Terrific Top 10 Tips for Tasty Topsy Turvy Tomatoes
Now that the last frost has (hopefully!) past in my area, it is time to plant tomatoes. The National Garden Bureau has declared 2011 as “the Year of the Tomato!”
Many of my customers use the Topsy Turvy planters since they are so easy to use. Here are my Top 10 Tips for success:
1. Location, location, location
Find an area that will receive a minimum of 6-7 hours of sun – particularly in the afternoon. Fortunately tomato plants do not need sunscreen! If you live a hot climate with extended periods of high temperatures (consistently over 90oF), be sure that the planter will receive shade for a part of the day.
2. Due diligence
The Topsy Turvy bag will need about 18 quarts of soil. That translates to about ¾ of a 1 cubic foot bag. Select a great starting medium, like the Miracle Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix.
3. Heavy hitter
Your planter will weigh 20 – 30 pounds with soil and plant. Since the plant will be frequently watered, be sure that you can easily reach the top of the planter. The planter will need to be securely fastened (preferably into solid wood) and that the weight will be properly supported. Do not hang the planter in sheet rock or vinyl siding overhangs.
4. Water world
Water the tomato plant every other day when it is young and the weather is not yet hot. As the plant matures and the weather gets hotter, then water every day. Test to see if you are watering enough by lifting the grow bag slightly upward by hand. If the bag is heavy, it is well watered; if it is light, water it more. If the leaves are beginning to curl or look wilted: water immediately!
5. Simply the best
You will grow the best tomatoes from the best plants. Select a healthy, stocky plant that does not have flowers or fruit. The leaves should be dark green with a thick stem. You can stick up to 2 plants in one planter. You can also plant other vegetables such as herbs, zucchini, eggplant, or peppers in the planter – or use two different varieties to expand your options (a heavy fruit tomato plant with a cherry tomato plant).
6. Rx fertilizer
You will need to consistently feed the plant with a fertilizer especially designed for tomatoes. Follow the package instructions. Some fertilizers like Dynamite Mater Magic Organic Tomato Food have calcium included to help prevent Blossom End Rot.
7. Defend and protect
The good news is that the hanging planter will be out of reach from ground oriented pests such as cutworms, in-ground nematodes, and small animals. The other news is that your tomatoes may be subject to aerial assault from birds and flying bugs!
Tomato pests such as tomato hornworms and whiteflies can be stopped with garden insecticide sprays. There are organic products and sprays available. Be sure to thoroughly wash your tomatoes at harvest.
You can protect your ripening fruit from pecking birds by covering in old nylon stockings. Simply remove before harvest.
8. Just a pinch
If you let the plant grow by itself, you will get numerous, smaller tomatoes. For the “as seen on TV” larger tomatoes, you will need to pinch off the new shoots as they appear between the main stem breaks. Keep the limbs, stems, and leaves trimmed.
9. The more the merrier
Depending upon the variety, your plant can grow up to 30 pounds of tomatoes! Yield will be increased by harvesting the fruit at first blush or pink instead of leaving them on the plant to ripen fully. A tomato picked at first sign of color and ripened at room temperature will be just as tasty as one left to fully mature on the vine. Picking tomatoes before they turn red reduces damage from birds.
10. It’s nice to share
With all these tomatoes, you will be eating, cooking, canning, and sharing. Since the tomato is the “love fruit,” I’d love for you to start sharing your tips, tricks, and best practices for Topsy Turvy tomatoes. I look forward to your photos and replies. Happy Gardening!
“Everyone loves the taste of a delicious, home-grown garden tomato, but planting a garden and trying to take care of it is backbreaking work. And after all that, your tomatoes can still end up on the ground, spoiled!” The Topsy Turvy horticulture apparatus “grows your tomato plants upside-down, so there’s no digging, weeding or bending over.” A suspended plastic sleeve holds soil and water as the live plant dangles out from the bottom. “The sun warms the planter like a greenhouse, so the root system explodes inside.” The inversion causes nutrients and water to flow “from the roots to the fruit.” Expect “up to 30 pounds” of said fruit to ripen “up to four weeks earlier” than in-ground plantings.
Comparison plantings between Topsy Turvy tomatoes, tomatoes grown in a second novelty product called an Earthbox, and a third batch grown in the traditional dirt method popularized over several thousand years of agriculture.
A stormy season toppled the Topsy Turvy, stifling a promising start. Tomatoes planted in the earth survived and thrived.
“I’m telling you, you can’t miss with this product,” Topsy Turvy inventor Bill Felknor says. We met Felknor at the National Hardware Show, where he showed us a scrapbook filled with gargantuan tomato canopies dangling from Topsy Turvys, the fruits like studded rubies showing through thickets of fuzzy vines. Page after page, Felknor’s Polaroid testimonials proved the product’s efficacy.
But when we set up a Topsy Turvy rig earlier this summer, well, let’s just say our results wouldn’t make the Felknor photographic hall of fame.
It’s generally been a sad season for tomatoes in New York. Unusually wet weather has allowed late blight to decimate crops throughout the Northeast, and a particularly stormy night toppled our Topsy Turvy mid-test. Set up on its designated stand, the saturated planter became top-heavy enough for a strong gust to tip it over, breaking the main stem of the plant inside. This would probably be a different story if we had hung the Topsy from a balcony or fire escape—the stand has some design issues, and hey, you live, you learn.
We took notes as buddy and master gardener Tony Maio tested the Topsy Turvy in the New Rochelle garden where he’s grown tomatoes for decades. At its absolute peak, Maio measured the Topsy tomato plant at 21 inches long. By comparison, a plant buried in the ground the same day had already reached 32 inches in length. After the tumble, Maio gave the Topsy Turvy another shot, but tomato 2.0 kicked the bucket during another storm in late July. After that, Maio retired his TT for the season, saying, “I found it to be too much trouble compared with in-ground planting.”
Maio is certainly a capable gardener—he also has a robust vegetable garden on the roof of Manhattan’s 44-story Hearst Tower—and he’s also open to trying new methods. In fact, the cherry tomatoes on the skyscraper’s roof are growing in a product called an Earthbox, which Maio is also using for the first time this year. “In comparison to the Topsy Turvy, the Earthbox is a far superior product,” Maio says, adding that it’s a cinch to set up. Maio says, “If I had to recommend a product to someone with limited experience, limited space and limited time, it would be an Earthbox.”
I was getting my hair done a few months ago and my hairdresser showed me her latest creation – a topsy turvy planter creation (also called Tipsy Pots.) At that point I had not seen topsy turvy planters, they they are now appearing everywhere on social media. They take the term creative gardening to a new height.
Topsy Turvy Planters Put your garden on the Slant
I love the haphazard way that the pots are arranged and then planted. They give a whimsical look to any garden setting. The sky is the limit on color, or you can just leave them in a natural terra cotta or galvanized look. The secret to the look of the planter is a long straight rod that is secured in the soil and holds all the pots in place.
To make your own Topsy turvy Planter, you will need a long piece of rebar, a group of graduated sized terra cotta plant pots, potting soil and some flowers. Plastic pots will work too but I like terra cotta because the pots are going to be placed on a slant and plastic might give a bit over time from the weight.
Just start from the bottom. Place the piece of rebar into the hole of the bottom planter and pound it securely down into the ground. Then and add your potting soil. Keep layering the next pots (one size down each time) and try to keep the rebar centered and straight as you go up. Sometimes the design features pots that get smaller as you go up for the best effect and to keep the whole thing stable. (but not all tipsy planters are done this way, as the photos below demonstrate.)
When you get as tall as you want, cut the rebar off so that it is not visible above the soil of the top pot.
If you are creative, you can paint the pots before you start with colors of the flowers you plant to add to them. Not all planters use graduated sized pots. Some really defy gravity by using pots all the same size!
Creative Tipsy Pots
Here are some of my favorite topsy turvy planters.
This stunning design by Barb Rosen of Our Fairfield Home and Garden is at the top of my list. It is just overflowing with plants and almost hides the planters. You can view Barb’s tutorial at Our Fairfield Home and Garden.
This design would be perfect near a door close to the kitchen. It is filled with home grown herbs. Nice color contrast with all green and terra cotta too. Source From dates to diapers
Got the blues? Bright blue painted pots against a plain fence make a colorful contrast, and the pretty flowers look so bright against the blue. Source Home Stories A to ZWhat a lovely entry planter. This grouping uses plastic pots in one color and a more uniform size and dresses up the corner of a front porch nicely. source Mama’s NookCute as can be and nostalgic too. Reminds me of American Graffiti for some reason. Pink and black polka dot topsy turvy planter. Source Imgur.This rustic look has a rustic look since it uses galvanized tubs. I love the disparity of sizes too. Great topsy Turvy Washtub grouping Source – Cottage at the CrossroadsThis image shows the sizes of the graduated pots for building a Topsy Turvy planter of your own. The original source for this photo was a website called Copy E Paste which is no longer running.
But the pots could be duplicated by using stencils and paints. Why not try one today?
Melissa from Empress of Dirt, also has a tutorial for building her planter. She calls hers Tipsy Pots. One can see why. They seem almost gravity defying, don’t they. Her pansies look right at home in the rustic terra cotta pots of this planter. Visit Melissa’s tutorial at Empress of Dirt.
Do I have you hooked on Topsy Turvy Planters yet? Which is your favorite?
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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