Hanging Baskets - An edible selection that looks great and good enough to eat!

Hanging Baskets - An edible selection that looks great and good enough to eat!

Hanging baskets are a great way to grow plants in areas where space might be limited or even an opportunity to grow in different locations, be that just outside your front or back door or hanging inside your glasshouse or polytunnel. Brightly coloured trailing petunias, geraniums, bacopa & lobelia are amongst the mainstay of flowering hanging baskets and are fantastic for bringing a blast of colour to homes and business in our towns and villages lasting all Summer and well into Autumn.

Perhaps for something decorative and practical you can consider growing edible plants close to your back door which gives great easy access, really handy if you are cooking in the kitchen and you can just nip out and pick some of your produce - fresh and tasty plants at your fingertips. Using hanging baskets to grow your plants you also tend to avoid problems from slugs or unwanted visits from cats or dogs You might choose to grow one type of plant only in a hanging basket, perhaps a tomato hanging basket - using varieties like Red Profusion or tumbler, or you might grow some strawberries, perhaps some alpine strawberries that will do ok in some partial shade, allowing the fruit to hang free over the side, keeping them clean and easy to pick. For a hanging basket that looks great from an ornamental point of view and has the practicality of having a mix of edible plants, growing a mix of plants is the solution. To begin with, use a decent size basket, at least a 14 inch diameter, a nice rich compost and a good quality basket liner. When you are planting up a hanging basket sit it into a pot a little bit smaller than the basket to keep it steady while you work on it. When it comes to the plant selection there are lots of edible flowers that you can mix with herbs and salads all in the one basket. Flowers are best when picked fresh from the garden and picking them early in the morning before they get too much sun is best. You can keep them in the fridge for a couple of days if needed and always give them a bit of a wash to remove any bugs or dirt before using them.

Pansies and Violas are excellent flowers to use in the kitchen and are really versatile along with being colourful and long lasting in baskets and containers. You can use trailing varieties of pansies and violas or the upright ones will also look great - you can use the petals to garnish salads or to decorate the tops of cakes for a beautiful splash of colour or freeze them in ice cubes and add them to some refreshing summer drinks - violas are the smaller flowers and are probably easier to use, they have a sweet, mildly spicy flavour and are a great garnish for almost any dish.

Nasturtiums are another great plant for its ornamental and culinary uses, and both the leaves and the flowers have a peppery, spicy flavor and add a great bite to salads. They come in a range of colours including orange, yellow and red. They look great spilling out of a hanging basket, are easy to grow and a source of iron. Both the flowers and leaves, chopped, can be used in vinaigrettes, sauces, and dips and you can also use the flowers to decorate cakes and desserts. Growing nasturtiums in poorer soil will result in more flowers as they put on lots of foliage when growing in richer soils or composts, so you could consider growing them by themselves in a poorer soil if you want more flowers, but as mentioned both the flowers and leaves are edible.

Orange or Lemon scented geraniums are perfect in the centre of a hanging basket and will flower all Summer long, the leaves have a lovely zingy citrus scent and can also be grown inside on a window sill to help keep flies away. These are another plant that you can freeze the leaves in ice cubes and make a tasty refreshing addition to drinks -  Lemon-Scented Daiquiris or Gin & Tonics. You can also use the leaves and flowers in salads, deserts or to flavour tea.

Calendulas are such a great plant to grow and will give some height to the centre of the basket - super easy from seed or in a tray of bedding plants and they flower for ages - usually in orange or yellow flowers - sometimes referred to as “poor man's saffron”. The leaves and petals of calendulas are edible, they are great to garnish salads, use when cooking scrambled eggs or quiches and use when making salsas and great for soup - they have a peppery, slightly bitter flavour and the colourful petals add a great decoration to dishes.

Mangetout are the peas you eat whole, they come in green podded and purple podded varieties; flower colours include purple and bi-coloured purple & white. As they are lighter weight than ‘ordinary’ peas they work well in a hanging basket. Choose a large basket and keep them well watered. Herbs like thyme and marjoram are ideal for growing in hanging baskets and can add a nice mix of foliage colours along with some creeping rosemary or mint. You can also grow some lettuce or mixed salad leaves on the top of the hanging basket which can also provide a nice mix of foliage colour and texture - some lollo rosso or mixed baby leaf lettuce looks great. 

So, if you are looking for an alternative from your traditional hanging basket perhaps you could consider doing an attractive, eye catching edible hanging basket this year

A few jobs for the week ahead;

  • Deadhead Spring bulbs where needed so they don’t use up energy creating seeds and keep them looking tidy
  • Plant some bee and butterfly friendly plants and reap the benefit all Summer - Verbena, Salvias, lavender, wall flowers all easy to grow and look great
  • Spray the new foliage of roses with some Garlic Wonder or Organic Rose clear
  • Apply some liquid moss treatment on the lawn and follow with some granulated feed & weed and a shake of lawn seed to improve the lawn get it set for the season ahead
  • Plant up Summer flowering bulbs in pots - Dahlias, Lilies and Begonias - all great for long lasting Summer Colour - cost effective and easy to grow
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