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By now you have probably purchased any hanging baskets that you are going to display this summer. If not, consider that they really add to the landscape, porch, patio, or deck.

We have had them in various places on our property, but always on our front porch. It’s nice to admire them as we pull in the driveway or look out the front window.

Our house faces the southeast which allows morning sun and afternoon shade. Over the years, I have experimented with various kinds of plants looking for optimal, long-lasting blooms. I could use ferns which look nice, but we prefer blooming ones. Among the kinds I have had in the past are torenia, rosebud impatiens, ivy geraniums, fuschia, and bacopa.

The least successful ones were the fuschia as they were not happy with even the morning sun as the summer progressed. Had to replace them early on with the torenia.

A problem that I have had with any kind of hanging basket is birds nesting in them. Sometimes they tuck themselves in under the plants so they aren’t too visible and not harmful to the plants. That I can live with, but when a part of the plant dies and looks unsightly, it raises my ire.

My hanging baskets that birds have ruined the most contain bacopa, which come with either white or blue blooms and have lovely little leaves. With proper care, they can grow quite long as summer progresses. The fragrance leaves a lot to be desired (seems a bit like a weak skunk fragrance to me), but their appearance more than makes up for it.

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Birds building nests in them will kill a portion of that plant leaving a brown spot, or when that is culled out, an unsightly bare spot. What to do about our winged friends? I have tried a few things, some of which didn’t work. The first thing I tried was big nails poked into the soil with the sharp end protruding. I had seen spiky deterrents on signs on commercial buildings which seemed to work most of the time, but the nails were a “bust” for my hanging baskets.

I next tried pieces of wire that were sharp on the ends, but that didn’t do anything, either, as the birds slipped in between them.

What did work was something totally different: bells. I used some long pieces of jute and attached large jingle bells—the kind that are often associated with Christmas—and tied them to the top of my plant hangers letting them hang down. Don’t know what about the bells the birds didn’t like, but they seemed to avoid my plants when they were present. Maybe it was the movement of the bells or the slight noise they made as the air swished them around. Who knows? But, my baskets were bird free.

If you are looking for bells outside of the Christmas season, you can generally find them at a craft store or online, of course.

An additional note about hanging baskets: they need plenty of water, especially if it is hot outside. You might even need to water twice a day if it is very hot. As the plants grow and hopefully thrive, there will be a lot of roots in the basket and not a lot of soil. My MG literature also mentions fertilizing a bit as the frequent watering can leach nutrients out of the soil. It’s up to you to keep them satisfied and healthy.

If you have other questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a Master Gardener volunteer at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034. You can also check out the many horticulture webpages at the U of I Extension’s website by visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ . And be sure to like the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.

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