If you spend any time researching gardening products you have probably seen planters designed to hold a tomato plant upside down. This non-traditional way of growing a tomato plant can be a fun way to keep your garden interesting. It can also help gardeners with limited space find a little extra room.
If you have a small garden area you might have trouble fitting all of your desired plants into your available amount of space. Upside down tomato plants can save space in the garden and they are one of the few plant varieties that can actually thrive upside down. You will find that there are a few commercially manufactured planters designed specifically for this purpose as well as some do it yourself options.
There are several advantages to using this method besides saving a little space. It can be less labor intensive since these plants can grow without staking or caging. Another advantage is that weeds will generally not grow in these planters. Growing plants upside down also increases air circulation, making it less vulnerable to disease.
Choosing an Upside Down Tomato Planter
If you are looking for the easiest way to start growing tomatoes upside down you will probably want to use a commercially manufactured planter. Homemade options are pretty simple to construct, but the store bought ones come ready to use. You may find a few different varieties available, but the most popular option by far is called the Topsy Turvy.
The Topsy Turvy started the upside down tomato growing trend. In fact this planter received an Amazing Inventions award from Time Magazine in 2005. All you have to do is fill the planter with potting soil, add a tomato plant and hang it up. It is also easy to water and maintain. Each planter can hold up to 2 tomato plants which means that you can get a substantial harvest with just one or two different planters.
Some people choose to make their own upside down tomato planters. It is a pretty simple process and can save some money. All you will need is a 5-gallon bucket with a handle. First drill a hole in the bottom of the bucket for the tomato plant. Generally a 2-3 inch hole works well. Plant your tomato plant in the hole and secure it using a coffee filter or a piece of a peat pot, as shown in this video here. When it is ready, you can use the bucket handle to hang your planter. Five-gallon buckets are really heavy when filled with wet soil, so be sure to select a sturdy plant hook and secure it with heavy-duty fasteners to a post or wall.
Soil Considerations for Growing Tomatoes Upside Down
Whether you create your own or purchase a commercially made upside down tomato hanger you will want to use good soil. Choose a nutrient-rich soil like potting soil. Since having even moisture is important for keeping your tomato plants healthy, it is a good idea to add a little mulch or peat moss to your top soil before using it. Fertilizer will help to replenish the nutrients that your tomatoes remove from the soil, so fertilize regularly. Since nutrient depletion can occur quickly in areas where tomatoes are grown, replace the soil each year before planting a new tomato plant.
Best Upside Down Tomato Varieties
Some varieties of tomatoes grow better upside down than others. Generally you will find that patio and container varieties of tomatoes work best since these plants can thrive with limited growing space and soil. In general patio varieties and those with small fruit are a great choice. Here are a few varieties to try.
- Tumbling Tom – This tomato plant is a great choice for growing upside down since it is specifically intended for growing in hanging pots and planters. You can find the Tumbling Tom tomatoes in both red and yellow. It will produce fruit in about 70 days.
- Yellow Canary – This plant produces delicious yellow fruit in about 55 days. One reason that this is an ideal choice for growing upside down is that it can produce fruit with slightly less light than other varieties. Hanging your plants upside down can reduce the available light.
Choosing a Location for Upside Down Tomato Planters
Your location will determine the success of your upside down planter. Tomatoes need lots of light, so choose a very sunny area to hang them, that gets at least 8 hours of sun a day. You will also want to choose a location where you will be able to frequently water your plants. The soil should be kept evenly moist. During hot weather you may need to water them daily or even twice daily.
Other Upside Down Tomato Resources
Curbly has some great DIY upside down tomato planter instructions, if you want to do it yourself.
Old Fashioned Living has another do it yourself bucket approach to tomatoes.
The New York Times has covered the entire phenomenon of upside down tomatoes, and it’s a fascinating read.
Wired has a wiki about DIY upside down tomato planters.