Depending upon where in Maine you live, the first frost is not far away. That means those tender annuals in your hanging baskets will finally give up the ghost. You can still salvage some good from them, though.

First, the soil in your baskets can either go in the compost or directly in the garden bed. In time, such offerings can help improve the soil’s tilth. Every little bit helps, don’t you know.

Next, the containers for hanging baskets are recyclable. You have several options for these, but first, thoroughly clean the baskets before storing away for the winter. Then come spring, you can get new potting mix and make your own hanging baskets. You don’t need a degree in garden design to do it, either. All you need is a bit of imagination and perhaps some help from the people in the garden outlet where you shop. Sometimes just reading the tag on plants can supply all the pertinent information you need.

Some modern hybrid plants seem almost custom-made for use in hanging baskets. Select trailing varieties. The plant label will tell you how long the plant will grow. In addition to trailing plants, old-fashioned geraniums look great in hanging baskets. The choice is endless, and it’s all yours to make. Just remember, you can’t really make a mistake.

Putting up your own hanging baskets does not preclude buying new, ready-made ones next season. After all, it’s impossible to have too many hanging baskets. As pointed out in a column from summer 2020, you can even grow vegetables in hanging baskets. Tomatoes and cucumbers come immediately to mind.

In addition to outdoor use, those same hanging baskets that hosted your showy annuals last summer can do yeoman duty inside this fall and winter, with houseplants.

For instance, I have a spider plant that grows in a home-made hanging basket in my front window. The pot wasn’t designed for use as a hanging basket, but I modified it by drilling three holes around the rim and using heavy-duty, waxed sewing thread, made an ersatz hanging basket.

The spider plant could use a larger basket now, so as soon as my outdoor plants give up the ghost, one of the baskets will be dedicated to holding my spider plant.

However you dispose of your hanging baskets, don’t just chuck the whole thing in the trash, since there’s a world of uses for both soil and empty basket. You’ll save money and have fun in the bargain. You can’t beat that.


Hardy chrysanthemums, or “mums,” serve as a staple for outside decorating in fall. These can simply stay in the plastic pots they came in, or they can settle comfortably in a terra-cotta pot or even a planter. Garden outlets and even supermarkets — I found a good deal on mums at Hannaford — carry a wide variety of hardy mums.

When I say “hardy,” I mean many mums are rated down to zone 5. Much of Midcoast Maine sits in zone 5. All the same, during extreme winters, zone 5 can temporarily experience zone 4 conditions, which points out the necessity of protecting your mums is you plan to keep them over the winter.

But first, let’s talk about selection. Buying a pot or pots of mums in full bloom give much immediate satisfaction, but as with any other potted plant, you will get more bang for your buck if you buy plants that have barely just begun to bloom. That way, you’ll get to enjoy the full range of their blooming cycle.

After that, what you do with your mums is up to you. Remember, they like sunlight, which makes them ideal candidates for siting on a south-facing porch. Some mums, a bunch of cornstalks and perhaps a pumpkin or a few squashes, and you have a ready-made fall scene.

When your mums finally play out, which can be some time after the first frost hits, it’s time to deadhead your plants and consider what to do next. I like to un-pot my plants and plop them into a ready-made hole in my vegetable bed. This gives the plants plenty of opportunity to extend their roots, which will help them draw nourishment until the ground freezes down past them. If you mulch your mums with straw or even dead leaves, the frost may not manage to penetrate very deep at all.

Next spring, when the ground thaws, remove the mulch and when the plants show signs of greening, put them back in their pots and set them in a partly sunny place to grow until the following fall.

Good luck.

Tom Seymour of Frankfort is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist, and book author.