Secret to success found in the soil

Secret to success found in the soil

Life & Style
Succulents in hanging baskets only need watering every two-three weeks in good quality potting mix.

Succulents in hanging baskets only need watering every two-three weeks in good quality potting mix.

Aa

As with everything in a garden, pots are nine parts preparation to one part plants - in other words, the answer lies in the soil.

Aa

Pots and baskets are a brilliant standby in a dry season. They are quicker and easier to water than a large expanse of garden and you can have colour all summer.

Also, you can pot up treasures you're worried might not survive life without rain or in a howling wind, knowing they'll be waiting for you next autumn when with any luck we'll be planting again.

Hanging baskets are readily available and fun to plant.

We might not run to one of those lush northern hemisphere beauties bursting in a profusion of colours, but if you're prepared to stick to succulents it's amazing what you can achieve without too much trouble or water.

As with everything in a garden, pots are nine parts preparation to one part plants - in other words, the answer lies in the soil.

Get the right consistency that allows drainage without waterlogging and you won't go wrong.

If buying potting mix, the best ones are worth the extra cash (look for the Australian Standards symbol) as they're finer, more friable and include fertiliser and water-retaining crystals.

Cheap mixes may contain little bur coarse composted bark and don't hold moisture nearly as well.

I make my own mix as I like knowing what's in it, and it's easy and quick. I'm probably not saving money but I'm convinced my own product is better.

We might not run to one of those lush northern hemisphere beauties bursting in a profusion of colours, but if you're prepared to stick to succulents it's amazing what you can achieve without too much trouble or water. - Fiona Ogilvie

My mixtures are based on 50 per cent compost and even in a dry season I can usually find damp, humus-filled compost if I dig into my heap.

Coir peat is $3 a brick so the biggest item is perlite or vermiculite at $9 a bag.

Potting mixes for hanging baskets should be light: a watered basket is far heavier than a dry one. My favourite mix is an easy three parts compost, two parts coir peat and one-part vermiculite.

I mix it in the wheelbarrow, fill the basket to within 5 centimetres of the rim, and add slow-release fertiliser and water crystals according to the directions for the size of the basket.

When selecting a basket, bigger is better: a diameter of at least 35 centimetres. A cone shaped base allows for longer roots. I like wire baskets lined with coir fibre but plastic lasts longer and is soon disguised with trailing plants.

Prices depend more on quality than on material, varying from $5 for lined wire to $35 for smart, enamel finish, self-watering.

Hang your baskets from the overhead beam of a pergola or verandah, or from a shepherd's crook type hook attached to a pole in the ground.

You need a good stout hook. A 50-60cm wand attachment for your hose nozzle makes watering easy.

When selecting plants, if possible choose from three sizes: a tall centrepiece, medium sizes for the surrounds and trailers for the rim.

Succulents offer plenty of leaf variation in colour and shape. Always check for frost hardiness - kalanchoes and some echevarias are tender.

Shade won't worry them though you may have fewer flowers. A 35cm basket will hold five to seven plants.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by