By Cindy Naas
Reader Judy sent in the following question in a comment on UGC’s article about upside-down tomatoes:
Question: 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 tomatoes 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?
Answer: Judy, upside-down growing is a real boon to those of us with disabilities. I was in an accident in 2003 and now walk with a cane. My balance problems are fairly severe, and so I hired a landscaping firm to tear out my front garden and build an entirely accessible garden for me. For gardeners with smaller properties, though, upside-down gardening is one great way to make gardening accessible for people with disabilities.
Upside Down Companions
Tomatoes do well planted in upside down containers, and as Judy has noticed, there is all that growing space on top of the planter. Fast-growing crops which don’t compete for resources with the tomatoes would be awesome companion crops. I would try lettuce and arugula, spinach and bush peas for early season crops. After those are done producing, pull them and replant with basil, oregano, parsley, thyme and savoury.
Other vegetables to try upside down are: peppers, bush beans but not vining beans, bush peas, eggplant and perhaps even Brussels sprouts. I’m eager to try growing them upside down. Good companions for these might be beets, herbs and perhaps cabbages.
Timing is Everything
In order to get maximum output from an upside down system, try starting early crops even before it is time to plant out your tomatoes. Here is the order to plant and grow in your upside down garden:
1. In the tops of the buckets or containers, plant lettuce, spinach, corn salad, beets, and chard. By the time these begin to produce, it will be time to plant the tomatoes.
2. Plant your tomatoes in the bottom of the buckets. Remember, cherry tomatoes, Romas and other smaller-fruiting tomatoes work best in the upside down garden.
3. Pull out the last of your lettuces and other early crops. Fertilize lightly by mixing in some compost or manure into the top few inches of soil. Plant beans, eggplants and peppers, and the hot weather herbs- oregano, basil, thyme. Also, consider planting green onions in the tops of the buckets. Onions make good companions for tomatoes.
Planting on top of upside down buckets is a great way to use every last inch of space in a small garden and is also good for gardeners with disabilities. Just remember that these gardens need even more water. During the hottest part of summer you may need to water two or even three times a day.
Also, a good organic fertilizer is going to be essential to raise healthy vegetables. I use Planet Food by Simplexity, but there are other great ones on the market as well.Â Make sure not to use too strong a fertilizer so as not to burn tender roots.
If you keep up with harvesting and watering, upside down gardening is a great idea for those of us who have to cope with disabilities or with small gardens.