Nothing beats the taste of freshly picked, home-grown tomatoes. While they are an easy crop to grow, they do need a lot of space. If you have only a small garden or balcony, you might think that you can’t grow them. Fear not—there is a solution: hanging tomatoes.
These plants will grow happily in hanging baskets, allowing you to make the most of your vertical space. Additionally, growing hanging tomatoes is also a great way to improve air circulation, giving you healthier plants that are less likely to succumb to pests and diseases.
This method may sound strange and difficult but it really isn’t. Read on for everything that you need to know about growing great tasting tomatoes in hanging baskets.
Which Tomato Varieties are Best for Hanging Baskets
Many regular tomato varieties aren’t suitable for growing in hanging baskets. While this narrows your options slightly, there are still plenty to choose from.
Tumbling or trailing varieties are particularly suited for this growing method. These varieties will happily cascade over the basket’s sides, creating a fantastic, edible display.
Suitable varieties include:
- Tumbler: A classic, sweet cherry tomato that’s known for its trailing habit.
- Hundreds and Thousands: This is a highly productive cherry tomato with a bushy appearance.
- Tumbling Tom: Both the red and yellow tomatoes thrive in hanging baskets. This heavy cropping variety produces lots of sweet cherry tomatoes.
- Maskotka: Another heavy-cropping variety that will provide you with juicy, deep red fruits throughout the summer.
- Cherry Cascade: A prolific, cascading variety that produces masses of small, sweet, cherry tomatoes.
- Balconi Red: A compact, cherry bush tomato that also thrives in pots and window boxes. Unlike the other suggested varieties, balconi red is not a trailing type. If your hanging baskets are easily accessible, however, then consider planting trailing varieties at the front of the basket, and a small bush at the back.
Should I Grow from Seed, or Buy Plug Plants?
Growing hanging tomatoes from seed is exactly the same as growing conventional tomatoes.
Sow the seeds under covers in seed trays or pots with fresh, general-purpose compost, in March or April. Place the trays in a warm location, and germination should take place within 2 weeks. This process may take a little longer in cooler climates.
Following germination, grow the seeds on until they are ready for planting, this will be around the end of May, when the risk of frost has passed. These timings may vary slightly depending on the variety or growing conditions.
If you don’t have the space or time to grow from seed, purchase the tomatoes as plug plants in late April or May. You can then grow them on for a few weeks, hardening them off before planting into the baskets.
Choosing the Perfect Hanging Basket
When it comes to selecting a hanging basket, the bigger the basket the better. This all depends on how much space you have available, or course. For most people’s needs, a 12- or 14-inch hanging basket will be fine.
Most of the varieties we’ve mentioned will happily grow in small or medium-sized pots or baskets. Just try not to overcrowd the container when you plant it up. Overcrowded baskets can stunt root growth, so the plants won’t grow to their full size and will produce less fruit.
If you only want to grow one tomato plant in each basket, or if you’re using a larger container, you’ll find yourself with some extra planting space. Consider planting herbs like basil, mint, or chives alongside the tomatoes. Companion plants such as marigold and nasturtium can also be grown alongside hanging tomatoes to create an eye-catching display.
Finally, remember that the more tomatoes you plant, the more often you’ll need to water them. Hanging baskets with a wide surface area but a shallow soil depth will dry out quickly, especially on warm days. During the heat of midsummer, you may need to water the baskets 2 or 3 times a day.
Many hanging baskets now also come with a reservoir compartment, which allows them to store more water. These are great for hanging tomatoes as they help to keep the plants hydrated.
How to Plant Up Hanging Tomatoes
The first thing to do is to properly prepare your hanging basket.
Preparing the Basket
Mix some tomato feed or general-purpose fertilizer into a bucket full of good-quality potting compost. Some people also like to also add perlite to the mix. This will improve drainage and allow more oxygen to access the roots, which will help the plants to stay healthy.
If you want to, you can also mix in water storing granules—just check the packet for the correct amount. This will help the soil to retain moisture.
Line the basket with either plastic or a coconut fabric liner, which will help the basket to retain moisture. If you line your basket with plastic, you’ll need to puncture drainage holes into the lining. Make sure the holes are spread evenly all around. Alternatively, placing a few sheets of newspaper at the bottom of the basket before you add the soil can also help with moisture retention.
Planting your Tomatoes
Fill the basket(s) with soil and then plant up to 4 tomato plants in each. Try to evenly space the plants around the basket. Plant them exactly as you would in a container or grow bag.
If you’re using a large basket, you may be able to plant more. The important thing is to not overcrowd the plants: they need room to grow. If you’re using small hanging baskets, plant just 1 tomato plant in the center of the basket.
Once planted, water the tomatoes in well. Placing a layer of mulch on top of the soil can help to encourage moisture retention and discourage weed growth.
Hanging Tumbling Tomatoes
Hang the baskets in a sunny spot, since tomatoes need 5-7 hours of sunlight daily to produce healthy fruits. When selecting your baskets’ location, consider how easy it is to water the plants. Watering is easy when the hanging tomatoes are small, but as they grow and spread, it will become difficult to properly water the soil.
You will also need to consider the basket’s weight. This can be considerable, especially when the plants are fully grown and laden with fruit. Make sure the bracket that your basket is suspended from is firmly secured.
Finally, try not to locate the hanging baskets in overly windy locations. This can cause the young tomatoes to fall from the plants before they have ripened.
Caring for Tomatoes in Hanging Baskets
Once you have planted up your hanging baskets and secured them in a sunny spot, hanging tomatoes require exactly the same type of care as upright tomatoes grown in pots or raised beds.
Hanging tomatoes will dry out quickly. If you’re unsure how much water to give your plants, just try to keep the compost moist, but not overly wet. Too much water can cause the plant’s roots to rot. This is especially problematic for younger plants that are still trying to establish their roots. Too little water, or an inconsistent watering regime, can also cause blossoms to rot, It can also make the fruit turn black, or crack.
Once the plants have become established, it can be difficult to water them adequately. A watering system using a hose pipe, timer and tap can be set up to take the strain away from regular watering. However, you’ll have to check the baskets regularly to make sure that they’re not getting soggy.
When yellow flowers begin to appear ,feed the tomatoes with either a tomato-specific feed, or one that’s high in potash. A liquid feed is recommended, as this is easy to incorporate into your watering routine. Generally you’ll need to feed the plants once a week, but this can vary. Check the instructions on the label before using.
As the growing season comes to an end, you may find yourself with a glut of green tomatoes. Luckily there are a number of ways to ripen or preserve them, so you can make the most of your crop.
Growing hanging tomatoes is a great way to make the most out of limited space. A couple of tomato plants in hanging baskets with flower or herb companion planting also makes for an attractive display. This works well either in a garden, on a patio, or a sun-drenched balcony.
With minimal care, as long as they are regularly fed and watered, your hanging tomatoes will provide you with great-tasting fruit to enjoy throughout the summer.