Strasburg is blooming thanks to the town’s recent upgrade to self-watering hanging baskets.
John McBreen, the town’s horticulture foreman, explained that the old baskets, which were lined with coconut fiber liners, didn’t retain much moisture, especially through May and September, which is when the Valley is at its hottest.
“We had to water seven days a week,” McBreen said. “So, therefore, every time a crew was working on a weekend or when the crew was out, or we were on call, someone was always having to water.”
Eighty new self-watering baskets line Historic Strasburg from the Strasburg Museum to Stover Avenue. The baskets, which are filled with a hybrid form of petunias, add a splash of color to the streets and usually signal that summer has arrived.
McBreen said he was inspired by a trip to Petersburg, West Virginia, where he often spends his weekend’s camping or fishing. He noticed a new form of hanging basket and was intrigued. After researching the commercial self-watering hanging basket and discussing it with Strasburg town manager Waverly Cogglesdale, a decision was made to upgrade.
“Right now, with the new baskets, we’re only watering two days a week and fertilizing only one of those days with a liquid soluble fertilizer,” he said. “Once the temperatures get over 85 or 90 degrees, we will water them three days a week — Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It will be nice not to have people come in over the weekend just to water the baskets.”
The baskets were purchased from EarthPlanter. The pots allow the plants to grow larger thanks in part
to their 4-gallon water reservoir. A fill port on the side allows easy access, and maybe even more
importantly, a wicking system delivers bottom feeding while regulating water delivery based on the baskets’ soil conditions. The baskets are guaranteed for life.
“The money we put into the purchase of those baskets, we should be able to recoup through saving overtime fees [for employees to water],” McBreen said. “But let me stress this — the fact that we’re always in a water shortage here, people might say, ‘Well you know, you’re wasting water, they’re just flowers.’ Yes, but you know we need to beautify the street in some way.”
It takes roughly 275 to 300 gallons of water to maintain the baskets, which McBreen said that at one point last year they were using that much daily.
“We had some rain, we’ve had lots of heat and then rain. Well, that’s great, but you start to get spider, mites, fungus, or other issues. And on top of that, with the liners for the baskets we had previously, we were having to water on top of the flowers, which can create all kinds of issues for the flowers.”
Now, because of the reservoir system, members of McBreen’s staff no longer have to touch the flowers themselves, they simply fill the reservoir. Once the water begins to run out, they know to turn the wand off and move on to the next basket.
McBreen said he is keeping a watchful eye on the plants, as they continue to grow in their new baskets.
“I’m surprised. We’re not even at the end of June and they’re already starting to grow past the bottom of the basket and they’re growing up into the chain. I don’t know how big they’re gonna get when we finish this season.”