Mark Anderson, owner, Anderson’s Seed and Garden

There is nothing more frustrating than planting beautiful hanging baskets and planters in May — when the flowers all look so amazing — and then watching them slowly decline as the heat of summer starts up in June.

For some gardeners, it’s just a matter of time before those planters have dried up, and the flowers have shriveled up with them. Why can’t my flowers look great all summer long? They can, and should — you just have to know a few simple steps to keep them well hydrated, fed, and producing flowers well into September and October. This is how we do it at Anderson’s Seed.

First, start with the best potting soil you can find. The main ingredients should include the following: peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, coco coir, humate, worm castings, and maybe a pinch of leaf mold (compost). No bark. Make sure it doesn’t list bark as an ingredient because bark is used as a filler in cheap potting soils — it has no benefit to use it in a potting mix, except to reduce the price and use up any available nitrogen.

Next, feed them. Who likes to eat just once a week? I don’t, and your plants don’t either. We top dress the baskets and planters with a slow-release, coated fertilizer like Garden Cote 6 that lasts for two to three months. Then we start a weekly feeding regimen that consists of a high phosphorus liquid fertilizer like Blooming and Rooting from Ferti-lome (every Monday) followed by a balanced fertilizer, like Geranium and Hanging Basket Food from Ferti-lome (every Thursday) to keep them growing and blooming like crazy.

Since you have to water every day during the hot weather, it leaches all of the fertilizer out of the baskets and planters leaving no food for the plants. Feed them!

It’s important to keep the soil healthy during hot, dry weather, so every week or two we recharge the soil with Compost Tea, which introduces beneficial microbes and micro-organisms back into the soil. It supercharges all types of soils, so that the plants can use and digest the water and nutrients in the soil more readily. It’s amazing how the Compost Tea will perk up even stressed and struggling plants.

Finally, maintaining water in the soil during the heat of summer is a daily task. Our best secret to keeping our baskets looking amazing is to use a soil penetrant/surfactant like Aqueduct or Hydretain in our water once a month to allow the soil to absorb and hold more water than it normally is able to retain.

The Hydretain binds with the soil and is very attractive to water, so it literally pulls the water into the soil and holds it there for the plants to consume. It makes your watering more effective, keeps the soil from dehydrating and shrinking, and pulls that valuable water deep into the root zone for maximum results. It won’t alleviate the need to water every day, but it makes it less likely that your baskets and planters will dry out during 90- to 100-degree days.

Follow our four simple steps, and you will see the difference. Use great soil, feed the plants regularly, feed the soil with beneficial microbes and enzymes, and make sure that water do the work for you.

Beautiful plants and colorful flowers will be your reward all summer long — and even into the fall. You will really notice the difference about the time everyone else’s hanging baskets and planters start dying off. Have a colorful summer!