Growing Tomatoes In Hanging Baskets
Friday, 25 March 2022 | SimplySeed
One of the UK’s most popular of all seasonal fruits and vegetables is without doubt the tomato. From July to October every year, gardeners up and down the length and breadth of the country will regularly harvest their deliciously sweet home grown tomatoes. For many amateur gardeners, seasonal tomato growing of all types and varieties has become a tradition rather than a necessity.
This versatile fruit has found its way into greenhouses, where they are grown in large pots, and into gardens, where they are grown in the ground or in containers. More recently, there has been a welcome and quite novel trend for growing tomatoes in hanging baskets.
No greenhouse or garden required
Now, anyone who doesn’t have a garden or an allotment can enjoy the pleasure of growing their own edible tomatoes. Growing tomatoes in hanging baskets takes full advantage of the fruit’s ornamental properties. From the luscious deep red colours of “Tomato Tumbler” and “Tumbling Tom Red” to the graceful yellows of “Peardrops” and Tumbling Tom Yellow”, these trailing tomato plants are a joy to behold.
These lovely gems can also be planted together with other popular hanging basket plants, such as lobelia and petunias, creating striking colour contrasts and interesting colour combinations.
Growing from seed
Trailing tomatoes are very easy to grow from seed. They can be started off in a cold greenhouse, a propagator or even on a windowsill. If you intend to grow your plants in a greenhouse then you can sow the seeds from mid-February to mid-March. If you intend to use a cold propagator or a windowsill then best wait until late March or even early April.
Use a quality seed compost in pots or trays and water the compost before sowing. Sow the seeds thinly, with 2-3 seeds per 9cm pot, and lightly cover the seeds with fine compost or vermiculite. If you apply cling film or light polythene over the pots or trays it will help to retain moisture. The ambient temperature should be maintained at around 18°C.
Which Varieties are the Best tomatoes for hanging Baskets?
Potting and growing on
The seeds should germinate within 7-14 days, after which remove any covering and ensure the young seedlings get plenty of light to prevent them from becoming leggy. When they form at least 2 true leaves and are large enough to handle, transplant the seedlings into individual 7.5cm pots or into modular trays filled with multi-purpose compost.
Take care not to touch the delicate stems of the seedlings so to avoid damaging them. It’s safer to use a dibber to gently prise them out of the compost and then hold them by the leaves. Water the seedlings and leave them in a warm sunny position to grow on. If you would rather skip the seed sowing and early nurturing process then buying plant plugs is an alternative option.
Ensure your hanging baskets are adequately lined by using strong perforated polythene or one of the commercially available basket liners, which are usually made from natural fibres such as coco fibre. Make sure the liner comes right up to the top of the basket perimeter to reduce water loss when watering.
If the baskets have been used before then check the supporting chains for corrosion. Fill the baskets to within 3cm of the rim with a multi-purpose compost. You can also add a small amount of slow release fertiliser too at this stage or at least ensure you apply a regular liquid feed later.
When the plants begin to form flower buds they will be ready for transplanting into their baskets. A 30cm to 40cm diameter basket will only need one plant, whereas a 50cm to 60cm basket will take up to three plants. Generally, the more plants you put into a hanging basket the smaller the fruits will be as they will compete for nutrients and water.
However, regardless of size, the fruits will taste just as good, assuming you intend to eat them. If you have been growing your hanging basket plants in a greenhouse then they may need to be hardened off (acclimatised) before being moved to their final warm and sheltered positions towards the end of May.
More of a forethought than aftercare is the fact that hanging baskets with trailing tomatoes will get very heavy, so ensure the basket brackets are firmly attached to a wall or a sound timber structure, capable of taking the weight. Trailing tomatoes, just like their cordon and bush variety cousins, need plenty of sunshine in order to grow successfully and ripen.
Watering is very important because hanging baskets can dry out very quickly. Apply water every day, preferably in the early evenings when the heat from the sun is at its weakest. Apply a liquid feed once a week and remove any dead or dying leaves as they appear.
Pets & diseases
Like all types of tomatoes, trailing varieties are susceptible to blight. Warm, wet weather is an ideal condition for the spread of blight, which is a fungus-related organism. Affected fruits and foliage will display wet, brown patches, which quickly rot and spread to other parts of the plant. A short-term remedy is to remove infected parts as soon as they are noticed.
Fungicides are available but rarely cure the problem. The best solution is to discard the plants and disinfect the hanging baskets. Do not put infected plants on the compost heap, which will allow spores to disperse and lay dormant. It’s better to burn or bin the plants.
There are several known viruses that can affect tomato plants producing similar symptoms, including stunted growth, marbled fruit, curled leaves and a mosaic pattern on the leaves. They are generically called mosaic viruses and there is no cure. Remove infected parts as soon as they are noticed.
The most common pests of tomatoes is aphids. It’s unlikely other pests, such as slugs and snails, wireworms and flea beetles will be problematic due to the elevated position of the hanging baskets. If aphids are spotted then spray with Neem oil or insecticidal soap. Be sure to clean any fruits thoroughly if you intend to eat them.
Do you grow your tomatoes in hanging baskets? Leave a comment below and let everyone know....
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