Vegetables for Hanging Baskets
Small food gardeners and those with only a balcony are always on the lookout for ways to maximise the number of plants they can grow and harvest with the space available. Containers are always a good choice, but floor space may be at a premium so why not grow your vegetables in hanging baskets and make use of the vertical space as well? Here are some tips on vegetables for hanging baskets:
Firstly, growing in hanging baskets should not be any different from growing in the ground. That means that plants need good soil, drainage and regular food and water. The tricky bit with baskets is sunlight. Most vegetables require a lot of sunlight so positioning the hanging gardens to get enough sunlight (at least 6 – 8 hours a day) is essential. Also remember that with more sunlight, the baskets will dry out quicker and a daily watering regime will more than likely be a requirement. Adding water-retaining products to the planting mix will be of benefit.
While it’s important to fill the basket with nutritious soil for the veggies, the heaviness of the baskets may become an issue. Adding lighter materials like palm peat, vermiculite and perlite will help with this and also improve drainage.
Using a 1-litre container, add 3 parts compost, 2 parts good potting soil, 1 part palm peat (rehydrated in water if using the brick-type), 1 part vermiculite or perlite, a handful of bonemeal or superphosphate and a handful of slow-release all-purpose fertiliser to a bucket. Mix a water-retention product like EXLGel or Hydrocache with water and add to the mix. Mix all the products together for a light, rich soil to add to baskets before planting.
To make it easier to work with, place the hanging basket on top of an empty pot. If the basket comes with a plastic lining, punch a few holes in the plastic for drainage. Fill with the soil mix and then add plants, making sure the soil reaches just a few centimetres below the rim of the basket. Water well before hanging up. Make sure when positioning the baskets that they are not too high in the sky but at easy working level for maintenance, watering and feeding. Use a water-soluble fertiliser to feed the plants every couple of weeks.
Plants To Use
Hanging baskets are great for things like lettuce and spinach (which also don’t need tons of light) and strawberries, which need lifting off the ground when fruiting, but also good for trailing plants like cucumbers and peas. Here are some ideas to get started:
Like any vine, cucumbers do best when supported vertically when growing in the garden. This makes it easier to harvest the fruit and they don’t get damaged by growing along the ground. Growing in hanging baskets is therefore ideal for cucumbers – they will trail and be easy to care for. They do, however, need at least 8 hours of sunlight a day and plenty of water. Use a basket that is at least 20cm deep. The bigger the basket, the more soil and the less it needs to be watered. You can plant one cucumber plant for every 4 litres of soil the container holds. Plant good companion plants like calendula or marigolds in with them, but not too many as they will then compete for nutrients. After the first month, feed every 2 weeks with a water-soluble fertiliser. Choose the compact or dwarf varieties for the best results.
What are now called patio tomatoes are ideal for growing in hanging baskets. They remain compact and are usually the small cherry-type tomatoes that are quick growing and quick to harvest for the salad. Place tomatoes in a position that gets at least 8 hours of sun a day. In the heat of summer they may need watering twice a day. Make sure to avoid a windy spot that could blow off the delicate flowers, resulting in no fruit. Plant 1 – 3 cherry-type tomatoes in a basket and fill up with tomato companions like basil, parsley or marigolds. Feed every 2 weeks with a liquid-fertiliser and prune away any broken or dead stems and leaves.
These plants do very well in hanging baskets, and very few of the usual pests can get at them up in the sky. The perpetual-type of lettuce leaves that don’t form a head are perfect for baskets, and you can mix and match the types to make an entire salad bowl in one basket. Simply cut leaves as you need them for the freshest salad you can possibly get. They need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day and regular watering. Feed every 2 weeks with a liquid fertiliser.
Like all the vining edible climbers, peas require staking if grown in the ground, which they don’t in a hanging basket. They are also attractive plants and grow in baskets as you would grow them in the ground. They need daily watering and feeding once a week with a liquid fertiliser. Once they are ready to harvest, in 90 – 120 days from sowing seed, check and harvest daily so that the baskets don’t get too heavy.
These are some of the most popular edible plants to grow in hanging baskets. It is easy to pick from eye level when the fruit is red and juicy, although you may want to set baskets a little higher than the children can reach. Choose a basket at least 30 – 40cm in diameter so there is enough space for 4 – 5 plants in the basket. The plants are usually spaced closer that you would in the garden. Keep the basket well-watered and don’t allow it to dry out, but avoid directly watering the fruit so that it doesn’t rot. Feed every month with a liquidfertiliser and pick the fruit as soon as it’s ripe. Cut off any runners as general maintenance as these take energy from the mother plant. Hang in a light position with at least 6 hours of sun a day, but shelter from extreme heat and extreme cold.