Growing plant upside down

Have you heard the buzz about these upside down tomato planters? You can buy pricey containers and plastic bags in an effort to try this inverted growing technique, but here’s a really inexpensive and, I think, more attractive method than the other DIY how-to’s I’ve seen.

Instructions for Making an Upside Down Tomato Planter

First, find yourself a large (I used a 12″) plastic hanging planter and a tomato plant. I chose a smaller fruit producing variety. Tomato Chello, specifically.

Using a 2″ hole saw, drill a hole in the bottom of the pot. This will be where the plants comes out of the upside down tomato planter.

Place a piece of fabric over the bottom of the pot. I used a bit of leftover landscaping fabric. This will keep the dirt from washing through the hole when you water. Cut through your fabric a few inches, or enough to feed your tomato plant’s root ball through.

Feed your tomato plant through the hole, upside down, of course. Either hang the pot or have someone hold it while you use one hand to support the plant and the other to fill the pot with potting soil.

Tamp the dirt around the root ball.

For a finishing touch, plant herbs in the top of your pot. I chose marjoram, oregano and Italian parsley.

By the next day, my tomato plant was trying to right itself in an attempt to grow toward the sun. As this is the first time I’ve tried this technique, I’m going to assume its normal plant behavior and am awaiting a tasty crop of upside down tomatoes.

Decorating Your Upside Down Tomato Planter

Personally, I don’t think any decoration is needed (it’s a plant, people! it’s already pretty!). But if you do want to spruce up your upside down planter, consider wrapping it in adhesive vinyl paper (like contact paper), painting the outside of the pot, or even etching a design into the pot using a rotary tool.

What Type of Soil to Use?

I know from experience that good soil is the most important factor in getting your tomatoes to grow big and healthy. In fact, our boulevard plants, when compared to our neighbors, are much bigger and have many more flowers (which later will become tomatoes), even though the location, sunlight, and water conditions are basically the same. Why? Because we were careful to amend our soil before planting.

Tomatoes like to grow in slightly acidic soil (around 6 – 7 pH). After checking your soil pH with a simple kit (you can buy it at the garden center), you’ll need to add lime if the soil is too acidic, or sulfur if the pH is too high (too basic). Make sure to add some organic matter (compost) each year, and that the soil isn’t too dense (won’t drain), or too light and fluffy (drains too fast). We’ve found gypsum and peat moss are great additives for getting the soil structure just right.

How They Work

Designed to hang, the Down Under Pot allows your plants to grow from the bottom of the pot, with foliage, fruit, and blooms bursting forth in a stunning display.

One of the design features of the Down Under Pot is an internal reservoir, at the base of the pot. The reservoir catches water where the root system is developing, thus feeding the plant & providing the root system with a wall upon which to anchor.

Another feature is the lip, not present in other upside-down pots. This lip prevents water spillage with normal watering of most plants. (There will be water spillage with overwatering.) Note that fruits and vegetables require more water, and dripping out the bottom is suggested on hot days to ensure sufficient hydration.

Planting the Down Under Pot is simple:

  1. See the image to establish the planting position, which is inverted from the way the pot will ultimately hang. In this planting position, transplant your plant into the pot, soil coming to the top of the lip, but not flush with the edge of the pot.
  2. Allow the pot to remain in this planting position until you are satisfied that the plant is established; perhaps two to six weeks. While the plant is establishing, set the pot in a shallow container of water to keep the mix moist during this phase.
  3. Invert the pot and hang it using the wire already fitted to the pot for this purpose. Once inverted and hung, water and fertilize through the top of the pot.
  4. The plant has established its root system and is now growing in the potting mix in the Down Under Pot. It is the design of the pot and the established root system of the plant that keep both the plant and the potting mix from falling out when the pot is inverted and hung in position.

Note: Frost will crack these terra cotta and glazed pots. To enjoy your Down Under Pot year after year, ensure it is not left outdoors during the frosty winter months.

View More Instructions


Plants to Use in Down Under Pots:

Any upright plant that is not too stiff is a good candidate. Some specific suggestions of plant types and corresponding pot sizes:

Plant Size
African Violet Mini to Small
Begonia Small Small to Medium
Geranium (zonal) Small to Large
Geranium (Regal) Medium to Large
Coleus Small to Large
Herbs Small to Large
Tomato Large
Strawberry (ever bearing) Medium
Succulents (jade, etc.) Small to Large
Fuchsia (must be pinched) Small to Medium
Houseplants Varies

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Topsy Turvy® TT501116 Upside Down Tomato Planter, As Seen On TV

The ?As Seen on TV? Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter is a simple way to become a professional tomato grower! Simply Insert the Tomato Plant, Fill, and Watch the Tomato?s Grow! Here?s how it works: ? Sun warms plant & green colored bag attracts sunlight keeping the large soil surface warm, even at night. ? Planter acts like a greenhouse, and the root system explodes and thrives. ? Gravity pulls water & nutrients directly from root system to the fruit for delicious, larger and more abundant tomatoes! Benefits: ? Delicious, juicy tomatoes from the comfort of your home! ? Able to be grown all season long ? Simple & Easy to Set Up & Maintain! ? Built-in watering system for plump, mouth-watering tomatoes! See why over 11 million people have purchased one already & order yours today!

Features:

  • Grow delicious & juicy tomatoes all season long (up to 30 lbs of tomatoes with normal care, feeding and sunlight). Hang in direct sunlight, on deck, balcony or patio. No bending, caging, staking or weeding.
  • Grows all varieties of tomatoes, including beefsteak, yellow and cherry! Also grows other vegetables including green bell peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant and more!
  • New watering system helps distribute water over a longer period of time. Based on our results from testing, we have concluded that tomato plants using the new watering systems have grown significantly larger.
  • The Topsy Turvy Upside Planter is simple to set up and maintain: swivel top for easy turning, uses ordinary potting soil, great for growing your own organic vegetables and durable materials to last for years.
  • Uses gravity as a vertical growing advantage; Vertical grow bag heats the plant like a greenhouse so the root system explodes; Gravity pulls the water and nutrients directly to the roots.

Hang in direct sunlight on your deck, balcony, patio. No bending, weeding, caging or staking. New watering system holds water longer & waters the plant slower. Starburst port prevents mold from growing due to trapped water & makes plant installation easier. Grow delicious & juicy tomato plants all season long. 100% organic.As Seen On TVTopsy Turvy® upside down tomato planterGrow delicious and juicy tomatoes all season longSimple to set up and maintainHangs on deck, balcony or patioEliminates weeding, caging and stakingSwivel top makes for easy turningUses ordinary potting soilGreat for growing your own organic vegetablesUV-resistant, durable materials last for yearsSetting up your Topsy Turvy® is easy As 1-2-3!Insert the plant through the bottomFill the bag with soil through the topAdd water and you’re good to grow!How it WorksUses gravity as a vertical growing advantageVertical grow bag heats the plant like a greenhouse so the root system explodesGravity pulls the water and nutrients directly to the rootsGrow any variety of tomato & many other veggiesCucumbersGreen PeppersZucchini & More!

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  • Planting season is in full swing in many areas so I thought I’d cover one of the more frequently asked questions I get about balcony gardens. The question is whether those hanging tomato planters such as the widely advertised Topsy Turvy works. As you have seen, I have tried this planter myself. (Please note: I do not have a financial interest in the Topsy Turvy, nor do I endorse the product – it is just something that I experimented) Not only did I buy the large size planter, I bought the entire stand and placed it on the balcony.

    The small bags that you see in the ads have a hole in the bottom of the bag where the tomato plants grow out from. The large bag that I purchased had holes along the sides. According to their website, here is how it works:

    “As the sun warms the plant like a greenhouse, the root system explodes and thrives inside the planter. Because Topsy Turvy® tomato planter is upside down, water and nutrients pour directly from the root to the fruit, giving you up to 30 pounds of deliciously ripe tomatoes per plant!”

    To get started, you fill the bag with potting soil. I then planted a tomato plant out of each hole, sticking out of the bag, with the roots well situated in the soil. Try not to break disturb the roots as much as possible. Water the soil as soon as you plant the tomatoes. You will need to check the soil dryness the next day, and water accordingly.

    Did it work?

    I can’t say that I got 30 pounds of tomatoes per plant as indicated in the website, but I did get a decent harvest weekly (about five to six tomatoes) for about five weeks. It was exciting to find new tomatoes growing daily. Being able to harvest them right out of your balcony was a big thrill.

    Tomato plants do need a lot of care, especially if you do not have an automatic water source such as a sprinkler system.

    • They needed to be watered daily, as it gets really hot and humid in our area. Try the low tech drip irrigation I featured on this post.
    • Because the plant is in a bag, in a balcony, you will still need to water it even if rains as not enough rain gets in the bag.
    • To protect from birds that make their nest in apartment balconies, I bought mesh plastic tenting from the garden center. The mesh also seemed to protect against larger insects such as beetles and moths.
    • Fertilize weekly – I used Miracle Grow and that worked for me but you may prefer more organic fertilizers.
    • You will find that the leaves tend to turn yellow closer to the root. Remove dead leaves as you see them.

    I was happy about how the planter worked during our growing season. However, don’t count on the planter lasting longer. The bag is plastic after all. When the tomato plants died out in the fall, I removed the dead plants but left the planter out in the balcony. We do not have any other room for it in the unit. With the winds, rain, and freezing temperatures in the winter, the planter got torn sitting out in the elements after a while. It was no longer useable for the following spring. There are several ways to make the hanging planter yourself, some of them quite inexpensive. We know that growing tomatoes upside down works so go give it a try!

    • Upside-Down Gardening Info: How To Garden Upside Down

      Growing plants upside down isn’t a new concept. Those inverted tomato systems have been on the market for a while and work okay with good cultivation and watering practices. An upside-down garden allows you to grow in smaller spaces and keeps plants out of the soil where pests, like cutworms, can ravage them. We have some tips on which plants can grow upside down and how to make your own planters.

      Why Try Upside-Down Gardening?

      You don’t have to turn the world on its head to try upside-down gardening. The concept reportedly started in 1998 when a gardener, Kathi Lael Morris, tried it on peppers and tomatoes. The concept worked and has since become a phenomenon. Growing plants upside down has several benefits and may be the method condo and apartment dwellers have been searching for in their smaller gardening spaces.

      The benefits and drawbacks of growing in inverted containers can fill this page. However, we will focus on just a few of the highlights to illuminate the issues. The plus factors are:

      • Saves space
      • Helps deter some pests
      • Prevents many fungal diseases
      • Reduces the need to stake or cage
      • Increases light exposure
      • Water and nutrients are efficiently delivered to the roots

      This all sounds great, but there are also some reasons why an upside-down garden is not practical:

      • Limits heavy crops
      • Moisture evaporates quickly
      • May limit the sun exposure due to overhangs and roof eaves where hung
      • Natural plant hormones, auxins, cause stems to grow upward, developing a U shape and fragile stems
      • Planters can be difficult to plant
      • Limits the types of plants you can grow

      How to Garden Upside Down

      Growing plants upside down is certainly worth trying. First, you have to decide if you want to buy one of those fabric models or make your own.

      If you have a location, such as a frame you have built that will hold heavy plants and their soil, you can make planters out of large garden buckets. You will need strong hooks and screws to mount the container. An alternative is to purchase steel heavy gauge brackets from which to suspend your planter.

      For easy upside-down containers, simply make a hole in the bottom of the bucket just large enough to push the plant through. Then fill the bucket with your soil, push in the plant and hang the container from the handle on your hook, bracket or other supporting device.

      Which Plants Can Grow Upside Down?

      If you are really creative, it is probably possible to grow watermelons upside down, but it would take more work than in-ground growing and limit the number of fruits. Practically speaking, smaller yield crops work best in inverted planters.

      Cherry and grape tomatoes, smaller pepper varieties, eggplants, cucumbers, beans, herbs, strawberries and other trailing plants, and some houseplants work well. If you are growing a crop plant, think dwarf fruits and veggies that will not drag down the plant, or its container, and are harvested successively instead of all at once.

      Upside down growing is certainly a phenomenon and an interesting practice, but it doesn’t work for every plant and may take a bit more effort for some species.



      well it’s the middle of april, and i must have springtime on the brain, because all i want to do is look at plants all day. i have had my eye on the sky planters by boskke since christmas time; something about upside down plants really strikes me as beautiful and intriguing. but i am low on funds, so i decided to try making my own with leftover containers from the various food items that make their way through my kitchen. surprisingly, there are a lot of container options for these nifty planters! the best are tins cans with plastic lids (items that usually come in these include coffee, instant cocoa mix, fiber drink mix, basically anything powdered or loose…yum!) or good old plastic bottles- the very symbol of consumer vs. environment. i researched tirelessly on the internet for some tips of upside down planters and saw many methods, but in the end i decided to combine some things and experiment with a few other ideas to come up with my own way which has worked out quite nicely. these are cheap, easy to make, and have had good results so far. i feel for you urban gardeners out there with no outdoor space, and i hope these can bring some green into your rooms for spring. have fun!! – kate



      for the full how-to after the jump!

      materials:
      1. tin cans w/ plastic resealable lid or plastic liter soda bottles
      2. a wire hanger (like from the dry cleaners)
      3. fabric scraps
      4. scissors and an exacto knife
      5. hair dryer (if using plastic water bottles)
      6. can opener (if using tin cans)
      7. plants (herbs work well for these, also tomatoes and some flowers)
      8. duct tape
      9. spray adhesive (optional)
      10. drill (or a hammer and a nail will work – this is for making small holes)
      11. potting soil
      12. coffee filters or landscape fabric scraps
      13. wire cutters and pliers

      cost:
      soil/plants: $10
      duct tape: $5
      containers: free, on hand

      time:
      2-3 hours

      instructions:

      for can planter:

      1. peel labels off the can, then wash and dry the can thoroughly.

      2. use a can opener to remove the bottom of the can.

      3. make holes in the disc that was the bottom of the can. you can use a drill with a tiny bit, or a hammer and nail. use the hammer to flatten any loose bits of metal that pop up from the holes, for safety. also make two holes in the sides of the can 1/4″ from the bottom, equidistant from each other, and on opposite sides of the can. these are for hanging the planter.

      4. put your hand up through the tin can and hold the bottom inside it, and inch down from where it was originally attached. use duct tape to tape the bottom firmly in this position. when you are done taping, you will have a can with the bottom recessed an inch into the can and with little holes in it.

      5. flip the can over and put some soil in. place your plant in next and fill the can with soil around your plant. pack firmly so the soil is pretty tight, filling up to the top of the can.

      6. trace the bottom of the can on a coffee filter or landscape fabric and cut out the circle. fold the circle in half, and cut a small hole in the center of the circle. this hole should be the diameter of your plants main stem. cut one slit in the circle from the outside to the hole in the center.

      7. slide this circle around the plant stem and rest it on top of the can. this will prevent soil from spilling out when the planter is flipped over.

      8. trace a circular object with an approximately 2″ diameter in the center of the plastic lid of the can. cut this circle out with an exacto knife.

      9. gently maneuver your plant through this hole, sliding the plastic lid towards the rim of the can, pulling leaves gently through the hole. close the can tightly with the plastic lid. put a ring of duct tape around the top rim of the can, sealing the connection between the lid and the can.

      10. cut a piece of fabric to wrap around the circumference of the can with 1/4″ overlap. make this piece of fabric 1/2 inch longer than the height of the can.

      11. spray the inside of the fabric with spray adhesive and wrap it neatly around the planter, starting flush with the bottom of the planter (where the plant comes out), hiding all the duct tape. fold the extra 1/4″ of fabric over the top lip of the planter (which used to be the bottom) into the recessed portion, adding extra adhesive to keep it stuck down if necessary.

      12. find the two hanger holes with your fingers and use a needle or a nail to poke through the fabric to reopen the holes. cut a 5″ piece of wire from the wire hanger and bend the two ends into small u-hooks. bend the wire into a “c” shape and hook the ends through the two hanger holes, creating a handle for hanging the planter.

      for the bottle planter:

      1. clean, wash, and dry the bottle.

      2. use your exacto knife to cut the mouth of the bottle, leaving a hole with a 2-3″ diameter at the top of the bottle neck. also cut the bottom of the bottle off where the bottom of the label line would be. keep the bottom and throw out the bottle mouth and cap.

      3. use your hairdryer to soften the plastic at the top of the bottle neck. with your hairdryer on high, wave it near the top of the bottle for a few seconds, until you see the plastic warping. then use your fingers (the plastic will be hot but not burning) to push the top of the bottle inward, inverting the conical part into the body of the bottle. the bottle should fold inward so that by pushing in the curved neck, you have created an even cylinder on the outside.

      4. use a drill or a hammer and nail to poke small holes in the bottom piece of the bottle, which you had just removed.

      5. trace the bottom of the bottle on a coffee filter or landscape fabric and cut out the circle. cut a small hole in the center of the circle, the diameter of your plant stem, and cut a slit from outside to the center hole.

      6. remove most of the surrounding soil from your plant, leaving only roots. place the filter around the stem of your plant (like your plan is wearing a bib). feed your plant gently from the opening in the bottom of the bottle through the hole in the top of the bottle.

      7. now fill the planter through the bottom with soil, packing it tightly against the roots of the plant. fill it almost to the top, then tuck the bottom of the bottle back inside the planter, packing the soil in. put a ring of duct tape around the lip of the bottom and the bottle, so now the bottom is recessed into the planter. the inset lip of the top of the bottle allows water to drip down the sides, and not spill out the hole.

      8. poke two small holes across from each other down 1/4″ from the top rim (by the top i mean the old bottom, because now the planter is upside down).

      9. follow steps 10-12 from the can planter to cover your bottle planter with fabric and attach the hanger handle.

      10. hang your planters somewhere with good light. the great thing is that they are easy to relocate if they are getting too much/too little sun.

      YOU’RE DONE!!

      Colorado State University

      What should gardeners know about the idea of growing upside down tomatoes? While the practice is nationwide, there are some Colorado-specific concerns.

      First off, plants know up from down. Auxins (hormones produced in the growing tips) turn stem growth upwards. When tomato plants are hung, new stem growth makes a U-turn upwards. In Colorado’s windy weather, the weight of the stems in windy weather can pull or break off the stem. The new growth will make another U-turn upward. A web search of online images of “upside down tomatoes” will readily show examples. Many on-line comments about hanging tomatoes talk about wind damage. Upside down planters can weigh 50 pounds when they are filled with damp soil and a large tomato plant. This creates a challenge to make sure all of the hardware is strong enough to hold the weight.

      Some advertisements for upside down tomatoes suggest that they be hung from a balcony or deck. Trees, roofed decks, and nearby houses cast shade and tomatoes need full sun for good fruit production. The planter itself can block the sun and shade the tomato when it is a young plant. Not every variety of tomato will thrive growing upside down. Cherry tomatoes and other small-fruited tomatoes are better suited for upside down growing.

      Another concern is the size of the container (root size) to support a large tomato plant. One brand of hanging planters calls for two pounds of soil. This small rooting volume would not support a large tomato plant in our hot, windy climate. Only a small container size tomato variety would be suitable.

      Buckets are preferred over the thinner breathable plastic planters which dried out so quickly that watering even once a day was not enough to prevent desiccated plants.

      Upside down planters are an option if you can’t grow tomatoes right side up for reasons of space or sunlight. Otherwise it is easier to grow them right side up. When you grow tomatoes upside down, you don’t have to worry about cutworms or ground fungus. However, these are problems you don’t have to worry about with any tomato grown in a container garden.

      Tell us what you think!

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