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When most of us think of gardens, we envision neatly tilled rows or raised beds, stuff that is grounded in a literal sense. However, small space food producers have learned that there is much to be gained from moving up in the world, using the vertical space as well as the horizontal.
Vertical gardening can manifest itself in different ways. Vines can climb up trellises, leaving garden space below for planting other stuff. Walls or fences can have planting boxes that seem like shelves of fresh food. And, there are hanging baskets dangling from porch or balcony ceilings, not taking up any floor space but giving plenty of produce nonetheless.
For some crops, hanging baskets are a great solution when growing our gardens vertically. Some plants will naturally cascade down from high-hanging baskets to provide Garden-of-Eden-like fruit-picking. Other crops grow in tight spaces and can be harvested daily from low-hanging baskets. This can be a beautiful and useful way to grow a bountiful garden with no ground space at all.
Strawberries make wonderful pot plants. They don’t require much space to grow, and they send out runners that will trail down several feet from a high-hanging basket. They have little flowers that come before the luscious red fruits. There are June-bearing plants that provide a rush of strawberries early in the season, or there are ever-bearing varieties that will give a trickle of berries over the warmer months.
While any tomato plant can work in a hanging basket, cherry tomatoes are possibly the best. For one, they don’t have huge fruits that weigh down the basket or make it hang unbalanced. But also, cherry tomato plants often grow more vigorously than normal tomato plants, reaching eight feet high in no time. In a hanging basket, this would be eight feet of hanging, with little capsules of sweet tomato-y goodness.
Similar to tomatoes, pepper plants of any kind can work just fine in a hanging basket, but because chili peppers are a bit smaller, they might be the better choice. Chili peppers produce lots of colorful fruits. The plants won’t have long runners quite the same as strawberries or tomatoes (or cucumbers), so these baskets might work well for lower spots or where space is needed below.
Cucumber plants put out an enormous amount of food. They have nice broad leaves, and preceding the fruit, there is an abundance of attractive yellow flowers. The plants have long vines that’ll hang down below. Cucumbers can get quite large, but lots of pickers like to get to them early (at around six inches) because they are tender and more flavorful when young.
Snap peas and snow peas, the varieties where we eat the pod and all, are another vining plant that we traditionally grow upwards, but the plant itself doesn’t mind drooping those vines below. Again, we get lovely little flowers before the pea harvest, and once the plant is producing well, it can be revisited almost daily for a handful of pods to toss into a salad or stir-fry.
Greens do not cascade, so they probably don’t work well for high-hanging baskets. However, they are lots of loose-leaf varieties of lettuce and cabbages that’ll love it in a basket that gets watered daily. They can provide vibrant colors—purples, greens, reds—and various shapes to enjoy.
Green/spring onions/chives have a role to play in just about every savory dish there is. They provide an agreeably mild onion flavor, enjoyable crunch, and high-quality nutrients. They also grow well in a hanging basket right next to a basket of greens. Spring onions won’t cascade down the sides of the basket, but they look nice shooting up in one.
A garden favorite for flower lovers, nasturtium puts out attractive blooms that are pleasant to look at and delicious to eat. They have a spicy taste similar to arugula. The leaves are also edible, and the seeds can be pickled as a substitute for capers. Nasturtium will hang down from its basket and brighten up a space.
That’s a whole summer salad growing in hanging baskets. Not only would this be absolutely delicious, but the different textures, shapes, and colors would make an amazing garden display to enjoy.
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