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The Tomato Experiment Failure - Or How NOT to Grow Tomatoes

Updated on September 24, 2013

What a great idea!

I love to garden but unfortunately don't have a lot of space. For this reason, the idea of growing fruit and vegetables upside-down has appealed to me for awhile. I carefully researched how to grow plants - specifically, tomatoes - upside-down. The upside-down tomato and strawberry kits like "Topsy Turvy" seem a little expensive for me. Being naturally frugal, I made my own.

My Upside-Down Containers

Loving the idea of "reduce, reuse, recycle," I gathered several (out of a ton) of the empty plastic gallon ice cream containers that I had saved.

Using a sharp knife, my husband cut a round hole in the bottom of each bucket at around an inch in diameter.

I purchased some "Big Boy" and "Tommy Toes" plants. Very carefully, I inserted each tomato plant through the hole so that the plant stuck out the bottom and the roots remained inside the container.

I slowly added potting soil to a depth of just about an inch from the top of the bucket.

Challenges and Solutions

Using the handy handle on the buckets, I hung them around the front yard from my shepherd's hooks and from hooks on my front porch.

Challenge #1 - The first challenge to this experiment was immediately obvious. The weight of the soil in the flimsy containers caused the buckets to bow inward. To help alleviate this situation, we cut a large hole in the lid (leaving only about an inch showing around the edges). I put the lids on the buckets and it did help to stabilize them somewhat.

Challenge #2 - Watering the plants was a second challenge. Several buckets were over my head but I carefully watered each one faithfully. Several died for different reasons but I was rewarded when the remaining ones started to grow!


Disappointing Results

Slowly but surely the plants began to grow downward. It was interesting to note, however, that when the length got to a certain point (about a foot or so long) the top/bottom/end of each tomato plant began to curve upward as it usually grows.

I faithfully used fertilizer but the plants were very leggy with little tomato growth. I got 1-2 tomatoes per plant and that was it.

Lessons Learned

I was very disappointed with the failure of my tomato experiment - but I did learn some valuable lessons if I decide to try again:

1. Use bigger, sturdier containers. I think that maybe a gallon ice cream bucket may not be quite big enough or sturdy enough.

2. The plants hanging from the front porch probably didn't get enough sun, which may be why they started growing back upward. I'd move them all out to the yard.

3. Try other varieties of tomatoes that may be more suited to growing upside-down.

Have you ever tried growing plants upside-down?

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