it washes out any salts that have built up in the soil and ensures that you have saturated the soil. When temperatures exceed 90 degrees, watering twice a day is a must.


Feed every week with a blossom booster fertilizer.
1. Be sure to fully water each container with clear water.
2. Water again with the fertilizer/water mixture.
If the soil is too dry the fertilizer and water mixture will just run out the bottom.

In Addition . . .

Due to more air circulation and limited root space, hanging baskets and container gardens will dry out fast; so check them frequently, (more than once a day when it is hot).  The hotter it is, the harder it is for a plant to tolerate long periods of time exposed to the sun.  Also, when temperatures are over 95 degrees, some plants will stop blooming in order to survive.  After it cools down the plants will again begin to bloom.

All annuals will flower more often if the old blossoms are physically removed.  This is really beneficial to geraniums, fuchsias, lantana, verbena and marigolds.  To remove old flowers, just follow the flower stem down to where it attaches to a branch and then pinch it off.

Check weekly for insects because you never know when these critters will decide to make your plant their next home!