One of the best ways to reduce the amount of time you spend watering is to minimize the amount of moisture your baskets lose through evaporation and run-off.
Basket liners: Wire and wrought-iron hanging baskets lined with moss or coconut coir look beautiful, but they dry out quickly. One way to minimize moisture loss is to "line the liners" using plastic grocery store bags with small slits cut in the bottom for drainage. This will slow down moisture loss significantly and also slow down the decay of the liners themselves--allowing extra seasons of use before you have to toss them out. If you have an aversion to plastic, try using crushed up egg cartons or a few layers of newspaper. These materials won't protect your liners from decay, but they will certainly slow down moisture loss.
Tip: Before planting, always submerge liners made from moss or coconut coir in water. This will establish good contact between your moist soil mix and your liner, and prevent the liner from acting like a wick.
Water-retaining granules: Add water-retaining crystals (hydrogels) to your soil mix to help absorb and hold onto moisture. At most, you may only gain an extra day or two of water-free days, but for some gardeners that might be worth it. Follow the instructions on the package carefully. Don't add more than the recommended amount or your soil may end up staying too moist. If adding them to your soil seems inconvenient, there are also soil mixes available with moisture granules already mixed in.
Mulch: Cover exposed potting soil with a lightweight organic mulch such as pine needles, shredded bark, or decorative Spanish moss. This will help keep the soil cool and moist and reduce your need to water.
Retractable Pulleys: Baskets that are heavy to lift or hard to reach become easy to avoid when it comes to watering. A pulley attachment makes raising and lowering baskets a breeze. Many popular brands work on an internal ratcheting mechanism that locks or releases at any height. Look for systems that come with an optional swivel hook, which lets you turn your plants as needed for even sun exposure.
Water wands: Water wands are inexpensive and extremely useful for watering hanging baskets. These specially designed spray nozzles attach to the end of your garden hose, extending reach for overhead watering. Most brands feature a selection dial that allows you to choose from a variety of watering patterns. Use the mist or shower settings to give plants a drink, and the high-pressure jet to dislodge spider mites, aphids, and other soft-bodied insect pests from your plants.
Temporary Relocation: During prolonged periods of extreme heat, consider moving your hanging baskets to a shadier location under trees or overhangs. Set them on top of overturned flower pots or hang them on temporary brackets.
Self-watering hanging baskets can dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend watering. The baskets feature and built-in reservoir and wicking system that automatically distributes water to your plants as they need it. Not only does the system keep your soil from drying out, it also prevents you from over-watering. Make regular (non self-watering) baskets more efficient by inserting plastic reservoirs designed to channel water directly to the plant's roots at the time of planting. Reviving Dehydrated Plants
If one of your hanging baskets has dried out completely, but you think the plants can be revived (they are wilted but still appear alive), move it immediately to a shady place and give it a gentle watering. Wait a few minutes and then carefully submerge the entire basket into a large bucket of water. Bubbles will rise to the surface until the soil is thoroughly saturated with water. Once they stop, lift the basket from the water and move it to a cool, shady place to recover for a few days before returning it to sunshine.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com
Watering Hanging Plants
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