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Friday, May 6, 2016

DIY Moss Tomato Hanging Basket Tutorial (Cheap and Easy!)

Most of you probably don't know this, but my very first real job in my early teens was at a greenhouse, and I worked there on and off for almost 20 years (sometimes just going in to help out one or two days a year at my old boss's request - Mother's Day and Victoria Day which are the busiest days of the year).

My old bosses and their kids even attended my wedding, and in fact supplied all the flowers, pots, and baskets to decorate the location and tables :)

And over those years, depending on the season, I made moss baskets.

Hundreds of moss baskets. Likely even thousands.

So this week's post is not a recipe, but an easy picture tutorial. I can't say that I ever made hanging tomato baskets at the greenhouse, but I do know how to make moss baskets, and this year I decided to try my hand at hanging tomatoes. I could have gotten one of those hanging tomato planter thingies, but frankly they're ugly, and at $10 a pop (without soil) I knew I could do it for cheaper.  Here's how I planted my hanging tomato baskets.

What you'll need:

* wire hanging baskets (I bought 2 from the dollar store for about $2/each
* planter box soil mix
* moss (from the local garden store, or your backyard if you live in a rain forest like we do!)
* tomatoes (2.5" pots are best) - of a small variety, like cherry or grape, or a hanging variety
* plastic bag or plant water tray that fits into the bottom of the basket - if you're concerned about using plastic, I'm not sure what else to recommend, you could either do away with it, or find something else that will retain water and allow you to cut a hole in it will help
* small sandwich bag to fit over root ball (optional)
* other optional plants (I added nasturtium and basil as companion plants, but this isn't necessary. Also, if your basket it small you don't want to overcrowd them)
* hooks to hang your baskets

What to do:

If you're doing this on a deck, lay out some plastic or newspaper underneath the basket to collect dirt, etc.

Depending on your basket, you may need to add some rope or wire to make the gaps smaller and hold in the moss better. I strung rope between my wire, and then packed the moss inside and around it tightly, and so that it is about 1" higher than the top of the basket (this will help keep the moss and the dirt in)

 Line the bottom of the basket with the plastic bag or the plant water tray, so that it comes up the inside just a couple of inches - not all the way to the top. Cut a hole in the plastic large enough to fit the root ball of your bag or tray.
If you're making a regular moss basket (no tomatoes on the bottom) you won't need to do this, just put in the bag. This helps to retain water, as moss baskets notoriously dry out quickly!

You'll need to balance your basket on something so that you can get at the top and the bottom, or have someone hold it for you. I rested mine on the arms of two deck chairs. See? I got some assistance with mine...

Okay, she mostly just took a bath and ignored me...

Wrap the sandwich bag around your tomato's root ball and push it up through the bottom of the moss and the plastic bag / tray. Remove the sandwich bag and tuck the plastic bag and moss back around the tomato stem. You'll want the bag tucked loosely around the stem to allow the stem room to grow, but tight enough that it will still retain some water. Tuck the moss around as best you can underneath the bag to help keep in the soil and water as well.

So that your tomato hangs out the bottom like this:
Fill in soil around the tomato.

I added three little nasturtiums and a basil on the top. Mostly for colour (nasturtiums to attract bees) and companion planting (basil is supposed to be good for tomatoes, so let's give it a go!), but also to help shade the top of the basket to retain moisture during hot summer days.

And there you have it! I hung them under the cover of my deck, so they're shielded from the wind, but get a bit of rain and a lot of sun.

I also placed a large pot of herbs underneath my basket, so that it won't drip onto the deck, but instead will water the herb pot (less watering for me!)

It's been about 2 weeks now, and my tomatoes are going strong. They've started to grow upwards, but also outwards, and already have a couple of flowers on them. We even had a wind storm the other night, and they survived just fine.

So with a little luck and a lot of water, I'm hoping that in a few weeks' time I'll be posting recipes for salads using my own homegrown tomatoes and basil. 

Have you tried planting hanging tomatoes? 
What was your method? 
What are your favourite basket stuffers?

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