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Growing Tomatoes Upside Down in the Topsy Turvy Planters

So many customers at the farmers’ markets have asked me about growing tomatoes upside down and which heirloom tomato plants would grow best in the upside down planters.  These planters always seemed kind of odd to me, but I realize a lot of urban and apartment dwellers want to grow tomatoes and simply don’t have access to the space, the soil, or the sun, so I thought I’d trial growing tomatoes upside down to better answer people’s questions.

Tomato Varieties Selected:

I decided to try two different heirlooms that I thought would be successful in this type of planter due to their smaller fruit size which would not weight down the planters with heavy fruit.  I planted Prescott and Raspberry Lyanna. 

Prescott Tomato Variety 2 weeks after planting
Prescott Tomato Variety 2 weeks after planting
  • Prescott is a small grape heirloom which is considered an early tomato (69 days) and is determinate.
  • Raspberry Lyanna is a medium, pink, fairly early (75 days) slicing tomato which is described by some seed catalogs as determinate and by some as indeterminate.  From the looks of the plant, my bet is on determinate.

Two weeks after planting, the Raspberry Lyanna had small fruit (see photo) and the Prescott only had flowers at this time.  The Raspberry Lyanna was also planted in the greenhouse for a comparison and the tomatoes in the greenhouse are about twice the size of the same variety planted in the Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Tomato Planter

topsy turvy planting prep materials
topsy turvy planting prep materials

How to Plant:

  • Rather than use my organic potting mix and aged horse manure, I decided to use materials that the typical urban apartment grower might have easier access to.  Miracle Grow potting mix with moisture control seems to be a very successful medium for container plants.
  • the directions included with the planter are pretty clear on how to insert the seedling tomato and secure it.  Just be sure the seedling is old enough that the tomato stem is sturdy enough to be handled with breaking it, and make sure your plant was hardened off.  The photos here show a plant that is approximately 6 weeks old.
Inserting plant into bottom of planter
Inserting plant into bottom of planter
  • It is a little clumsy to hold the planter upright and scoop in the soil at the same time.  I balanced the edge of the planter on a table while using a large metal ice scoop to add the soil.  Alternatively you could get someone to help you, but it does get heavy, as it takes quite a bit of soil.
  • My biggest problem was finding a post or garden trellis that was sturdy enough to hold the planter once the soil was wet.  It does get quite heavy and I imagine it will get even heavier as the fruits start to mature.
    • They did not supply large hooks with the planter and it would be helpful to have these.  The planter should hang freely away from the post or wall and it should be high enough above the ground that you don’t get spashback from any diseased soil on the ground when it rains. I moved my planter several times before finding a spot that worked.
    • Don’t forget to water.  There is quite a bit of soil in the planter and the plastic sides, along with the moisture control in the potting soil should be enough that you don’t have to water daily like a plant in a clay pot.

    Progress after 2 weeks of growing tomatoes upside down:

    Both varieties in the planters seem to be doing well and they look quite healthy.  Neither are as large or as far along as the plants that were planted outside, but they appear to be doing just fine.

    Raspberry Lyanna planted in soil in the greenhouse (unheated)
    Raspberry Lyanna planted in soil in the greenhouse (unheated)
    • With all the rain that we have had, I have not watered these planters once since planting two weeks ago.  Watering has always been the downfall for me with container plants in the past, so I am encouraged that these might help the sometimes neglectful gardener.
    • The Raspberry Lyanna planted in the soil in the greenhouse has much larger fruit at this time and it appears it will ripen earlier, but the leaf coverage is approximately the same.  I should note that the plants in the greenhouse were also planted with a good dose of aged horse manure, which could account for their larger fruit.  As noted above, I used Miracle Grow Potting soil in the planters.

    2 Comments

    1. Joyce Bowles on September 14, 2014 at 1:43 am

      I have just planted my first tomato plant into the Topsy Turvy planter and I appreciated your comments on how to do it. So far so good and I look forward to your progress so that I can compare. Thanks

      • Dorothy Stainbrook on September 14, 2014 at 6:38 am

        Hi Joyce, Glad to know it was helpful. I had “OK” luck with mine, but nothing to brag about. I probably won’t do it again as the yield just isn’t enough for me. It might be a nice solution for people that don’t have room for a garden however.

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