Many people are limited on amount of room they have to grow plants. Hanging containers
are a major help in many cases. Hanging containers have been used in a conventional
fashion in many ancient cultures for both looks and for crops. For years a small
group of growers have been growing plants not only out of the top of the basket but
out of the bottom with great results.
A wider variety of plants in a small space. This will allow you to grow many things
that are not possible in small areas in any other method.
Growing out the bottom of a hanging container allows you to grow plants that you
would not otherwise be able to grow out of the top of a hanging basket. Vine like
plants and plants that grow tall can hang down so you can care for them easily.
It keeps the plants above the ground and away from many soil and air borne pathogens.
Insect like ants that colonize aphids have a difficult time getting to hanging plants.
Many other insects and pathogens that wind spread across the ground are less apt
to infect hanging plants.
You can grow companion plants in the top while growing vegetables out the bottom.
This can give you further protection against insects and diseases in some cases and
work to improve flavors in other instances. There are many articles on the web about
what plants grow well together and work to protect each other.
It helps reduce fertilizer waste thus reducing pollution. Using either dry or liquid
organic fertilizer you can carefully control what you use so there is little or no
runoff to damage the environment. Watch your weather forecasts so you do not have
excess rain after you fertilize.
Helps eliminate overuse of water. You can see when you plants have enough water
and after you watch them for a while you will know how much water to give them each
watering and how often they will need to be watered. If you have more than a few
drip water systems are handy to have.
If you are growing vegetables you will learn to appreciate the clean produce you
More frequent watering. Because of the limited space for roots and evaporation
you will find that hanging plants require more frequent and regular watering. Drip
irrigation systems work well with this type of growing.
Weather damage. Strong winds can be a problem. You need to make sure you have a
place where you can put them to protect them from wind damage if possible. I have
never had any problems but it can happen.
Weight can be a problem. If you are trying to grow full size tomatoes or cucumbers
it is going to take a basket that can handle as much as five gallons of soil. Many
people use five gallon buckets with a hole cut in the bottom. This mean very strong
What to Grow:
Tomatoes of the small to medium varieties are some of the best things to grow.
Look for ‘Indeterminate’ varieties so they do not all ripen at one time.
Beans of all types.
Small varieties of eggplant
Peppers of all types
Okra – Okra has very nice large blooms and can be very decorative as well as good
In the top you can grow companion plants such as herbs that work with the plants
you have growing down. Flowering plants like Marigolds work well with some vegetables.
Strawberries work well in lined baskets to where you can grow them out the sides
and well as the bottoms. A large basket can easily handle six or more plants.
Containers – There are as many things that can used to grow as the imagination
will allow. Many use standard hanging pots which they have drilled a hole in the
bottom. As I stated above, five gallon buckets are used for heavier plants while
smaller ones can be used for smaller plants. Some use coir lined baskets for many
things with great success. There are a number of containers made especially for upside-down
Growing media – Again this is something that everyone has a different opinion about.
Some use potting soil, others use a potting mix (soil less) or sphagnum moss. Just
make sure what you use is totally organic or approved for organic growing.
Holding Plants in Place – if you are using a basket that has a coir liner you can
just work an opening in it. It you are using a pot with a hole in the bottom you
will need to put some newspaper, a section of coir, a coffee filter or some other
material that will hold the plant in place till it has developed a good root system.
Setting the Plant – getting the plant into the hole without damaging the roots
can be a problem. I solved this by placing the roots on a section of heavy paper
and folding it around the roots to for a funnel. All you do then is slip the funnel
through the hole and the roots are in place without any damage. I usually leave it
in place till I get the first layer of potting mix on the bottom of the container.
Feeding Your Plants Organically:
Healthy happy plants grown to where you are getting the best balanced end product
is not difficult but it does require more than just applying N-P-K. Organic growing
is about balance and growing the way nature had intended.
Feeding a plant for maximum output means imputing most of the nutrients it needs
through the root system. To do this you have to understand that plants work very
closely with beneficial biology in the soil or media you are growing in to do many
things for it.
There are many more nutrients that a plant needs beyond the Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium
(N-P-K) in most fertilizers.
A sufficient quantity of organic material in the soil potting mix to allow the soil
biology to do its work providing the nutrients in a way plants can use them.
Beneficial biology – most plants you will be growing form a relationship the fungi
in the media you use to enable to plant to more efficiently gather the food and water
it needs. These are called mycorrhizal fungi. Some work external to the roots while
others enter the root itself and help transfer nutrients to the roots. This allows
the plant to get many trace elements that are difficult for plants to assimilate.
There are other beneficial soil fungi that inhibit harmful pathogens to a point where
they have little or no effect on you plants. There is bacillus that takes nitrogen
that plants cannot absorb and change it into a form that they can use. All the while
this biology is breaking down the organic material in the soil so both the biology
and plants can feed on it. For complete plant health in organic growing soil biology
What most do not think of the beneficial biology that is on healthy chemically free
leaves and bark that can protect plants from disease and insects.
Plant Food – We have been taught by large chemical companies that if you give your
plants plenty of N-P-K they will thrive and give you great crops. You can get large
crops but the end product is not as balanced in nutrients as balanced organic growing
plus they are much more susceptible to insects and diseases.
There are many very good organic fertilizers on the market in both the dry and liquid
form. Some of them contain a number of the trace elements that needed for balanced
plant growth. Most organic fertilizer has very low nitrogen numbers compared to synthetic
fertilizer. What you need to know is that 1% organic nitrogen is equal to about 6
½ % of synthetic nitrogen. It is much more difficult to nitrogen burn a plant with
organic fertilizer. Liquid hydrolysate fertilizers have high amounts of amino acids
and other things beneficial to plants that go well beyond standard fertilizer.
Seaweed in either dry or liquid form can add many of the trace elements you need
for good growth and quality produce.
Molasses works well with the biology in the soil to help feed plants and has high
levels of sulfur.
Natural Humates that have not been heat or chemically treated can add biology, food
to keep the biology alive, many needed trace elements in addition to Humic and Fulvic
Compost teas can be good but I would be careful of home made teas used on food type
plants if you are not knowledgeable about what to put into the compost and the temperatures
needed to kill E-Coli and other harmful biology.
Water, Light, Temperature and Air:
Water, light and air are vital components of growing plants.
Water – Basket grown plants need to be watered more frequently than most types
of growing. If you are just growing down and do not have plants in the top many cover
the top to conserve moisture.
Light – Know the plant you are growing and give it the light it needs. For most
plants morning and/or afternoon light is best with protection from mid day direct
Air – Air movement is very important to plants in it is the way they get rid or
oxygen and gain CO2. Air movement also holds down insect infestations.
General Potting Mix – A good general use potting mix is a loose and open mix comprised
of ten (10) parts peat moss, ten (10) parts Ground pine or fir bark, and ten (5)
parts perlite. To this, I add one-half (1/2) part dry natural Humate. This mix
allows air to penetrate, holds water well, is light weight, and provides a good basic
environment for your plant roots to grow and prosper.
Peat Moss – I use Florida Peat Moss because it takes less biofuel to get it to
my location. There are many other good Moss sources; use the one closest to you.
Fine pine and/or Fir Bark – This is available in most garden centers.
Perlite is an amorphousvolcanicglass that when heated sufficiently it expands
greatly making it light wieght and able to hold large quantities of water.
Natural Humate - can supply many of the things needed for good soil health. As
an organic material it can furnish ‘Stabilized Organic Material’ that can help build
soil structure by adding water retention to sand or by loosening clay up to where
it will hold water. It can add ‘Beneficial Soil Biology’ and the food the biology
needs to survive till it is established. In ‘Plant Nutrients’ by adding many trace
elements in a plant friendly form. AgriPro by TurfPro USA (www.turfprousa.com).
is a 100% organic product that adds soil biology, food for the biology to live on
and many trace elements.
Fertilizer and other amendments /additives:
Fish hydrolysate fertilizer contains all the vitamins, proteins, amino acids, enzymes,
growth hormones, and micro nutrients naturally found in whole fish. The nitrogen
and other nutrients are chelated, so they are readily available for the plant's consumption.
Hydrolysate Co of America, LLC produces a fresh water hydrolysate from farm raised
catfish that meets most organic growing requirements.
Natural Humates contain Humic and Fulvic acid, many trace elements and beneficial
soil biology and food for the biology. They can lock up harmful chemical compounds
in the soil and reduce them to less harmful substances. They can reduce your use
of fertilizer by holding in till needed and reduce water usage because they can hold
many times their weight water. Organic Products Company produces a dry product called
AgriPro that I use in the potting mix. It is 67.7 % Humic acid and will act as a
naturally agent to chelate (to make plant available) nitrogen. They also make a
liquid Humate products that I use as a foliar spray and as a drench. Both are found
on (www.turfprousa.com) .
Kelp and other sea plants also contain relatively concentrated amounts of plant
auxins, growth regulators and stimulants, such as indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), gibberellic
acid and cytokinins. I use North Atlantic kelp by Maxicorp Seaweed ( www.maxicrop.co.uk/
) that I get from a local hydroponics store.
Other Organic Fertilizers besides fish hydrolysates come in a very wide range of
products from blood meal to alfalfa meal. They very greatly in the amount of N-P-K
they contain so you need to find which one fits your application and growing style.
Compost Teas have can be very useful but, be careful of what is used in the tea
brewing to avoid harmful pathogens plu they have a very limited shelf life.
Worm Tea has many benefits and works well as a soil additive.
Herb Teas are becoming very popular, especially for pest control with elements
such as chamomile, yarrow tops, oak bard and stinging nettles, to name a few.
Molasses can provide carbohydrates to feed soil biology, plus it is a good sticking
agent. It also is a good chelating agent and contains a number of essential elements.
When buying products for eco-friendly growing read labels carefully to make sure
you are getting Verified for organic growing product.