How to grow tomato plants at home in containers
Growing tomatoes in containers is quite easy. Growing them in hanging containers is also equally easy and even delightful once you see the results.
Growing tomatoes off the ground can produce a better yield compared to those regularly grown on the grown. This may be attributed to easier distribution of water and nutrients to the leaves as gravity will pull them down towards the plant, also, the branches have less stress in growing as they do not have to strain to grow straight up.
Small varieties of tomatoes such as cherry and Roma tomatoes should be used for a hanging tomato plant. Big tomatoes can break off from the stem prematurely due to the weight dragging them down.
Where to grow your hanging tomato plants
Choose an area that is sunny. If you wish to produce your own seedlings, start them indoors 8-10 weeks from the last frost date. Frost stunts the growth of hanging tomato plants for they are warm-weather plants.
In this respect, your planning should be much the same as when deciding to plant tomatoes in the usual way. Since you will be hanging a big container, you will need to find a sturdy and solid structure in which to place your hook. This is very important since the hoped for end product will weigh in the region of 35-50 pounds by the time that harvesting is due to take place.
Some practitioners use a clothesline for their hanging tomato plant, but the clothesline should be additionally supported by means of wood or metal props which are anchored to the ground securely. Others loop their containers with wire around a solid wooden beam of a patio structure to make sure that the container does not fall off during stormy weather. Thought about positioning additional security fastenings should play a part in your final decision when hanging the container.
The growing requirements of your tomato plant will also dictate placement. You will need to ensure that the container is in a position to benefit from at least 6-8 hours of sun.
You need at least a 5-gallon bucket for growing hanging tomato plants.
Choosing a container for your hanging tomatos
Use a light-colored one as they reflect heat better which will prevent water from evaporating too quickly. You need to have a 2-3 inch diameter hole at the bottom for your plant to grow out of. Drainage holes are important for you do not want your plant to drown. Drill drainage holes at the sides of the bottom of your container but not on the same surface as the large hole that you just made from which your plant will grow. Do not throw away the lid on the container as you will need it later, when you put in your tomato plant.
If you want a more decorative container for your hanging tomato plant, you can use the largest wire basket that you can find and line it up with a coco pot that is big enough to fit inside. This way you do not have to drill any holes at the sides for drainage as the coconut husk is porous enough to let the water get out. Create a cross at the bottom of the pot for your tomato plant to grow out of.
What soil should you use to grow your tomatos in?
A soilless mix is preferred for hanging tomato plants. Frequent watering will produce a compact soil that can hinder root development. Gardeners prefer a mix of sterile compost, perlite or vermiculite and peat moss of equal proportions.
If you prefer to use a soil mix, do not use ordinary garden soil as it contains a lot of pathogens that can harm your plant. Purchase a good potting mix in your local garden store for it contains sterile soil, compost, perlite or vermiculite, and peat moss. This mixture will help retain moisture while draining excess water.
It is not ideal to start growing a hanging tomato plant from seed in the final hanging container. You need to produce seedlings in a biodegradable pot such as one made from coconut husk. You can also grow them in small seeder trays sold specially for this purpose.
Start your cultivation indoors and place the seed on top of the soil and cover with ¼ to ½ inch of compost. Water well and keep the temperature to 75-80 F while maintaining a moist but not wet soil. Germination will start within 7 days after planting the seeds.
Your seedlings are ready for transplant when it grows 4 true leaves, which is around a month from planting. Keep in mind to harden them off for two weeks before you place them outside. Prepare the seedlings according to the preparation of the transplants below.
Transplants are better for growing hanging tomato plant. They are now at least 6 inches tall and are already somewhat established for growing. You can place it in the container in two ways: plant first or root first. Either way, you need several pages of newspaper or a coffee filter to protect your plant.
For this purpose, you need to have the bucket or container hanged about 2 inches off the ground. Line the bottom with the news paper or coffee filter and create a cross-shaped tear big enough for your plant to go through the hole.
Place a couple of inches of potting mix into the bucket and create a gap in the center around the area where you created the hole. If your transplant came in with plastic, remove the covering and hold the plant carefully upside down. If it comes with a biodegradable container such as a coconut husk, there is no need to remove your hanging tomato plant for transplanting.
Cut off the lower branch of your tomato and carefully push the plant through the hole. Allow about 2 inches of stem to go through the hole before securing it with soil. Fill up the container with soil almost at the top before you hang your tomato. Do this with your other tomatoes, and give your hanging tomato plants water until water seeps through the holes.
The lid of your container must be close at hand. Place the container on an upright position with the hole touching the floor. Place a sheet of half-folded coffee filter on the hole and fill up the container with soil. Do not fill it up all the way though. Leave at least 5 inches of space between the soil and the lip of the container and close it up with the use of a lid.
Invert the container and remove the coffee filter. Afterwards, dig through the hole and create a crater to receive the plant. Carefully remove the container of your seedling and loosen up the soil. Push the soil and the roots through the hole, being careful not to damage the roots of your tomato.
Once you have at least two inches of leafless stem on top of the hole, replace the coffee filter and line it around your tomato stem. This would be easy if you create a straight tear at from the center going down of the coffee filter. Now, lift the pot and put it right side up and you now have your hanging tomato plant. Hang your container and water it until you water goes through the drainage holes.
Protecting your tomatos from pests
Some gardeners protect the plant by placing a flowering plant at the surface. This can be crucial for the flowering plants can compete with moisture and nutrients and also attract pests and disease. To prevent pests from going to your hanging tomato plants, you can plant chives and onions on the surface of the container.
When to water your tomato plants
Water them daily although some suggest you water seedlings once a week and increase to 2-3 times a week when your seedlings grow to a full-fledged plant. Give them a side-dress of mature compost or aged manure for nourishment, although you can use 10-10-10 or 10-15-10 fertilizer according to package instructions.
Some believe that you have fewer problems with disease and pests because your tomatoes are upside down, however, you still need to be on the lookout for pests and flies. Protect your plants by spraying them with compost tea and let the plants have adequate ventilation.
Place your hanging tomato plants 24-30 inches apart to prevent downy mildew. Remember to keep the leaves dry and watch out for aphids and caterpillars that can eat away much of your plants. Hand-pick caterpillars and blast aphids away with a garden hose.
When to harvest your tomatos
Harvest your tomatoes once they are red and firm. If frost is imminent, harvest tomatoes while they are still green or turning orange. Ripen them off by wrapping them in newspapers or expose them for several hours a day by a sunny window.