Juicy strawberries ripe for the picking.

Gourmet Gardener: No hanging around

Our gourmet gardener Tara Kate Linnane is back and is this week looking at the best types of fruit and herbs to grow in hanging baskets...

When we think of home grown veg, the image of manicured rows of leafy greens, perfectly staked tomatoes and borders of marigolds comes to mind. However to create this immaculate picture-perfect image takes space and time, which not everyone has in abundance.

Hanging baskets can be an alternative way to have your display and eat it too. Hanging baskets can enhance an otherwise bare wall, they can dress an entrance and, where you don’t have much ground space, they can offer a solution to growing your own food. There are a number of fruits and vegetables that are very well suited to hanging around for the summer months.

Tomatoes

In a kitchen garden generally tomatoes are grown upwards and stalked, however tomatoes are vine plants and therefore there are particular varieties that will work beautifully, cascading over the side of a hanging basket.

The most suitable varieties include a cherry tomato variety called Tumbling Tom, both the red and yellow tomatoes thrive in hanging baskets. This heavy cropping variety produces lots of sweet cherry tomatoes, and are quite a sight when draped in tasty jewels. You can plant one to two plants per basket for fullness and productivity.

Strawberries

Strawberries are very suitable for hanging containers and a summer ‘must have’ in the garden. Not only do they look great, but they will provide a long season of fresh fruit. Choose your varieties carefully and you can have fruit from June until early autumn. I would give enough space between each plant for the young plants to fill out – perhaps four to five plants per basket.

Once planted, strawberry baskets should be watered daily and will need a regular feed once a month until blooming phase. As with any plant that is productive, more flowering and fruiting will occur with regular feeding.

Marigolds and nasturtiums

These edible delights can look stunning in a hanging container. Nasturtiums spill over the side with lush green leaves with pops of red, orange or yellow open flowers. Marigolds also offer a vibrant colour that can dress up a basket if you have a bare spot between plants and need something to fill in.

You can also incorporate herbs into the mix also such as trailing rosemary, which has delicate lilac blossoms. A combination of edibles will offer a unique display and can be moved around as you please. If you are picking from the basket, I would suggest having it hung at a functional height so you are not reaching or climbing to harvest. This is particularly important if the plants in the container are not of a trailing habit such as marigolds.

Care

Vegetable plants grown in hanging baskets have the same needs as those in the ground. However the baskets will dry out much faster and are slightly more prone to becoming waterlogged if there is insufficient drainage. For success, the container needs excellent drainage, nutrient rich clean soil, consistent moisture, protection from strong winds and the correct lighting situation. Once you can provide these conditions, you can achieve your own hanging gardens of Babylon. So don’t hang around and get planting!

Timely tips for the garden

● Don't hang around, plant up your hanging baskets now with young plants so you can enjoy lush displays all summer.

● If you want to stick to flowers in a hanging basket, petunias also have a cascading habit making them perfect for hanging.

● As with any container, water daily to ensure the soil doesn't dry out.

● I am attempting to grow cucamelons in a hanging basket this year as they also are vine plants. This is an experiment so I will let you know if it is successful, but I encourage trial and error in gardening. It is fun, and you learn a great deal for the next year by just trying.

● It still is quite cold at night as the temperature dips. I would hold off leaving any tender crops outdoors or in a polytunnel if you have sown them inside until the risk of frost has passed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

• Tara Kate Linnane is passionate about sustainability and growing all things edible. Together with her husband Barry, she has embarked on a journey of designing edible spaces and getting others started on their gardening adventures.

Follow their journey on Instagram @twopeas_inapolytunnel or visit thefoodscapedesignco.com to make contact for information.

You can email your questions to tarakatelinnane89@gmail.com

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