You don't even need to have a garden to be able to grow tomatoes in a hanging basket. Varieties have been bred to be compact enough to be grown this way, and still produce great crops.
Which? Gardening magazine has trialled tomato varieties for growing in hanging baskets, comparing 14 varieties. To discover which are our Best-Buy varieties, subscribe to Which? Gardening online or by calling 029 2267 0000.
Sow seeds indoors in late February or early March in Best Buy compost, and keep them moist and warm (around 21°C) until they germinate.
Caption: Sow tomatoes indoors
When they start to develop a set of proper tomato leaves, carefully transplant the seedlings individually to 9cm pots and grow on in good light at around 16-18°C. Don’t let the pots dry out.
In mid to late April, plant one tomato plant into a 40cm hanging basket filled with a Best Buy compost for containers. Add controlled-release fertiliser at the recommended rate to the compost when planting. Grow on plants in a frost-free place.
Caption: Put one plant in each basket
If you’re planning to grow plants outdoors, acclimatise them gradually over a couple of weeks by placing the basket outside during the day but bringing it in at night until risk of frost is past.
Caring for plants
Hang the basket in a sunny, sheltered spot where it won’t be exposed to strong winds.
Water regularly. Automatic irrigation will save time and trouble, but if that’s not possible you should water the baskets well at least daily and possibly twice a day if the weather is very hot. Even if controlled-release fertiliser is used, you may need to supplement that with liquid tomato feed from late August, or earlier if the leaves turn yellow or the plants have stopped flowering.
Caption: Water at least once a day
Curling and twisting of leaves is common at high temperatures but shouldn’t cause any real problems and can be a naturally protective measure to lower the loss of water through the leaves.
Fruit problems include blossom end rot, where a black patch appears at the base of the fruit, and greenback, where a hard green area remains at the top of the fruit when the rest of the tomato has ripened. Try increasing ventilation if growing the plants under cover, and ensure that feeding and watering are adequate and regular so that the plants don’t go short of nutrients.
Caption: Blossom end rot is common during hot weather
Blight is a common problem when growing tomatoes outdoors. In periods of warm and damp weather you should watch out for black patches appearing on leaves and stems that will quickly spread and kill the plants. There are no treatments available and the only protection is to prevent leaves from getting
wet so blight can’t take hold.