Posted on 27 May 2008 by

Upside Down Tomatoes

By Cindy Naas

Recently, I received an email from a friend asking my opinion on growing tomatoes upside down.

Honestly, I didn’t have an opinion at the time, although I did suggest that the person eat a little something with her pinot noir before emailing me next time. However, after doing some research, I had to apologize to my friend.

Upside down tomato growing is becoming a popular way of adding tomatoes to a small garden.

I discovered that some people feel that growing tomatoes upside down will prevent rot and blight by keeping the tomatoes off the ground, and will increase yield, too. I’m not convinced, so I am going to grow one tomato plant upside down and another planted in a traditional pot. By the end of this summer, I should be able to answer this question and have photos to prove it.

The Method

You will need:

  • 1 large bucket- 5 gallon is good
  • potting soil with some manure added
  • a drill or knife for cutting the hole in the bottom

Drill a hole in the center of the bottom of the bucket. The hole should be about 2″ in diameter. Fill the bucket with potting soil mix. Cover with a lid or place a piece of cardboard over to serve as a lid.

Turn the bucket upside down, and plant one tomato seedling through the hole you’ve drilled in the bottom of your bucket. Make sure to plant deeply. Water the entire bucket with a mix of water and organic fertilizer, and hang from a sturdy hook.

As with any hanging basket, this will dry out easily in hot or windy weather, so watering frequently is a must.

The Project

I have planted one tomato in a planter and have one hanging upside down in its bucket. I’m going to take pictures as the season progresses, and I’ll also be logging all of the tomatoes produced by both plants. I’m excited to see if this new growing method actually works.

I’ll be posting pictures and more details as the plants grow.

[ For more tomato growing tips and ideas, be sure to visit our sister site, Tomato Casual ]

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147 Responses to “Upside Down Tomatoes”

  1. Compostings Says:

    I love this experiment! I think I’ll join you. Great idea to help prove or disprove a technique.

  2. theManicGardener Says:

    I agree. I’d seen ads for this, but it was for some sort of kit costing a fortune, so I dismissed it. Now I’m curious.

  3. Topsy Turvy Tomatoes « Compostings Says:

    […] She posts a great how to here.  […]

  4. Cindy Says:

    I hope you’ll post a new comment or even better, email me as your tomatoes grow. It will be interesting to compare notes during this season!

  5. Diane Says:

    I’ve seen someone with cherry tomato hanging baskets by their front door – what a yummy idea!
    The regular watering has to be a chore, the same as with flowers, but a much more fantastic reward than a few blooms!

  6. ben Koshkin Says:

    I’ve seen expensive growers for sale in Skymall magazines.
    Posted By Ben Koshkin –

  7. Master Control Program » Blog Archive » The upside to tomatoes Says:

    […] By Ben Koshkin about growing tomatoes upside down, I’ve seen expensive versions of this in […]

  8. Frank Says:

    Sorry, but with a n=1 in each sample, you will not have the statistical strength to prove anything. We see similar projects in grade school science fairs every year. You need to control for several variables, amount of light, water, nutrients, health of seeds or seedlings, presence or absence of pests and have a sufficient sample size (at least six of each) to draw any valid conclusions. The pictures should be nice but not conclusive of anything. I am not involved with the upside down tomato group–just an interested onlooker. Hope both tomatoes are good. :-)

  9. AV Says:

    What a poo pooer you are. Let the woman try her experiment for gosh sakes without getting all scientific on her. She’s not going to publish her results in a scientific journal.

  10. Lasagna Gardener Says:

    I recieved one of these upside kits for my birthday. I have yet to plant it, because I don’t have a good hook in yet. I do have a nice yellow tomato I’m planning on using. I better get to it soon, it’s getting pretty big on my window sill. :)

    I look forward to seeing your results!


  11. Brian Piper Says:

    I planted 2 upside down tomato plants last year and they were great. Not as plentiful or large as my garden tomatoes, but just as delicious…and no worries about bugs or fungus…

    This year I’m doing upside down cherry tomatoes. So much easier to manage them there than in the garden…

    Also, if you don’t mind having to water more frequently, you can plant marigolds or other flowers in the top!! Makes it a bit prettier…


  12. Mark Says:

    I’ve been doing this exact technique for a couple of years with great results each time. I grow tomatoes in the garden as well, and last year a number of the ground tomatoes were badly damaged by cut-worm. The other advantage of the upside down tomatoes, besides few-to-no bugs, is the plants tend to grow large and with lots of room between all the branches and leaves, making it easy to get the ripe fruit.

    It’s important to hang the plants at a hight that keeps them from touching the ground, but is still easy to water. I put herb seeds in the soil at the top and have a great herb garden throughout the summer.

  13. Oh My Stinkin Heck » Blog Archive » upside down tomatoes? Says:

    […] someone please tell Mr. OMSH that I am NOT white trash for wanting to plant upside down tomoatoes? I KNOW those are ugly, hanging, buckets, but HOW EASY would this be to harvest? SO EASY. […]

  14. Michael Nolan Says:

    I really wanted to do this method this year as well, but time got away from me before I realized that all of my heirloom tomatoes are far too large for upside-down growing.

    Larger fruit producers won’t fare well with this method. Fair warning. Otherwise it is an amazing use of space that many folks here in the south use. Besides the benefit of less ground space used, these plants have increased airflow through their leaves and branches. Good stuff!

  15. Cindy Says:

    Wow, so much interest in this method. I feel like I really missed something by not hearing about this earlier, but I am really looking forward to posting my results and reading about all of yours.

    I agree, by the way, with the above poster who kindly pointed out that a sample of 1 is not going to produce statistically significant results. I’m doing one this summer only because of starting the game so late, but I realize that this is not a useful sample. However, I intend to have fun with it. As a science experiment, using half a dozen plants of both upside down and ground planted tomatoes would be a great project for my homeschooled children for next summer, and I already am writing plans down in next summer’s gardening journal. Thanks for the great idea!

  16. Samuel Wright Says:

    Alright… I have tried using the bucket approach to other garden efforts, and one thing I notice is that eventually the buckets become brittle due to exposure to the sun.

    Any advice on that?

  17. Anthony Says:

    This is a great idea and since I have a few extra 5 gallon buckets, I plan on trying it too.

  18. geoff Says:

    This (2008) is our 2nd year growing upside-down, in Boise, Idaho. In my garden, I found Romas & Cherry’s were really well-suited & produced happily. Bigger tomatoes, not so well. There’s a problem with the vines kinking & twisting from heavier fruits hanging, since your vines will be determined to grow UP not DOWN. It’s true, you MUST keep the potting mix well-watered, especially later in the season when there’s lots of fruit & the temps are staying high. These will just flash-dry like laundry hanging on the line, darned fast. And, I found the plants weren’t happy without added fertilizer. Seems as if the soil just “washes out” from more frequent watering. The dirt doesn’t fall out, but the plants starve for nutrients, similar to any potted plant compared to it’s brethren in the field.

  19. Anthony Says:

    I have seen many articles on this, NONE of which involved buying a kit. If you get the 5 gallon pails with a lid, one site recommended, putting drain holes in the lid. Fill the bucket, put on the lid and turn it over and plant a tomato in the hole in the bottom. Let it grow for a while until it starts to produce flowers. Then turn the bucket over, hang it so the plant is now hanging down. Yes the new growth will try to grow upwards but a good chunk of the plant is already grown (less tangling???). Remove the lid from top of the bucket for watering. If you plant some marigold, geraniums, trailing verbena, geranium….you could not only have an attractive flowering bucket but also a food crop. Wonder how this would work for cucumbers! ! !

  20. Westie Says:

    I tried this last summer.
    Keeping the soil completely moist is the biggest problem that you will have. While kind of obvious, hot dry weather and wind will dry out the pots inside an afternoon!
    Be sure to use a potting mix that drains well, yet retains an enormous amount of water, and wets thoroughly and easily when watered. I tried test pot using a mix of a good brand of potting soil and I added a lot of sphagnum moss. It worked very well but the overall cost per tomato harvested began to approach store prices!!

  21. Laiet Says:


    I’m doing that too. I wish I’d thought of doing that years ago.

  22. Samuel Wright Says:

    Anyone have suggestions on keeping the buckets from becoming brittle from exposure to the sun?

  23. Ben Says:

    Samuel Wright, I wrapped mine in a cloth. I used an old t-shirt and that seems to work well.

  24. The downside of upside down « Compostings Says:

    […] following the cool experiment outlined by Cindy Haas of urbangardencasual, I have built my upside down tomato planter.  I used a cat litter bucket.  And that amuses me.  […]

  25. Dr Craig Says:

    Hi Cindy,
    I’m trying the upside down tomatoes as well. Don’t have the space for the bucket-just a small patio garden. So I took a hanging basket lined with coco lining and made a hole in the basket lining.

    Planted marigolds on top as a companion plant. So will see if it gives me tomatoes.
    Will keep you posted as I plan to take photos to track the progress.

  26. Dawn Says:

    My dad just did this (before I saw this posting) and it looks and works great so far!

  27. Dave Says:

    You can buy a prefabricated upside down planter; they’re on QVC all the time (although I’ve heard there is a recall on the one I’m thinking about). This year I tried the same experiment you mentioned above (one celbrity tomato in an upside down planter I made from a 4 gallon bucket, and one in a right-side up planter). So far, my upside down tomato is loaded with tomatoes and I’m only barely starting to see blooms on my other one (although I did plant it about a week later).


  28. Dave Says:

    Just remembered the name of the prefabricated upside down planter I was thinking about: Topsy Turvy. I think you can get two of them for just under $20, at least on QVC. I didn’t want to spend the money so I made my own. Cost about $3 for the bucket.

    A search engine that you can count on.

  29. Fergy Says:

    Have planted tomato plants upside down. Is there any water retention items available to keep them from drying out so quickly?


  30. Marian Says:

    There is a product called Soil Moist that is granules which absorb and retain moisture. Most hardware stores have it. Cost is around $13/lb. but a little goes a long way. Granules absorb about 400 times their size in water. Should help with the water retention. Just remember to water sufficiently to start so the granules get full, otherwise they soak up ALL the water – almost killed my African Violets until I figured that out. Good Luck.

  31. Fergy Says:

    Thanks Marian! Will get some today.


  32. Cindy Says:

    You are all going to have to keep me updated on your upside down tomatoes. My bucket was stolen over the weekend and so my experiment has been cut short, sad to say. I’m going to replant with another bucket but I won’t be able to compare the new plant to the ones I’ve had in pots for three weeks.

  33. Matt Says:

    I would recommend adding vermiculite to the soil to increase the water & fertilizer holding capacity.

    I added a couple of earthworms to each bucket based on some advice I read somewhere.

    I painted my frame & buckets the same color as my house – the paint on the buckets should help block some of the UV from making the buckets brittle.

    Finally, I installed drip irrigation for the buckets so that I don’t have to water daily. I got a Rain Bird kit that looks like a standard sprinkler head & has 6 small hoses that go to each bucket. The kit was $15, plus a controller , valve, piping, & fittings. If you already have lawn sprinklers, it’s just a retrofit.

    so far, so good

  34. DD Says:

    Samuel Wright – I use foil on my containers. I don’t put it on tight, just attach it to the rim good & leave it loose around the bucket, so air can move between the foil & the container. It helped keep the bucket from heating up & baking the roots. I think it helped keep the soil from drying out as fast too. This year I’m trying sewing elastic to help secure it at the rim & it hasn’t blow off yet (last year it blew off a couple times).
    My husband put a watering system (on a timer) in. We have one on our roses & it was worth every penny!
    My biggest problem with the tomatoes is with earwigs. Earwigs will climb just about anything…little buggers! I sprinkle earwig bait at the base of the posts and no more earwigs in my tomatoes. I could never use the bait when they were planted in the ground & they ate every tomato on 3 plants. Ha – finally fooled ’em!!!!
    Good luck & eating to all!!!!

  35. Urban Garden Casual »  UGC Reader Question: How much fertilizer do I put in my Upside Down Tomatoes Says:

    […] husband saw the upside down tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets and wants to plant two […]

  36. dagmara56 Says:

    I tried this last year with a product purchased from TV. Problems:

    – that container gets HEAVY… pick up a potted plant after its been watered and see how heavy it is. The instructions tell you to re-inforce the soffit, etc. before hanging. I ended up hanging mine from a steel frame for a carport.
    – must be watered frequently… that small container is hanging in ambient air and just cooking during the day. I had to water at least 1 – 2x day

    I did get tomatoes, but frankly, the Earth Box was much less hassle with better results.

  37. Mae Says:

    Awesome Idea! I tried it and it is lovely as well as good for the tomatoe.

  38. wingo Says:

    A method we use keep water in the bottom of the bucket: we drill a hole using a 3/4″ hole saw in the bottom of the bucket. Than, adhere a short (approx 2″) piece of 3/4 PVC pipe inside the hole flush with the bottom. We used aquarium silicon adhesive. Use a right smart amount, and let it dry completely. It helps retain water, but still, our hot Georgia sun has a tendency to dry bucket soil fast. Hope this helps.

  39. Mr. Candid Says:

    I used this method to grow tomatoes when I was single and living in a studio apartment with a small,sunny deck, It works great, I only had one plant but it produced way more than enough tomatoes for me, I probably gave away half of my harvest to my tomato-less friends.

    remember to prune the plant of the “sucker” leaves and use blossom set spray to increase yields

  40. Kathie Says:

    I have six hanging planters (the large half round black metal ones with the coco fiber liners) planted with tomatoes upside down and marigolds and petunias on top. These I have hung from a gazebo that had lost its canopy. The flowers have done great, the tomatoes are about 2 ft in length. Each has several blossoms and 2 tomatoes on them. The tomatoes all tend to grow up and not down. T started them from 5 inch tall starter plants. I also planted a cherry tomato and a early girl both in 5 gallon paint cans. Those were both about a foot tall when planted they are doing great. My only problem now is the weather , 111 degrees yesterday and will continue for the week!. I hang sheets to protect the hanging plants and follow the shade around the yard with the other plants!!

  41. Hypertufa Gardener Says:

    Yeah what a great experiment is right! I’ve been wanting to try growing tomatoes upside down but I haven’t done so yet. I think you gave me that extra push to try it and see what is better. Be interesting to know the outcome.

    Hope all turns out great for your tomatoes. I’ll be back to check in on your experiment and to see how your yield turned out. Be nice to see some more pictures as well.

    Love your blog, great work!


    Jamie Boyle
    Hypertufa Gardener

  42. Theresa Says:

    I tried this last year, I could not keep up with the watering, they died. Drip irrigation sounds good and a neccessity for someone who works every day, (or a better memory than mine, to remember to water every day)

  43. Chuck Bartok Says:

    This system does work and thanks for the “home-made application.

    Tomatoes are such adaptable plants almost anything works, but like tending all living things, it does take diligence. Because of odd weather this year and too much wildfire smoke, we have had to change many of our practices and be more Aware.
    Visit our Video Series for 2008 13 weeks finished and more to come
    Growing Tomatoes for Health and Wealth

    Thanks again for the informative post

  44. Luxury Destinations Says:

    What a great idea! I have to grow my tomatoes on a small deck and next year I will be trying this instead of using grow-bags.

    If it works out for you anyway. I will be watching with interest for the next installment.

  45. Romanian Says:

    Reading most of the posting I keep asking myself some questions. How about photosynthesis? and those stomata that help respiration?
    remmember that the natural enviroment for a plant is not upside down.
    is normal to have smaller fruits, because there is less photosynthesis done and logical to have a loss of water because the stomata stand in the sunlight, unprotected, so there is a larger amount of perspiration ( loss of water from the plant )
    greetings from madrid

  46. Gregore Says:

    We are doing the upsidedowns – yield IS smaller – here is our issue – one of our three looks like is has Early Blight – one of the plus sides of upsidedowns was supposed to be a resistance to this – any ideas out there? – the soil and all plastic was brand new this year – no composted materials….

  47. Cindy Says:

    I honestly don’t have even a good guess as to how your upside down tomatoes got blight. I’m assuming they are high off the ground?

    I am hoping that some of our readers will know the answer to this. Anyone else have an answer?

  48. Jack Etsweiler Says:

    Since we can’t be sure where the soil in the bags comes from, we can’t know that it’s not from blighted tomatoes. The last few years we’ve grown our heirlooms in 40-lb bags of “potting soil” in raised beds. We’ve seen (late) blight to varying degrees in most bags each year. In the UK you can purchase a tomato-specific mix in bags that are marked with lines to show where to score them. I do wonder how they eliminate the issue of blight, unless they are using soil that has been sterilized or baked as part of the production process.

  49. Ryan Says:

    To help with watering, spiral a drip line inside the bucket before you place the soil or plant the tomato seedling. When you hang the bucket, the line can connect any other drip feeds you might have. Use the same drip feed system with your other seedling so that you’ll know they were given the same amount of water. Hopefully this helps the experiment

  50. Jack Etsweiler Says:

    The major problem I see with hanging-upside-down tomato plants
    is that if the blight that’s in the soil splashes up onto a ground-planted tomato, and since the roots gradually transfer the blight through the stem no matter how carefully you water, won’t the contagion in the soil in the hanging bag or pail simply drip down onto the plant in the process of its being watered from above? Any guidance is welcome. There’s really no way to know if the soil has been decontaminated by the manufacturer. Thanks in advance!

  51. Judy Says:

    I am disabled. I have a walker I use but planting a regular garden is really out of the question. I was thinking if we can do tomatos this way, what about planting maybe beans on top or some other veggie. If I planted a garden this way, I could use my walker out there to water and then harvest but I would want to do more then just tomatoes. What do you think of lettuce maybe and beans on top and maybe peas also upside down, etc. Has anyone tried that?

  52. Lesley Says:

    Practically, it looks interesting. Aesthetically, it looks undignified (for the tomato). Such a venerable and well-loved garden staple reduced to hanging from a bucket.

  53. Cindy Says:

    Judy, upside down gardening is an excellent opprotunity for those of us with disabilities to continue gardening. I am currently writing a column addressing your question and I hope it will help to keep you outside in the garden this summer!

  54. Jack Says:

    Lesley, they could be recumbent, on the *ground*, which invites all manner of cooties to take residence! Talk about a loss of dignity! Lots of re-seeding opportunities that way, though.

  55. Jack Says:

    One thing weirds me out – the photo at the beginning of the article shows the tomatoes growing *in the shade*! What’s that all about? Ahem. :)

  56. Cindy Says:

    Time of day. The foliage is nice and green and of normal size and the black-eyed Susans in the background aren’t all leggy, and so therefore the plants are sited correctly.

  57. Tim from Lowell, MA Says:

    I have been doing upside down plants for three years.
    I recommend just doing Cherry, sweet 100,grape tomatoes or Peppers too as upside down plants but always keep watered. The bigger tomatoes do much better in the ground. Remember to add a liitle Epson salt this helps your plant grow bigger.

  58. charlie Says:

    I found this easier cut a 1″ hole in bottom of bucket and with a small tomato plant from plant store or hardware store
    put plant in bucket and feed the plant thru the hole being carefull not to break it the soil around the roots will keep it from falling thru the hole then put some potting soil in bucket and then top soil to half full and hang.

  59. Raymond Mills Says:

    This method may be just the ticket for anyone who faces my tomatoe growing challenge; Limited full sun space [my property is very wooded]. I’ve been growing my tomatoes in the same spot for 4 years now they ejoy the full summer sun all day long. It works -but the plants are not as lush or heavily fruited as my last full sun garden.

    I bought 4 Home depot (lovely orange) 5 gal pails with tops and some seed starter supplies and I am ready to go…If it would just stop snowing outside and that darn ‘nor-easter’.

  60. Daddio Says:

    This is not limited to tomatoes only! Think of just about any vine veggie and if it doesn’t weigh a lot, (watermelons or pumpkins) then plant it upside down. My son in law had tried this a couple years ago and found that everything he planted grew better and produced more veggies than growing in the ground. I suggest planting veggies that you would eat regularly so you aren’t stuck with a huge harvest all at once. Plant 4 buckets and spread the planting out by a week for each one, thusly having four harvests rather than one. Tomatoes, cucumbers, Zucchini, and some pepper plants grow vey well upside down. Bell peppers supposedly don’t work out due to low strength in the branches, but if you farm properly and pluck the smaller peppers so the plant is balanced, you can grow bell peppers. The cucumbers grew like a jungle and I had so many that I supplied the neighborhood! The tomatoes were pretty close to the same situation, but my extended family loves to get together on Friday nights for “BLT Night” during the 4-6 weeks of heavy fruit. I switched form 16 tomato plants on the ground with very low yield to 6 buckets with two plants per bucket and basically tripled the yield. That just makes good sende. Remember to add some chicken or horse manure to the soil at the beginning and then add some mulch and organic fertilizer throughout the season to keep the dirt level up. Water it pretty much daily to keep the water up during the hot summer. By the way, I planted chives at the top of two buckets and have way too many chives. Try the same thing with other herbs, but don’t plant sage, oregano, or basil because they grow way too fast and take over the bucket real fast. I’m sure there are other herbs that grow the same way, so unless you are going to use a lot of herbs in your cooking, don’t plant them.

  61. Shibaguyz Says:

    Just picked this story up on Twitter. We’re planning on doing this during our 2009 growing season with tomatoes and possibly cucumbers. Figure that should give the neighbors something to talk about. LOL

  62. RACE Says:


  63. Helen Says:

    OK….I’m ready to try it, but question whether here in Las Vegas it will be too hot and the roots will “cook”. Anyone with a thought on this. I’ll have them on a drip system for twice daily watering, but still worry about the heat. I also am thinking of possibly 2 plants to a “bucket” anyone with experience on that??

  64. Daddio Says:

    Helen I think Las Vegas might be too hot for tomatoes regardless of how you grow them. My folks live in the Phoenix area and they have asked me about doing the same thing. I suggested to them that if they started their tomatoes in November or even October they would have tomatoes in March that would make their friends green with envy.

    Two plants to a bucket is okay. If you haven’t done it yet, then cut the holes across from each other on the bottem or put both on the sides again opposite from each other. They will not fight for root space, but will instead mingle. The latest comercial kit has three holes in it and I’m sure that works fine. I have used 2 holes for cherry tomatoes. They grew well and I had so many little tomatoes that I could eat 15 or 20 as a snack every afternoon. Yum. I just don’t know if I would mix species in a single bucket such as tomatoes and beans together, but two of the same species should be fine.


  65. Helen Says:

    Thanks for the feedback… I’ve played with tomatoes in the winter and it isn’t positive. Has to do with day-length, they don’t readily set fruit. I’m encouraged by all this. But still worried about Vegas’s heat. I know tomatoes like heat and many people do grow them here. I’m going to try some hanging and then some others in some straw bales. Should be interesting. I’ll post pix if I get any thing to work.

  66. natschultz Says:

    Honestly, I’ve been very skeptical of this upside-down thing for years, but now Gardeners and Plow and Hearth are selling their own systems, so I figured it must work.

    It’s great to see some real feedback here. I’m still skeptical that it is better than in the ground – gravity and all. Plants usually want the tips of their roots watered, not the plant itself, and I think the water would fall past the roots too quickly. Also, I’m lucky if I water my garden more than once a week, so this seems like a chore. I may try it for my cherry tomatoes though.

    As for planting lots of plants in one bucket, I’d advise against it. Buckets are stiff and the roots need space. Also, they will seriously be competing for nutrients. I don’t use any fertilzer in my garden, so I guess I would have to get some if I’m going to do this.

    As for the heat, the ground has one thing going for it – natural insulation.

  67. Daddio Says:

    There is a soil that Miracle Grow sells that absorbs and holds water. It will keep the water from just running straight through the bucket and out the hole. If you don’t use that soil and instead used a good black dirt mixed with some peat moss or vermiculite you can accomplish the same thing. Keeping the soil moist is the key to the whole deal. For most people waterng a little every day is a pain in the butt, but if you want to see how this all works you won’t be bothered by it at all. The cherry tomatoes grow better than anything so that is a good choice.

  68. Barbara Says:

    I am going to join you in this project. Great for space saving.

  69. Upside Down Tomatoes Says:

    Great post, I have been planting my tomatoes upside down for the last 8yrs with great success. I had been using buckets but now I have moved over to topsy turvy’s for the looks. The buckets got to be a little ugly.

  70. Judy B Says:

    I planted two tomato plants upside down in February. I live in Phoenix, AZ. Both plants have grown quite large and I have lots of flowers and small tomatoes in various sizes. I’ve learned a couple of things living in Arizona. Tomatoes won’t set fruit once the night-time temperatures are in the 70’s. While tomatoes like lots of sun, I have my plants hanging on my south facing patio where they only get sun part of the day. Watering is a problem for me with the upside down pots. My tomatoes wilt toward evening unless I water them twice a day. All this watering seems to be making the fruit split. After reading the comments here, I’m hoping to adjust the watering.

  71. skye Says:

    So many excellent tips and ideas! I can’t wait to try this technique! I have a question: is there any possibility of toxins from the plastic leaching into the plant and tainting the veggies? Also, about the plastic deteriorating: what about decorating the buckets, and covering them in some way so the sun isn’t directly hitting the plastic? It would make them more attractive to look at too.

  72. Shibaguyz Says:

    To prevent any contamination, we’re using food grade buckets rescued from local bakeries before they send ’em to the landfill.

  73. David Dorman Says:

    I am excited to try and have been gathering 5 gallon buckets. Skye, I just spoke with poison control hotline about the buckets that I have aquired from a restaraunt supply co. and she said the only problem that I might come across is if I did not wash them out good enough and it would effect the acidity/alkiline balance and I would not poison myself. Another fun page I read was to remove most of the leaves as the leach the energy from the fruit. Thus aloowing the plant energy to go to the fruit. That will be my experiment along with first time upside down fruit. Now I have a question. How do you serve tomatoes grown upside down? David

  74. Shibaguyz Says:

    What I will tell you about stripping the leaves from your plants is this: Leaves are the way your plant converts sunshine to food. Without the leaves, the plant won’t convert the food it needs to supply you with your food.

    As far as serving upside down tomatoes… I’m picturing some Alice In Wonderland setting. LOL

  75. Daddio Says:

    I have to tell you all something about the buckets. You can go to Burger King and buy the pickle buckets from them. I don’t even know what they charge these days, but they used to be free. I am a gold prospector and we use piles of buckets to collect dirt and carry it to where we process the dirt in the water. Anyway, you can also just go to Lowes or Home Depot and buy the 5 gallon buckets for $2.50 each. That way you know they are clean and have never had any chemicals in them to worry about. Don’t use old paint buckets or any other buckets that had anything in them other than food.These plastic buckets do degrade out in the sun, but it takes a few years before that happens. When it does happen they become very brittle and break easily. I hope nobody is so poor that they can’t afford a few new buckets every three years. Enjoy.

  76. Daddio Says:

    One more thing. Serving these tomatoes is no different than any other tomato. Them growing upside down doesn’t change anything about the tomato itself.
    Now to the plucking off the leaves thing. On the indeterminate types of plants you will want to remove the suckers from between solid branches. These are the little new branches that are popping out between the big established branches. They will not produce fruit and therefor will suck away food and energy from the fruit. So yes, you do cut these sucker off. Not just any leaves willy nilly on the plant, but these suckers. Secondly, you will also want to pick off any of the late summer fruit that ae on the plant to allow your larger tomatoes to ripen. You will be sacrificing the little guys that have no chance of ripening before the first frost so the bigger ones get all the energy they need to ripen on time.Throughout the growing season if you continue to cut off the suckers that appear between the main stalk and vine branches your vines will be able to send all of the nutrition to your tomatoes and will keep the vines strong. All of those sucker branches do nothing as far as tomatoes go. They will never produce fruit and will only take life from the tomatoes.

  77. Deb Says:

    Haven’t tried this yet, but getting ready to plant this week. Just read comments on another site and someone suggested using a reuseable grocery store cloth bag that they’re all selling for $1, instead of using a bucket. I like it! He also talked about putting the lid of a 5 gallon bucket on top. I think this may be to keep it from getting flooded by heavy rains…not really sure. I’m looking forward to getting started and in a few weeks enjoying home-grown tomatoes. Nothing like a fresh garden tomato!

  78. Daddio Says:

    Wow. I don’t know that I’d trust the reusable bags. I would almost bet that they would rot before the season was over. If the bags are woven plastic then you might be okay, but the cloth ones don’t seem like a good idea.

  79. HMS Says:

    Hi there-Am new to all this and totally fascinated. I herald from “down-under”, and apart from adapting all the “south-facing” advice to “north” I see no reason not to try this in Oz. One thing, the topsy-turvy website mentions earlier tomatoes then other methods. Has anyone grown them upside down indoors or out of season? I am thinking of indoors in an area where I grew cherry tomatoes on an outdoors window sill that were mildly successful, and am thinking of trying them indoors mid/early/late winter for an experiment. It gets midday/afternoon sun even in winter and indoors might be warmer overnight.
    Thanks everyone!

  80. Daddio Says:

    You know that tomatoes thrive on sunlight. So if your indoor spot has plenty of exposure it might work. Keep in mind that when you water there will be some drainage issues indoors so put something on the floor to catch the overflow. Also, as you are going to be on a smaller scale indoors, go to the hardware shop and get a smaller bucket. You don’t have to use a 5 gallon bucket to make this work. An indoor garden might do just fine in a 2 galon size bucket. I have some small peppers growing on my window sill that have thrived all winter long and I have many small peppers to cook with. They are a variety that is meant to grow in hot dry climates and when I tried to grow them outside last summer they didn’t produce. But when I moved them indoors they went crazy. The peppers are the size and shape of small marbles. In fact one variety is called “Marble”. The others are “Pretty Purple” and the entire plant is a dark purple. Another is “Bolivian Rainbow” with peppers that vary in color from yellow to red, purple, and orange. I also put in two “Tabasco” plants, and although they grew 3 feet high and flowered. they never did produce any fruit. Anyway, good luck with your indoor OZ tomatoes.

  81. Shaye Says:

    I have never seen this technique work well. In fact, the results are horrible. So I read all that I could find on the internet and everyone says, “great results.” I planted tomatoes in the top of the bucket right-side up and tomatoes in the bottom upside down. The ones on the bottom are stilted and 1/3 the size of the ones on the top. The bottoms are having a hard time getting sun light, and the constant “soiled” water weeping out the planting hole is producing weird protrusions all along the stem which is really spindly. This has been the same experience of every grower I know. What gives? Why isn’t anyone talking?

  82. Judy B Says:

    The first couple of tomatoes are turning red on one of my two plants. They aren’t very large, but they look pretty good.

    Shaye wrote about “soiled” water weeping out the plant hole. I’ve not experienced too much of that. It sounds like too much water being dumped into the container too rapidly. I also don’t have any strange protrusions all along the stem and my stems aren’t “spindly.” My plants have grown very large and are quite bushy.

  83. Daddio Says:

    Like anything else, this takes experimenting and time to figure out. Once a person knows how much water is enough and what is too much, then there won’t be any spoiled water seepage. I’ve never planted tomatoes on the top, but I have put in some herbs that grew very well. One other possibility. If you use crappy soil and don’t use some fish meal or other god organic fertilizer, then you might get crappy spindly plants. Tomatoes, like every other growing thing need good soil and ood nutrition to thrive.

  84. Judy B Says:

    Believe me I’ve done my share of killing plants by over-watering them. What has helped me, at least, has been the purchase of a moisture meter. They are relatively inexpensive and by checking the soil with the meter I am able to tell when it’s time for more.

  85. JimQPublic Says:

    I’ve been thinking of going to containers for tomatoes because the best spot in the yard has seen tomatoes 5 years in a row and it seems doing containers with new soil each year will be safer. I also hate training the vines onto trellis or cages. It seems this method would solve both problems

    Question: Would elevated planting boxes with the vines growing conventionally and hanging over the side work as well? I was thinking that way I could use a self-watering Earthbox-style system which would reduce the chance of drying out. Obviously that wouldn’t work with a hole in the bottom!


  86. Sharon Says:

    I think I read somewhere you could do two plants in the topsy turvy planter. With the 5 gallon bucket can you plant two cucumber plants. Would you maybe cut two holes in the bottom of the sides like thos strawberry pots?

  87. Daddio Says:

    Yes you could plant two cukes in the bucket. You could plant any vine in them, but you have to consider the weight of the veggies. You sure wouldn’t want 10 pumpkins or watermelons hanging off the ground. So you just need to determine what the weight of your veggies will be when deciding what to plant. Today is my planting day for the 2009 season. I live in Colorado Springs and the elevation here is just over 6,000 feet. The nights are still chilly, but we just now got the all clear on the overnight freeze danger so it’s time to plant. I have 4 buckets and 6 tomato plants ready to go so I’m excited. I will have an overabundance of tomatoes come late July and early August, but it has become a family tradition to have BLT Night mixed with our regular Friday Movie Night, so no tomatoes ever get wasted. I also put in another 6 tomato plants on the ground as well as 6 Cherry tomato plants on a trellis that covers my front porch. I’ve had as many as 300 cherry tomatoes on the vine at one time a couple years back. I went to every family on the block and gave them a bag of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. I also tell my mailman to help himself and he usually picks a handful of cherry tomatoes every day when he comes with the mail. I hope everyone has a good harvest that tries the bucket method this season.

  88. strawgardengirl Says:

    I tried this and so far so good. I used old juice containers an old swing and wire and twine…not as pretty as yours but does the job and recycles at the same can click on strawgardengirl name to see my pictures.

  89. TLPgardener Says:

    This is my first year with the hanging topsy turvey units. I have a large lot with hugh Oaks that steal sun and moisture.. Hoping for the best tomatoes ever.

  90. Jeff Says:

    I have two topsey turvey plants both have bottom end rot, what causes that?

  91. Daddio Says:

    Jeff there are a few possibilities that come to mind. Over-watering is one – even though it’s been stated that this isn’t supposed to be possible. If you are watering each day so the water is pouring out of the hole in the bottom you may be giving the plant too much water. You don’t really want the container you’ve used to be filled with mud, just well watered soil. Try cutting back on the watering if you think it has been over-watered.

    If you used crappy soil, such as digging up the stuff from the yard or old garden or whatever, you may have used soil that contained too many minerals. It is the minerals attaching to the base of the plant. Strangely enough, the solution for this problem when it comes to hanging house plants is to take them outside and run water through them until all of the excess minerals have been diluted and have run out. So if this is the problem, I wouldn’t know what to tell you to do to correct it.

    Lastly, it is possible that by “bottom end rot”, you are referring to the container itself. If that’s the case, then you need to contact the Topsy Turvey people for information. I didn’t trust the fabric they used to build that product because I have seen similar fabric rot rather quickly out in the sun.

    I doubt this has been much of a help since you are already experiencing a problem with your setup. Maybe if you explain the problem with a little more detail someone could give you more help.

  92. Robert Says:

    On Good Friday, I planted 9 hanging tomato plants on my deck using 1-gallon milk jugs and 2-liter bottles. I didn’t know at the time what kind of tomatoes to plant and could only find one or two varieties at the store where I bought them (Wal-Mart). I went with Better Boys. It is now about 2 months later and the plants are about a foot tall. They seemed to stop growing and never have even bloomed. I added some Miracle Grow about 5 days ago and it seemed to make them start growing a little more. Are the containers too small for them to grow well. I read somewhere at the time to water them about every 3 days, so that’s what I did. Was that not enough? Is there still hope that they will bloom and produce fruit, or are they done for? They still look green and healthy.

  93. Daddio Says:

    Your question has to be answered with what will sound like a crap shoot. Tomatoes in a container need to be watered more often than plants in the ground. The rule of thumb is, if the plant is drooping then water it. Keep track of how often that is and then adjust your watering regimen. Second, fertilizer needs to be added to a containered plant at least every third watering. The roots will use up the nutrients that a gallon jug contains within a short time and then water alone does not have enough nutrition for the plant. You didn’t say if your plant was indoors or out. It needs six hours of sunlight a day. If your windows are treated and the plant is indoors, the glass may be robbing the plant of some well needed rays. Move the plants to a place where they are getting as much direct sunlight as possible. Better Boys have a maturity of 75 days. That usually means 75 days from the date you transplant them you should have some edible tomatoes. Considering you have them in a small container that will limit the root growth and you’ve only fertilized once, you will have to consider that your maturity dates need to change.

    Move the plant to the sun. Fertilize every other watering for the next 18 days (6 waterings with fertilizer in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th. Then switch to every third watering. This will sound like nonsense, but trust me. Touch the plants or at least swish your hands over the tops of the plants during the day when you walk by or at least 5-6 times a day. It’s called Thigmatropy and it is scientifically proven. Plants react to touch. It was 1st discovered when nursery workers found that plants in the aisles where people rubbed against them were growing larger and faster. The study was then done and found it to be true! Vibrations from touch or air movement will induce the plant to grow faster and stronger. What have you got to lose? Just don’t tell your friends that you were holding hands with your maters.

  94. Robert Says:

    Thanks, Daddio. I will try to water and fertilize more often. They are on the back deck and can get sunlight, but not direct sunlight.

  95. Rambler Says:

    the author of this article states: “By the end of this summer, I should be able to answer this question and have photos to prove it.” With respect, you can’t “prove” anything with one plant.

    I’m not trying to prove anything, but my two hanging cherry tomatoes seem to be doing well (better than the one i planted in my garden so far). My pots have drainage holes in the side to ensure water doesn’t sit in the bottom of the pot. And I’m thinking about a slow-watering method – perhaps a container with a couple pinholes in it with cotton twine pulled through. The idea is to create a slow-wick method of watering, so I don’t have to dump water right on the top.

    I also planted clover in the top of the pot. Clover adds nitrogen to soil, and will help stop the soil from drying out too rapidly. I think.

  96. Rambler Says:

    I also planted a pepper plant upside down, just for fun!

  97. Pat Says:

    My chiropractor has grown tomatoes this way on his patio in the back of his clinic. for about 4 years now. they do great. I have 4 plants of my own and have used various buckets for the experiment. I have a large pot that a tree came in and it has 1 inch square holes in the sides at the bottom so I put one tomato plant on each side and a bell pepper plant inside of the pot. It is growing great and I water it daily. I have also used a 3 gallon and 5 gallon buckets. The 3 gallon works great but the 5 gallon is heavier. Next year I hope to have all 3 gallon buckets or I may just use the large tree Pots.

    To water in hot weather I have put a 24oz. water bottle (Soda Bottle works great too) inside at the side. You put a couple of holes in the neck of the bottle, tighten the lid, cut a hole in the bottom to add water and plant it about 2/3s deep. It waters slowly and helps in hot weather as I only have to water once a day. I hope this tip helps.

    Rambler thanks for the clover tip I think I will add some.

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  99. Pat Says:

    {Shaye Says:
    May 3rd, 2009 at 3:16 pm
    I planted tomatoes in the top of the bucket right-side up and tomatoes in the bottom upside down. The ones on the bottom are stilted and 1/3 the size of the ones on the top. The bottoms are having a hard time getting sun light}

    If you plant anything in the top of the bucket/container, it should not shade the tomato plant on the bottom as the tomato plant should not have to compete with the other plant for light or food. Daddio says you have to use good soil and fertilize.It sounds like he has had experience with this kind of gardening and has some very good advise.

    I use a teaspoon of epsom salt in the soil when I plant then I make a mixture of 2 teaspoons of epsom salt to a gallon of water and use one cup of that mix once every three weeks when I don’t use Miracle Grow water retensive soil.
    Also I am going to try painting my colored buckets White to help keep the bucket form getting to hot.Maybe I will paint some flowers on it too.
    I liked the T-shirt and the foil ideas too I may try those too. I have a black bucket that I haven’t used due to the Black color. I may paint the outside of it and line the inside white heavy cloth.
    I want to plant a couple of strawberry plants this way too. I have a Sun Room and in the Winter it gets a good 4 to 5 hours of sunlight. Maybe I can have a winter garden. We will see. That is in the future.
    For now I need to go build a frame to hold my tomato plants. A shepherd’s hook just isn’t strong enough for a 5 gallon bucket. LOL. Right now I have 2 of my 4 plants hanging on my arbor gate. It was 109 degrees here in Kansas yesterday. After 2 days of rain
    Oh, I also have 5 beef master plants in the traditional garden and they are about 4 foot tall in their cages and are Beautiful. My husband fertilized with rabbit poop and the plants love it.

  100. Daddio Says:

    I had 5 shepherd hooks that I was going to use for the 5 gallon buckets I planted in. They were unmercifully beding to a point that I was sure with one breeze they would bend completely to the ground. So I took some heavy copper electrical wire and put two of the hooks together with the hooks facing opposite directions and then twisted the wire around the staffs. That worked out. The two tied together strengthened them so they held both 5 gallon buckets with a full watering and everything is fine. They even withstood a couple sorms with heavy winds.

    I have made one important discovery though. I have used all different varieties of tomato plants so far. Tis year I tried 2 different “bush” varieties though, and neither of them have grown. They have clumped all together at the bottom of the buckets without ever growing out or down. The other 2 buckets I hae growing are non-busj varieties and they are growing like weeds. SO, my adice would be to no use “bush” strains of tomato plants such as “Better Bush” and Bush Goliath. The 2 that are growing well are Lemon Boy and Jet Star. The Lemon Boys are yellow tomatoes and they have grown very well, but have fewer blooms. The Jet Star has grown well and has a lot of blooms and some tomatoes growing. The plants I have in the ground are growing at a much faster rate and have much more activity as far as tomatoes growing. I didn’t plant any tomatoes in the ground last year even though I usually have at lest 12 plants. So this year I am doing both so I have more BLTs.

  101. Daddio Says:

    Wow! I should have checked my spelling before I sent that last message out.

  102. TLP gardener Says:

    My hanging plants are doing well so far, but I live in Illinois and have a very shaded acre of ground with 10 one hundred year old Oaks. They steal all of the sunshine and nutrients from the soil, thus no ground planting. I have just this week seen small tomatoes forming. Am I on schedule or will I end up buying tomotoes from my neighbor again?

  103. TLP gardener Says:

    type too fast… tomato if I can spell it how can I expect to grow them???

  104. Daddio Says:

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Disaster! We had a sudden tornadic type wind blow (gusts to 60) just out of nowhere. I was standing at the kitchen window washing dishes when I heard the wind coming. I was sure it was a tornado when it hit hard and all of the trees just bent sideways. The neighbors peach tree blew right over (no over the fence peaches this year). Then I watched in horror as the shepherd hooks I had bound together just bent right over until the buckets hit the ground. The plants hit directly on the patio with the full force of the heavy buckets falling directly on them. I had watered just a bit earlier and the combined weight and heavy winds was just too much. Of course it was my favorite and best growing plant that broke right off at the bottom of the bucket where the plant came out. A smaller plant that was growing in that bucket survived so it’s not a total loss. The other plant that hit was one of the “bush” varieties that was in a little clump and so far it looks like it might be okay. I took the other 2 plants off of the other shepherd hooks and hung all 4 buckets on a dog run wire cable that is about 10 feet off the ground. So now the plants are up higher, but they aren’t in a place where they will be getting the best sun. I sure ope they all keep growing.

    So someone had asked about using shepherd hooks and wondering if they would hold up to a wind. I told them that I had tied 2 hooks together with heavy copper wire and after a pretty windy storm I was sure they would hold up to anything. Well now I have to say that isn’t the case anymore. Those hooks just can’t take the weight. A 5 gallon bucket that is filled with about 2/3 of dirt and then watered weighs around 50 pounds. The hooks just can’t hld the weight.

  105. c.j. Says:

    I have used a commercial “topsy-turvy” set-up for 3 years and have found the results disappointing when compared with my in-ground and normal container-grown tomatoes.

    Although this is a purely subjective observation, I think these things are also UGLY.

    It DOES have advantages in areas where varmints are a problem. While I had to devise protection for my in-ground and container tomatoes, the raccoons didn’t or couldn’t get to the topsy-turvy rig.

    If production is an issue, my preference is the “Earth Box”-“Grow Box”-etc. self-watering container approach. I have been using both Earth boxes and Grow Boxes, as well as some homemade units (which aren’t worth it unless you have a lot of food grade plastic materials lying around) for 5 years now. The production rivals that of my in-ground plants with far less work, greater convenience, and a lower water requirement. The footprint is small and they aren’t unattractive.


  106. Daddio Says:

    Yes those topsy turvy things are atrociously ugly. I wonder if they got a huge deal on that ugly material or if they did that on purpose. If it was on purpose then someone at topsy turvy is a total fool. lastic buckets are pretty easy to come by if there is a Burger King near by. They used to give them up for free but now they charge about $2.50. They are food grade so there’s no problem there. I’m about to give up on the whole idea because for the third year in a row, and after trying 12 varieties of tomato, the yield is never as good as my in the ground plants. The only plant that has grown exceptionally well is called “Lemon Boy”. It has grown like crazy, but is light on the fruit. I’m dieing to try the yellow tomato to see if it tastes as good as the good ole red ones. Once again I will say that anyone thinking about growing tomatoes this way should steer clear of any “Bush” varieties as they just don’t grow any larger than 6-8 inches, and don’t grow out or down from under the bucket.

  107. R E LEE Says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhh, like me, there are some statisticians on this blog. Did you know that many psychological theories have been based on an N = 1 rather an N >= 30? Anyway, back to upside down tomatoes, some (n > 3) of my neighbors have them, and their plants/tomatoes don’t come close to the advertised pictures. I’ll continue to grow them the traditional way.

  108. Cindy Says:

    R E Lee, there is always room for one more statistician!

    So far this season, my upside down plants got a lot of foliage and have set far fewer fruits than my tomatoes in-ground. Since I now have all the room I need, I’m ready to give up on the upside-down tomatoes. I think.

  109. Lynn Says:

    I bought a topsy turvey for my gardener husband this year. Although he appeared very skeptical, he tried it. We grew Big Boy plant and have kept it well moistened, watering at least once every other day, every day on these really HOT ones like today. The tomatoes are beautiful, great shape, large, juicy, bug free, and great taste. So far, we’ve gotten 16 tomatoes from this one plant. It’s starting to yellow out, and we’ve just snipped those leaves off the plant and it’s actually starting to put out a set of new flowers. Hubby was so pleased, he too figured out a way to do this without buying the hanger. We have 5 cats, needless to say, we go through a lot of litter during the year…so hubby is just saving all those litter buckets down in the basement until next year, when he plans on having the majority of his tomatoe crop hanging upside down.

    When the bucket wears out, just replace with a new cat litter bucket. Don’t forget to use lots of nutrients through the season. We started our plant out in rich home-grown compost, and have added to it through the summer with a little liquid plant food from time to time. Try this…it really works!! I love the idea of planting flowers or herbs on the “up” side of the bucket…great idea, i’ll have to try that next year too.

  110. sam87108 Says:

    I have used 5 topsy-turvy planters this year and accomplished watering via drip irrigation. The trial worked very well. The plants are medium in size with excellent production, the fruit ripening two weeks earlier than their potted counterparts. The varieties used were a standard Roma and Abe Lincoln heirlooms. Each plant has so far produced close to if not more than 30 tomatoes each. The plants need watering twice daily. I also used Botanicare problend growth and blossom formulas. This company provides nutrients for hydroponics as well as soil plants. Excellent results. I have used these products for three years now. You can get virus and fungi, if you don’t take care not to work on the potted plants as well as the hanging plants.

  111. Frank Csorba Says:

    Mine haven’t done quite as well. I have a lot of yellowed stems that eventually dry out and fall off. I suspect it may have dried out. Still I got a lot of tomatoes, and unlike the ones I planted in the garden, they did not get the blight. Anyway I am thinking of extending the growing season by bagging them with clear plastic garbage bags to make individual greenhouses for them. Since I can’t regulate the temperature, I am just going to cut open the bottom of the bags. It should survive several frosts this way, since heat rises, even with the bottoms open, they should retain enough heat.

  112. Judy B Says:

    It would be helpful to know from which part of the country/world you are located in when you post a comment. For example, I am in Arizona and I pretty much had to dump my plants the beginning of June because it got to hot for the fruit to set and my husband wouldn’t water them when I went out of town. Now that the nights are cooling down, I’m thinking about setting out some new plants. I don’t have to worry about frost but I have other issues since I live on the face of the sun.

  113. Jack in Ann Arbor Says:

    At the risk of meddling, Judy B, I think it’s time to find yourself a decent husband. How difficult could it be for him to get his lazy ass out to the patio with a watering can? And tomatoes love heat. You might give them a little half-shade to get past the worst of the day, but refer to my previous note: tomatoes love heat. Try growing them in cages in 5-gallon paint pails from Lowe’s or Home Depot. Set up a trickle irrigation system so you don’t have to deal with hubby at all. Worked for us, despite the crappy summer (in Michigan). Here’s a page that deals specifically with growing tomatoes in Arizona.

  114. Daddio Says:

    Well it has been snowing here in Colorado Springs the last 2 days so the season draws close to an end. Over all I would say that I had pretty good success with the 4 buckets I grew this year. As I sid earlier, I made a big mistake by planting 2 of the buckets with “Bush” variety plants and they just don’t work as a hanging plant. They want to remain bushy and will not hang below the bucket very far. I had one that grew about 15 inches down and the other that went 20 inches. One had a couple of large clusters of tomatoes late in the season and only about 6 were red. If the season was a little longer I might have maybe 20-25 tomatoes from it because it’s loaded with greenies right now. The other maybe only had 8 tomatoes all season. The third plant was called “Lemon Boy” and it grew like mad. It went 6-7 feet down and was really full of tomatoes. They are yellow when ripe and the flavor is excellent. They are tart and have a sour bite as well. Very good. The 4th plant was one of the ones that broke off during a storm at the end of June. One stem broke completely off and the other bent. I thought it was a goner. It did real well though and grw about 5-6 feet long and was full of tomatoes. There were some very large tomatoes too.

    I have to say one thing about the bucket plants that left me pretty upset. To me, the best part of home grown tomatoes is the acid bite the tomatoes have. The bucket plants were missing that acid bite though. The tomatoes were big and juicy, but basically tasted very bland. Compared to the ground plants that had the acid bite and an excellent flavor, the bucket plants were dissappointingly drab and tasteless. My ground plants produced at a rate of 3:1 over the bucket plants. The Lemon Boys did have the acidy flavor but the other 3 plants didn’t. All of the ground plants were delicious and the tomatoes were much more lentiful. So after two years of trying this method out, I am going to label the experiment as a failure. Yes the plants grew, yes the plants were disease and bug free, but so were my ground plants so no big advantage. It was a pain in the ass to have to water the buckets at least once a day and twice a day during the hotter weather. The largest plant (Lemon Boy) would wilt until it looked totally dead every day until about 30 minutes after I had watered it. That’s way too much trouble to put into tomatoes. Next year I’m back to 12 ground plants and a lot more tomatoes. My entire family depends upon my garden to produce BLT Night at least once a week.

  115. Judy B Says:

    To Jack in Ann Arbor

    Your comments really made me laugh this morning. Failure to water the tomatoes might be grounds for a divorce, but he didn’t kill any of the other plants or the cats, so I guess I’ll keep him. Thanks for the tips on growing tomatoes in Arizona too. One of the main problems we have out here is that it gets too hot for the plants to set fruit during the summer. My dad used to cover them with a white sheet from late May to late September and we’d get a second crop right before Thanksgiving. That’s why I’m going to try planting new plants this weekend.

  116. Charles Queensland Says:

    I am currently trying a Topsy Turvey. Everything has been going fine except recently the stems coming out the bottom have gone ‘brown’. Looks a little like bark. Can’t be good as the flowers are getting to the fruiting stage.I also have some toms growing the right way up and they seem fine. Remember I’m in the southern hemisphere.

  117. David Says:

    The biggest threat to my heirloom tomatoes here in N.E. FLA. is tomatohorn caterpillars. The eggs are deposited by a large moth, almost the size of a small hummingbird.

    I used to have my third crop of some 20 tomatoes coming in now, Dec 19th, from my otherwise very healthy and large ‘tomato bush’, but they have been attacked and have had holes eaten in them, mostly as very small green tomatoes, by these caterpillars.

    I was thinking, that doing the upside down thing, would offer no protection from the mother moth laying her eggs, would it?

    In fact, about the only organic protection I’ve read might work, is planting your tomatoes alongside with marigolds.

    Obviously having a tomato plant hanging 5 or more feet above the ground, would present a problem for having marigolds alongside. Upside down marigolds??

    Tell me what you think

  118. Jack Etsweiler Says:

    I believe bT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) is considered organic. Once the worm eats anything that has been treated with it, the bacillus eats away at the worm’s digestive system and that’s that. No worm, no moth, no eggs, no problem.

  119. SharleneT Says:

    I did the TopsyTurvy planting for tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers, last year. The yield was all right but nothing to write home about. The biggest plus was no bugs on the squash and cucumbers. It was hard to figure out the tomato yield because it was just a bad year for tomatoes for everyone in NC last year. But, I had enough to for salads, main meals, and canning. Still like the ground tomatoes and veggies, though. Watering became a fulltime job.

    Congratulations on your Sunshing Blog Award from Terria at Daily Good. So glad she’s introduced me to your blog. Hope you’ll come visit me when you get a moment.

  120. John Dutton Says:

    I have a problem with deer in my part of south Eugene Oregon. So I decided to give this hanging method a try. The cherry and plum tomatoes did the best, but I was only using gallon milk jugs and a drip line to water. The gallon jugs are ugly but boy did I get a crop of tomatoes. I ate the last one in March, a world record here in Oregon.

  121. Dave Mowers Says:

    There is a fellow in Wilmington NC named Donnie Nelson that has full-size tomatoes plants growing upside down for the last ten years. You can grow any size plant upside down, the plant’s branches become stronger over time and the yield becomes bigger. Donnie’s plants are so thick you cannot break them with your hands.

  122. The Prudent Wife » Blog Archive » Growing Tomatoes on the Cheap! Says:

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  123. Michele Says:

    I decided to try a small salsa garden this year, motivated by the fact that I received a Topsy Turvy planter as a gift from my parents. That tiny garden has blossomed into three raised beds hosting tomatoes, marigolds, tomatillos, jalapenos, onions, garlic, watermelon, pumpkins, sunflowers and peas (also had some herbs, but the Las Vegas sun killed them all).

    Among the tomatoes, I have one each Early Girl, Cherry and Grape growing in a raised bed, plus a Topsy Turvy planted with a Mortgage Lifter plant. All tomatoes except the grape were planted in February, and the Early Girl and Cherry have multiple fruits (some of which are ripening as I write), but the Mortgage Lifter has yet to produce one fruit, though it has had multiple blooms and I’ve used the blossom set spray.

    The three most immediate problems I have discovered with the TT are:

    1. Watering – I was on the same schedule for the TT as I was for the raised beds (every 3 days or so), so it was totally dehydrated until I started watering once a day (just recently).

    2. Fertilizer – After reading Daddio’s comments, I realize that fertilizing every 2 months or so was too little, too late. So I have stepped that up as well.

    3. Variety – While the plant has grown big and strong (much quicker than my raised-bed plants), and even started blooming first, it never set any fruit. This is probably a blessing, because I now realize that the 1-3 lb fruits that this plant is capable of producing would be far too heavy for the TT. The plant is also on a super heavy-duty sheperd’s hook in the corner of my tiny little urban yard, so the walls protect it some from the wind and sun, but it is VERY heavy.

    Also, I caught a caterpillar in the garden a few weeks ago, after holes started appearing in my tomato, sweet potato and Topsy Turvy tomato plant leaves, so it isn’t impervious to ALL pests.

    Despite the TT’s apparent failure, I remain optimistic. I trimmed back the sucker branches and a new set of blooms has emerged. If I get at least one tomato from this plant, I will be overjoyed. If not, at least I have a bushel of other tomatoes, peppers, melons and peas to console me.

  124. Mamma Blogga Says:

    This is my second year using upside down planters. Last year I only tried my own using empty cat litter buckets. Although they seemed to work well I found that the stem of the tomatoes was tending to rot. It wasn’t until my Mom gave me her two Topsy Turvy units (she is no longer gardening) that I discovered that the T/T hangers had additional holes in the bottom outer ring, allowing better drainage.

    This year I added the extra holes to my litter buckets and they are doing just wonderful in comparison to last year. Due to excess shade, I also did not plant my traditional garden and opted to plant everything in litter buckets on my patio. They all have added drain holes, both at the bottom and at the top where the mulch is so they can shed heavy rains without drowning.

    I keep my site updated with photos showing the results at for anyone interested in seeing them. So far the patio pots with tomatoes and green peppers are showing signs of growing a bigger harvest than the hanging planters. I have no weed or bug problems since I added perforated black plastic under the two inches of free mulch compliments of our local public works department that mulches up trees that are removed. I will be giving the excess away to our local food pantry which just started their very own community garden.

  125. Wetterman Says:

    I read on someones post that they sock chunks of wood until they are water logged and then put them in the container. They always have a couple soaking and change them out every few days.

    I am not sure if it will wok but plan on experimenting with it in the spring.

  126. Karen Says:

    I have 2 Topsy Turvy Planters w/2 store bought plants in them. I live in New England & planted them around the middle of June. They are growing -but taking a longer time to grow than I thought.I water a lot-& it’s been really hot steadily for weeks the last 2 months-with hardly any rain. The last 2 weeks we’ve had several long rains & downpours & a few short showers.I have 2 tomatoes Med. sized & 1 Sm. (green-still, ) & the other one has none on it yet. I forgot about adding vinegar. Don’t forget to give some sugar to your plants every week once they start to change color. Makes them sweet & juicy.Also put some seeds in a large upright container in mid-July,with some Merigolds. The plants look like thin stalks & are only about 6-8 in. tall & the flowers never grew at all. I’ve feed these & all of my other plants w/Osmocote pellets for indoor & outdoor plants, Feed All w/Fish emulsion & also Thrive, all a few weeks apart -alternating them between the weeks & I also used organic soil & these are still the results! I don’t know what’s wrong-but I will try the vinegar. Lot of great stuff on this site .Thanks for being here. : )

  127. linda m Says:

    I tried the topsy turvy last year, I also planted 2 plants in my window box on my terrace, in the Bronx, NY. I grew 0 tomatoes with the topsy turvy and got about 4 or 5 small tomatoes from my window box. Don’t waste your time with THE TOPSY TURVY. The old fashioned way works much better. This year I picked up some tomatoe planst from South Carolina while on vacation. Looks like this might be my biggest crop ever. I planted them in late may I already see 5 little tomatoes showing already. I hope they get really big or at least a nice size, I can’t wait. They are Marion tomatoes, anyone ever hear of them?

  128. Paul @ 5 Gallon Water Says:

    I can’t say that I have much experience growing tomatoes, but my father and his parents all grew up on farms, and I will have to run this “upside down tomatoes” thing by them and see what they know about it.

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