There’s nothing tastier than a nicely ripened home-grown tomato. They’re juicier, stronger tasting, and more vibrantly coloured than the ones you find in supermarkets which – let’s face it – are sometimes bordering on anaemic.
But how do you grow tomatoes in hanging baskets? What’s required to achieve your own tumbling cornucopia of juicy garden goodness?
We’ve written this guide to answer all the questions you might have about growing tomatoes in a hanging basket.
Why choose a hanging basket?
Not everyone with a green thumb has access to a garden, or even to an allotment or other shared gardening space. For those amongst us with balconies or whose front doors open right onto the street, the solution lies elsewhere.
A hanging basket is a great space-saving gardening solution. You can grow a surprising amount in a compact space. You can hang baskets from purpose-built hooks mounted on walls, or from existing surfaces like beams, branches, rafters, and more.
If you’re a more casual gardener and you don’t want to commit to hardcore gardening, hanging baskets are less prone to weeds and pests. Slugs and snails find it harder to reach the tasty morsels growing within, and although flying pests can find their way up, you can grow scented plants alongside your tomatoes to put them off. More on that later!
How to grow tomatoes in hanging baskets
Maybe you’ve not grown an edible hanging basket before? Fret not: It’s quick and cheap to set up, and it’s easy enough to be accessible for gardeners of any level.
Here are ten steps to growing tomatoes in a hanging basket:
1. Choose your basket
There are tons of hanging baskets available to buy online. Many are semi-spherical and made of thin metal wiring. We recommend a basket of 35cm or above to give your tomato plants the space they need to grow.
2. Line your basket
Some baskets come with lining already. If your basket has a solid brown layer on top of the metal frame, for example, this is probably coconut coir (or fibre). If this is the case, you don’t need to add anything else.
If your basked doesn’t come pre-lined, you can use a compost or soil bag that’s been cut to size. Make sure to add some small holes to give your tomatoes the chance to drain.
3. Decide where to hang your basket
If your plan is to install purpose-built hooks for your basket, we recommend doing this first. Then, once your basket is ready, you can hang it without any further fuss.
Although the exact configuration will be different, this step usually involves drilling a few holes and using a few screws to attach the hook to a suitable surface beneath.
If you’re hanging your tomatoes from an existing surface, just double-check you have a chain and a suitable hook.
4. Prepare your soil
Potting soil will do the trick here. Make sure it’s good quality.
Preparing the compost can be as simple as checking you have enough to fit in your basket. A 35cm basket will hold about a gallon of soil, and a 40lb bag of potting soil will fill about five baskets.
There are a few optional extras at this step, too. Each of these will give your tomatoes an easier time:
- Water retaining gel: This will allow water to be released more slowly than otherwise, ensuring your plants stay hydrated.
- Rotted leafmold: A natural alternative to the above.
- Slow-release fertiliser: To add a steady stream of nutrients to the soil while your tomatoes are growing.
5. Add compost to your basket
This step is nice and easy. Either pour or scoop handfuls of soil into the basket, filling it to just below the rim.
The extra space is essential, as it gives you room for manoeuvre when watering and planting your tomato plants.
6. Check the soil surface is even
Give your soil a quick once-over to check it’s evenly distributed, and that there are no loose or overly packed areas. Consistent soil gives your plants better growing conditions, and it’s easier to rectify any issues now than after planting.
7. Plant out your tomatoes
Here’s the main event! In this step, we’ll plant out the tomatoes into their lovely new home.
Gently remove the tomato plant from its pot, along with the soil and roots. Tease the roots away from the clump of soil to prevent cramping and promote healthier root growth.
Next, create a hollow in the soil with your fingers and pop the tomato inside. Firm up the soil around the roots, so that your tomatoes are firmly in place but not squashed. You can add more soil at this stage if needed.
Tomato plants will do well if they’re planted reasonably deep, as they’re prone to put out strong roots.
You can safely fit one or two plants into a 35cm hanging basket.
8. Water your tomatoes
Once planted, give your tomato plant a generous amount of water. The roots will be thirstiest at this stage, so you’re giving them the best chance of a healthy start in life.
9. Hang your tomatoes!
Use the chain or similar method of attachment to hang your basket, and take a moment to appreciate your handiwork. (You can also use this moment to make sure the hook is definitely strong enough to hold the completed basket..!)
For the first week or so, we recommend watering your tomato plant every day. Also, keep an eye out for flowers, and add tomato feed once they begin to appear.
Reapplying feed each week will give you healthy and delicious tomatoes in no time.
Once your tomatoes are ready to eat, it’s just a case of picking them as and when you fancy. They last quite a long time on the plant so don’t feel rushed to pick your tomatoes. Generally, it’s better to leave them ripening on the plant than sitting in the fridge.
If it’s the first time you’ve grown your own tomatoes, savour each bite and enjoy how juicy and succulent they are.
Which types of tomatoes can you grow in a hanging basket?
Regular tomato plants won’t thrive in baskets. For the best results, choose a cherry tomato variety.
Tomatoes that lend themselves best to hanging baskets have been bred to tumble, meaning they don’t need to be supported while growing. Some types also crop earlier in the year than ground equivalents, meaning you can enjoy tomatoes for more of the year.
Here are a few varieties to consider:
- Hundreds and Thousands: Sweet and noted to be particularly flavoursome by a trained panel of tomato tasters, this variety is a good bet for hanging baskets. Just understand that ‘thousands’ is a name, not a promise of yield.
- Tumbling Tom: Whether you choose Tumbling Tom Red, Yellow, or both, you can expect a flavourful and confident crop. Mixing the two varieties together gives excellent potential for a particularly colourful display.
- Maskotka: Renowned for deep-red fruits that tumble elegantly over the sides of a basket, Maskotka is a great choice for vertical gardeners. You can expect a fairly large yield, too, especially compared with some other types.
- Garden Pearl: The heart-shaped fruits win plaudits from the tomato-tasting panel who liked Hundreds and Thousands so much. If you want a tomato with its own brand of visual interest, Garden Pearl could be for you.
A few more varieties were tasted by the panel mentioned above, and the article makes such quaint reading that we’ve included a link to it here.
Tomato plants will grow best in baskets when they’re planted in early summer. Frost can be fatal for fledgeling flowers, so planting them out when the weather is warmer gives the best chance for a healthy start in life.
A hanging basket is more exposed to the weather than a plant in the ground, so if there are particularly chilly winds when you’re thinking of planting, maybe wait a few days.
Companion plants for tomatoes
You can add other plants to your hanging basket, too.
If the intent behind your basket is to bring colour and visual interest to an outdoor space, there are aesthetic considerations. Plants with complementary colours will look great alongside your tomatoes. Oranges, yellows, and reds will create medleys of colour that are a pleasure to behold.
If you’re motivated mainly by the culinary eventualities, though, then taste and scent considerations will probably be a priority. You can choose plants whose flavours work well with tomato when cooking. Basil, for example, or any of myriad salad leaves.
In terms of scent, French marigolds are known to be a particularly good match for tomatoes. They carry the additional benefit of deterring flying pests, too.
We say tomato, you say tomato
As you can probably tell, there are a lot of options when growing tomatoes in hanging baskets. You need to decide which variety to grow and whether to grow them alone or with other plants. You need to decide the best place to hang your basket, and the type of basket you want in the first place.
Hopefully, after reading this guide, though, you’ll realise that the underlying methodology for growing tomatoes in baskets is simple. It’s quick, cheap, and the return on investment is potentially enormous.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful, and that you enjoy many a bountiful tomato harvest from your newly planted baskets.