Author Topic: Up-side-down Tomatoes  (Read 1826 times)

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Offline Patty S

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Up-side-down Tomatoes
« on: Jun 14, 2007, 04:30:59 AM »
            Up-side-down Tomatoes
                           (How we did it.)

Last year when I heard about and saw pictures of tomatoes growing up-side-down, it looked like a fun novelty. Last year, having extra cherry tomato plants that we'd started from seed, I knew we had the main ingredient to make a few, so we decided to try it! (Living dangerously, not knowing how they’d turn out, we went ahead and made 3 of them.  We thought they’d make nice gifts when/if they “took”.)  Since my seven-year-old Granddaughter ("BG") spent a lot of time here during the summer, it was a great project for us to do together.

I’ve seen pics of people’s up-side-down tomatoes and asked around, but no one could tell me why 5 gallon buckets were always used.   It seems to me that such large (and heavy) containers are unnecessary, so the first thing we did was to go shopping at the Dollar Store for containers and wire plant hangers. We found some nice looking two-gallon plastic wastebaskets (also, a 3 gallon bucket that was the same color as my house trim), and so began our project!

Back at home, we drilled three small holes at equal distances near the rim of the containers for the plant hangers, and used a hole cutter to make a hole in the bottom of each container, for the plant.

I'd read a suggestion about sealing a PVC fitting in at the bottom of the container to keep the water off the stem of the plant, and that made sense to me.  After searching around in our garage, I couldn't find one the same size as the hole we'd cut, so I took plastic shower heads apart and used the outside casings. (Can you tell that I don’t throw anything away?)   We used a glue gun to seal them into the hole at the bottoms of the containers, in hopes to keep water off the leaves.

Then, for lack of Styrofoam peanuts, we broke Styrofoam sheets into chunks, to cover the bottoms of the containers. (Don't ask why we did that... it just seemed like the right thing to do!) :rolleyes1:

Threading the leaves of the tomato plant through the shower head casing and out through the hole from the inside was easy, then we set the container on top of two tall cans, so as not to break the plant...

... while BG filled the container with soil that had been mixed with worm castings.

Our containers seemed too plain without plants in the tops, so we went looking for plants that would be happy sharing the same container with a tomato.

We needed to find plants that:
    Liked full sun
    Didn't have large root systems that would crowd the tomato roots
    Weren't fussy about having much water
    (*When tomatoes start forming, they'll split if over watered.)

For this one, we chose some Fairy Jade from a planter in the kitchen window

Then she threaded the wires of the plant hanger through the little holes we'd drilled around the rim, and twisted them back around a few times with pliers.

Our finished projects looked like this:
The three containers are topped with Fairy Jade plants, Ice plants and Sedum.

Until the fruit forms and weighs the vines down, they tend to turn upward and reach for the sun. I heard that to prevent the vines from breaking under the weight of the fast-growing fruit later on, many people hang fishing weights on them, training them to grow downward. When the vines were still young and started turning upward, I guess I thought they would straighten out immediately, and loaded too much weight on the main branch of one of our plants...  it broke, the first time the wind blew!
« Last Edit: Aug 01, 2008, 11:56:47 AM by Patty S »

Offline Patty S

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Re: Up-side-down Tomatoes
« Reply #1 on: Jun 14, 2007, 04:51:20 AM »
           Up-side-down Tomatoes - 2007
We learned several things from our first year of planting up-side-down tomatoes, so we made a few changes when we did it this year. Since we still had two of the planters from last year, we emptied them out and scrubbed them up. *Always a must, when reusing planters and pots.

We bought Pear Cherry Tomato plants from a local plant farm this year, and stripped the lower leaves off, so they could be planted "deep". *As you may already know, roots will form on a tomato stem that's in contact with the soil.  The shower head casings worked out well in the planters last year, but the glue gun glue didn't keep the seal well during the entire growing season, so we used aquarium sealer this year.

Since our plants were a little larger than the ones we started with last year, we needed to contain the branches so they'd all fit through the holes at the bottoms of the planters with as little damage as possible.  We used a wide cotton shoestring, tying it to the stem below the lowest leaf, then BG carefully wrapped it around as she worked it up the stem. 

She lost only a few pieces of the leaflets as she threaded the plant through the hole, guiding it from the inside of the pot while tugging at the shoestring when she felt resistance as the leaf junctions began to enter the hole. (The shoestring was a big help, as she was able to unwind it as it came through... which worked out exactly as dental floss will, to remove a ring from a finger when it's too tight!)

The Styrofoam chunks seemed to work well at the bottom of the containers last year, so we repeated that step. We also added vermiculture, from our worm bin, to the soil again.
(And, this year we remembered to loosen the roots from the root ball before adding soil to the planter!)

We had already decided to use the same plants as last year, at the tops of our up-side-down tomatoes, so when we emptied the round container, we left the Sedum as it was, so it would slip right in.  The Ice plant had gotten quite large and we had used some of it in other planters, so we spread it out at the top of the blue bucket, cuz we knew it would fill itself in, in no time at all.

Now we wait for the tomatoes!


« Last Edit: Jun 14, 2007, 05:14:29 AM by Patty S »

Offline Dianna

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Re: Up-side-down Tomatoes
« Reply #2 on: Jun 14, 2007, 07:20:18 AM »
You and BG did it again, Patty! Provided us with a wonderful, step-by-step tutorial on how to do your latest project! I think it looks fantastic!

I can see that BG was really "into" her work. The look of concentration on her face is priceless! It is so sweet to see her involved with gardening... :grinnnn:

The finished product looks sensational. I love those "planters", too!
"Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success." - Lao Tzu

Offline Bonnie

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Re: Up-side-down Tomatoes
« Reply #3 on: Jun 14, 2007, 01:42:21 PM »
That is so neat Patty. I might have to give it a try. I am growing some in a plastic bag, but yours is cooler.

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