How to Grow Upside Down Tomatoes

It was one of the most curious things I had ever seen – a hanging basket filled with tomato vines! My best friend showed up at my door just before my birthday this summer with two hanging baskets of what appeared to be tomatoes. I had never seen anything like it. I grew up on a farm – in a farming community – and never had I seen a tomato grown any way other than in the ground or in a pot with stakes of some sort holding the plant up. I was so amused with my hanging baskets filled with tomatoes that I hung them on my front porch and pampered them all summer long. I don’t know what kind of tomato plant it was, but it produced a strong harvest of small cherry tomatoes.

As if that weren’t enough surprise from the plant world, I was searching for some information on gardening in a small space, when I came across an article about how to grow upside down tomatoes! I couldn’t believe it. What will they come up with next? I knew right away that I’d have to give it a try. I did a little research, bought a couple of tomatoes plants, and went to work.

How to Start Your Upside Down Tomato Project

  • Buy a two and a half gallon bucket. I’ve seen paint sold in these buckets, but I found empty ones for sale at my hardware store. I also bought matching lids because many of the articles I read indicated that the lids should be left on the bucket. But after two or three times of removing the lids to water the plants, I decided that they were a hassle, so I removed them.

bucket

  • Buy the tomato plants. I read that both the regular sized and the cherry sized tomatoes can be grown this way. But there was a note that the really big tomatoes don’t do well when grown upside down. I chose one of each.

cherry tomatoes

  • Buy compost and potting soil. I agree with Mel Bartholomew’s observation that plants with limited growing space need really good soil. He suggests using quite a bit of compost mixed with potting soil, so this is what I did.
  • Cut hole in bottom of bucket. Flip the bucket upside down and cut out the circular button area. We used a roto-zip saw and made quick work of it, but you could use a utility knife.
  • Protect the plant stem. Remove the tomato plant from its container. Twist a plastic grocery bag, and wrap the base of the plant (where the plant comes out of the dirt). This will look like a ring or collar around the stem of the plant. I did this to protect the stem from the rough edges of the hole I cut in the bucket and to keep the soil from falling out of the hole. You can see a small portion of the plastic bag protruding from the hole in the photo above.
  • Install the plant. Turn the bucket right side up and support it on the edges so there will be room for the plant to poke through the hole. Flip the plant upside down, and wrap a piece of newspaper around the leaves to keep them snug against the stem. Thread the newspaper through the hole and slide the plant down to the bottom of the bucket. Remove the newspaper.
  • Mix the soil. In a separate container, mix equal portions of compost and potting soil.

potting soil

  • Fill the bucket. Adjust the plant and its plastic bag collar, then fill the bucket with the soil mixture.

 

Hang Your Upside Down Tomatoes!

Now, you’re ready to hang your plant! I used an old clothesline post that was left by the original owners of our 1950’s home. I’ve been wanting to dig it up and remove it. Now I’m glad we didn’t!

 

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