In this Newsletter: growing tomatoes In hanging baskets, tomato varieties for hanging baskets, best soil for hanging baskets, adding extra calcium and magnesium, foliar feeding and friendly bacteria.
Growing tomatoes In hanging baskets – the great escape!
For many gardeners, growing tomatoes in hanging baskets is more of a visual than a practical exercise.
The reason for this is because, there is such a small space in a hanging basket that getting plants to perform to their best is more difficult than when growing in a high sided container. Also, a large pot or container is more easily watered at ground level.
However, if you have a wall bracket that’s just right for a hanging basket – go for it! It’s a great looking feature in the garden and will work well with a few tweaks if you plan it right.
Perhaps the biggest issue with growing tomatoes in hanging baskets is that the soil dries out so quickly. This is made worse if too many plants go in to one basket.
Water always takes the route of least resistance through the cracks – “The Great Escape” especially if the soil has become dry.
You can pour water in a hanging basket and see it come out of the bottom at the same speed!
How to optimize a hanging basket
Ways to optimize hanging baskets to hold on to water for as long as possible:
- Use the largest hanging basket you can.
- Line it with newspaper if it is the wire type.
- Add a sheet of plastic around the same size as a dinner plate to form a bowl shape – before the soil goes in.
- Use container compost or add perlite and/or vermiculite – water retaining gel is also available.
- Hanging baskets are available with a modest reservoir – see below.
- A watering system attached to an outside tap can be very useful.
- Choose a cherry variety that will perform well in a limited space – such as Terenzo F1, see below.
How many tomato plants in a hanging basket?
It depends on the size of the hanging basket:
- Small – one plant
- Medium – two plants
- Large – three plants
The more root space a tomato plant has, the better the results. It will also require more water on a hot day for three plants than it will require for one plant.
Tomato varieties for hanging baskets
One of my all time favourite cherry varieties is Tumbler F1.
I use to grow it in large deep pots, to get the maximum results from the plants, but they will grow well in hanging baskets too.
A variety that has been bred as an upgrade of Tumbler F1 is Terenzo F1 (AKA Tumbling Bella – photo below).
Tumbling Tom, in both red and yellow, is also good but it can be a little later to mature because it is a fussy setter – sometimes it takes a little longer than normal for flowers to set fruit.
Growing tomatoes upside down in a Topsy Turvy Planter is something I would avoid because these planters contain less soil than a hanging basket.
If you’ve had good results with them, then well done you … but you will get better results from a container with more soil.
Lastly, always grow a cherry variety – cascading, tumbling or trailing.
I’ve seen tall varieties grown out of the bottom of buckets suspended from a wall bracket, however, you need very strong bucket handles – otherwise you may hear a bump in the night!
Blossom End Rot would be an issue with soil that dries out frequently, when growing medium and larger varieties.
Soil for hanging baskets
Peat is well known for its water holding ability but is very difficult to re-wet if allowed to dry out. Not so good for growing tomatoes in hanging baskets.
Potting compost for containers is available that contains perlite or vermiculite or gel, though it is a little more expensive. If you already have the perlite etc., you could add it to standard compost.
The soil based compost John Innes is great for tomatoes, but it is heavier than standard compost, so you will need a strong wall bracket if you use it!
Adding extra Calcium and Magnesium – It’s best to foliar feed!
The NPK – Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) are the main nutrients followed by calcium and magnesium.
For tomato plants, calcium and magnesium are essential for fruit formation, chlorophyll (the green pigment in leaves) and taste.
We know that if calcium is in short supply when the tomatoes are swelling, Blossom End Root (BER) is the result.
If magnesium is in short supply, the lower leaves will start to lose their colour as the plant takes magnesium from the lower leaves to supply the upper leaves – upper leaves and growing tips get priority!
Plant A is experiencing a magnesium (or nitrogen) shortage – upper leaves are taking the magnesium from the lower leaves.
For more about this subject click here.
The advantages of foliar feeding
Why feeding supplements (such as cal mag) through the soil is best avoided.
Too much calcium in the soil can raise the pH which reduces the range of nutrients available to a tomato plant.
If calcium is applied by foliar feeding, this issue is avoided.
Too much potassium in the soil (very common when being a bit too generous with tomato feed) reduces magnesium uptake.
If magnesium is applied by foliar feeding, the issue is avoided.
When it comes to adding nutrients to the soil – apply just the basic nutrients that come in the bottle of Tomorite or other feed, then add supplements such as calcium and magnesium with a foliar spray.
Of course some feeds will contain cal and mag, there is a feed called Calmag! Providing plants with extra nutrients as they need them, by foliar feeding it is a good way to feed.
One thing that can be very beneficial is making the soil good for friendly bacteria and microbes.
Good for adding to soil are:
- Seaweed extract
- Mycorrhizal Fungi
Here is a short video that explains the benefits of Mycorrhizal Fungi:
Keeping soil well aerated and not saturated with water will also encourage friendly bacteria.
That’s it for this week … I hope all is well in your seedling tray!