Although more commonly used for effusive displays of annual flowers such as petunias and pelargoniums, a hanging basket dangling from a porch or mounted on a wall makes a fun, attractive container for growing vegetables, herbs or fruit. You don’t even need a garden!
There are lots of different designs of hanging baskets, including solid-sided ones with an inbuilt water reservoir, but the most common is made of plastic-coated wire suspended from chains and used with a liner. Half-baskets for mounting directly onto walls are also widely available. Our Garden Planner includes icons for the most popular types of hanging baskets to add to your plans.
Of course, you can also use your ingenuity and make your own hanging baskets from household objects you no longer have a use for - think old colanders, leaky buckets, or even food cans!
Edibles to Grow in Hanging Baskets
Tomatoes are so popular as hanging basket plants that some varieties are bred specifically for this purpose - ‘Tumbler F1’, for instance. Other compact bush types are also suitable. Tomatoes are greedy feeders and heavy drinkers, so one plant per basket is usually plenty. Pop it in the centre and let it trail down the sides.
Strawberries, particularly diminutive alpine strawberries, are also popular for growing in hanging baskets - the tempting fruits will hang over the edge below the foliage, making them easy to pick. They’ll cope with partial shade too.
Compact herbs such as parsley, thyme, mint and prostrate forms of rosemary are ideal for hanging baskets, and they’ll never look untidy if you harvest from them evenly.
Or why not try something a little more unusual in your baskets, such as a cucumber, three or four peppers or chillies, or even half a dozen pea or bean plants so that they trail down the sides? In the top of the basket grow lettuce, small beetroots, stump-rooted varieties of carrot or summer radishes. Combine them with trailing plants such as nasturtiums, which not only look pretty but are edible too.
How to Plant Up a Hanging Basket
Preparing a hanging basket for edible plants is no different to preparing a hanging basket for flowers. First, find a bucket or sturdy flowerpot that is big enough to cup the hanging basket. This will keep it steady and up off the ground while you work on it. If there are chains attached you might find that they get in the way, so detach them before you start.
You can buy liners such as those made of coir, recycled paper or plastic, but it’s easy to make your own plain-coloured liner by turning an old potting soil sack inside out. Press it into the basket so that it fits snugly. You might find you need to cut a few slits from the outside in, to encourage the sack liner to lie flat. Trim off any excess liner sitting above the basket’s rim.
Don’t forget to puncture some holes into the liner at the base to provide drainage, and if you’ll be planting trailing plants such as nasturtiums or peas through the sides, remember to cut holes for them.
For the growing medium, a commercial potting mix is fine, or alternatively try a rich potting mix of one part leafmould or coir to three parts garden compost or potting soil. You might want to mix in some slow-release organic fertiliser at the same time to reduce the frequency you will need to feed your plants. Avoid using loam or loam-based potting soils in hanging baskets, as loam is heavy and will put extra strain on your basket chains and supports.
Growing plants in just the top of the basket is easy. Fill the basket with your growing medium and either pop one plant in, dead centre, or space a few around the edge.
If you’ll be planting through the sides, add your growing medium up to the first tier of cuts. Wrap the stems and leaves of your plants in a cone of plastic (you could use a strip of leftover piece of potting soil sack), push the plant through the slit from the inside out, then remove the cone to use for the next plant. Once that tier is filled, add more of your growing medium so that it sits about 5cm (2in) below the rim of your basket. Add more trailing plants around the edge, taking care to stagger them so they are not directly above any plants growing through the sides. You can then add a final bushy plant such as a moss-curled parsley in the centre to crown your basket, then top up with your growing medium.
Lovely as they are, it’s important to remember that hanging baskets are difficult environments for plants to grow in. They will be perpetually hungry and thirsty, so water your baskets daily and apply liquid feed regularly. Sink a small plant pot or plastic bottle with holes in the lid into the potting soil to give you something to water into. Watering like this will allow the water to slowly seep out and drip-feed the plants.
Why not give growing fruits or vegetables in hanging baskets a try? We’d love to see photos of your gorgeous hanging baskets dripping with edible plants - you can post them to our Facebook page or share them with us on Twitter.