Growing vegetables upside down may sound like a fad or novelty, but it can be so much more. Here;s how to grow tomatoes upside down, which are particularly well suited for this growing style. In fact, there are lots of reasons to grow tomatoes upside down versus conventional methods.
BENEFITS OF GROWING TOMATOES UPSIDE DOWN
Growing tomatoes upside down comes with some great benefits. Researchers and gardeners tend to agree that tomatoes grown upside down are less susceptible to pests and disease. They aren’t hassled by weeds and soil born diseases. Without weeds, the plants have less root competition, less stress and receive more nutrients. They are generally well aerated, which helps to limit fungal diseases and pest problems. Harmful insects are often confused by upside down plants or else they can’t get to the tomatoes very easily. Upside down tomatoes also save space and eliminate the need for stakes or cages.
BEST TYPE OF TOMATO TO GROW UPSIDE DOWN
Choose only indeterminate (vining) types of tomatoes for growing upside down. The bush varieties are not suitable, mainly because they yield all of their fruit at once, which can become too heavy for an upside down plant. The long, flexible vines of indeterminate tomatoes handle the pull of gravity well and can be trained or tied in a convenient location. In general, smaller types of tomatoes will be better for upside down growth. Cherry and grape tomatoes, for example, will put less weight and stress on the vines and roots. While some larger tomatoes will grow fine this way, you may want to avoid the biggest varieties.
TYPE OF CONTAINER NEEDED
There are a number of upside down tomato planters on the market. The most well known is the Topsy Turvy Upside Down Tomato Planter that has been shown in tv ads for years. They are very affordable and easy to use. Another great option is the Compact Upside Down Tomato Planter, a free standing unit that looks great on patios or decks and can be reused year after year.
If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can recycle or convert a number of different items into a container suitable for growing tomatoes upside down. Most people will use a 5-gallon bucket or recycled soda bottle or milk jug. If you use a soda bottle, it should be the 2-liter variety and a gallon milk jug works well. Plastic bottles should have the bottom part cut off (leaving the narrow end intact). You will grow your tomatoes through the small hole at what is, normally, the top of the bottle. Buckets need a 2-inch hole added at the bottom from which the tomato vine will grow. For an interesting way to DIY upside down tomatoes, check out Don Beesley’s ebook, Do-It-Yourself Upside-Down Tomato Containers and Hanging Rack .
Once you have decided on a container, you will want to figure out where and how to hang it before you do any planting. A solid, wire hanger can be all you need to hang your planter. Insert holes in the sides of your container in which the hanger can clip in after planting. A bucket is ideal because they usually already have a handle that can be hooked to a sturdy steel hook.
Choose a spot that receives lots of sunlight. This might be indoors in a south-facing window, on a balcony or porch or anywhere else that is suitable. Keep in mind that you will be hanging several pounds of soil plus the weight of the plant as it grows, so be sure to fasten your hooks to a secure place. You can also expect a good amount of water run off, so don’t hang your planted over something that may be damaged or plan to have a tray or another plant underneath to catch the excess drips.
Start your seedlings in a regular growing pot. Water them well and give them a few weeks to become established before transplanting to the upside down container.
Hang the planter in the prepared space. Thread the roots through the hole in your plastic bottle or bucket. Add a good mix of garden soil and compost. Hold the plant in place while you distribute the soil evenly covering the root ball in about 2 inches of soil and up to about an inch from the top of the container. Cover the small hole (on the bottom side) with shreds of newspaper (or similar organic material) if necessary to keep the soil from falling out. Moisten the soil.
Upside down tomatoes need to be watered more regularly than normal container plants. You may need to water them every day during hot, dry weather so keep a close eye on them. Tomatoes like the soil to be always slightly moist. Add a layer of mulch (or use a lid) to help conserve moisture in the soil.
If the soil settles to more than 2 inches of headspace from the top of the container, add a little more. Check regularly to be sure it stays at this level.
Harvest tomatoes as soon as they are ripe. This will ensure less weight and stress are put on the vines while encouraging more rapid growth.
TIPS & ADVICE
Some people report smaller yields with upside down tomatoes while other report higher yields.
Heavy-duty plastic bags can also be used in place of hard plastic containers.
Try to place a netting or wicker basket around your plastic containers to add aesthetic value.
Many other vegetables will be suitable for upside down growing. Try growing hot peppers this way.
Do you have tips or questions on how to grow tomatoes upside down? Let us know in the comments section below.