Upside-down Tomato Plants
Growing Tomatoes Upside-Down
At first glance, this might look like an unusual way to grow tomatoes. But Jim Appleby from Iowa has discovered several benefits to hanging his tomatoes in buckets. First, the air can circulate better so the plants have almost no disease problems. Second, the fruit doesn’t rot as quickly as that on the ground. And finally, some critters that eat tomatoes have trouble getting to the ripening fruit.
To make the upside-down containers, Jim used 5-gallon buckets with tight-fitting lids. He recycled his from a restaurant, but says you can find them many places, such as paint or hardware stores.
Jim scrubs each bucket out with soapy water and makes sure the handle is attached securely. He cuts a 2-inch or larger diameter hole in the center of the lid and one in the bottom of the bucket. To make the holes, he uses a drill with a hole saw bit (an attachment for cutting a door to install the doorknob).
With the bucket standing upright and the lid off, Jim covers the hole in the bottom with a coffee filter or scrap of fabric. That way the soil won’t fall out when he turns the bucket over. He fills the bucket full of a lightweight potting mix, shaking it to settle the soil.
2 in. or larger diameter hole cut in bucket lid for both drainage and watering
Established tomato seedling ready to hang
Hole cut in bucket lid Tomato seedling ready to hang
2 in. or larger diameter hole cut in bucket lid for both drainage and watering Established tomato seedling ready to hang
Before he puts the lid back on, Jim lays another coffee filter over the soil where the hole will be. Next, he puts the lid on and turns the bucket upside down.
Jim cuts a slit through the filter in the hole and plants a tomato seedling. To give the tomato a fast start, he strips off the lower leaves and plants the seedling deeply so roots can form along the stem. He places the planted bucket in a sunny location and keeps it well-watered for the next few weeks.
When the plant is about a foot tall, Jim’s ready to hang it up. The bucket needs a solid support to hold the weight. A clothesline pole is ideal. If you hang the bucket from a building, make sure it won’t bang into a window or the siding on a windy day.
This part is easier with two people — one to lift and hold the bucket and one to fasten the chain. Jim drapes a chain over the clothesline post while a friend lifts the bucket. He pulls the chain through the handle of the bucket and fastens the ends together. You can buy chain loops made specifically for fastening or use a piece of heavy wire and twist it to hold the chain together. Either way, Jim finds he can raise and lower the height to harvest his tomatoes
— From Garden Gate Issue 39