Tomatoes in upside-down planters make a great use of space but there are a few important things to know so that your efforts will be fruitful.
Not a whole lot of work went into my hanging strawberry planter project. I tucked some extra runners into a hanging planter I found at a thrift store and hung it off the garage. I’ve kept it watered for 2 months now and look how well it is doing. It is covered in little green strawberries and a ton of flowers. Not too shabby.
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For the past 2 years I have been growing tomatoes in those fugly Topsy Turvy planters. Sure they are ugly, but I don’t have a lot of space and I love a lot of tomatoes and they actually do grow great tomatoes. Last year I hung three on the southwest corner of my garage and no one even noticed the crappy green ivy design because of all the cherry and grape toms dangling from below. There were a few factors that made it a success for me and I’ve listed that all here.
This year I decided to try a strawberry planter because let’s face it, who wouldn’t want delicious fresh strawberries growing off their garage? I had a bunch of strawberry runners over at my community garden plot and I found this handy “Flower Tower” at Value Village for few bucks. You can buy Topsy Turvey ones with the same general idea, or I can assume that cutting some holes in a bucket would really yield the same results. I filled the planter with garden soil, tucked in the runners, and voila – a hanging strawberry planter.
For now the biggest challenge has been to water it without the soil running through the holes. But as it compacts a little, it seems to be holding better. I’ve got about 36 plants in there so lets hope for a good harvest. If this works it may be the only way I grow strawberries again! Here are a few hanging container products if you want to start your own:
At the end of June I posted a summary of my 2008 Topsy Turvy failure and my 2009 outline for success in Topsy Turvy: Ugly as Stink But Good Tomatoes.
And a sucess it was! In August and September, I have had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with. It’s mid- September, and they are still going strong. I walk by and pick a few off for snacks, cook some, freeze some, dry some, and give them away and still I have tons leftover.
So now I spend my rockin’ weekends putting them by in various ways. These Sweet Heart Grape Heirlooms are so sweet and meaty that I just couldn’t bear freezing them. So the lucky fellas got oven-dried overnight and will be preserved in olive oil for pizzas and pasta.
- grape or cherry tomatoes
- coarse salt
- olive oil
- fresh herbs
Wash, dry and half the tomatoes. Arrange tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Dry in the oven at 175 degrees F for 6-8 hours. After you have done it a few times, you’ll know how long it takes and you may be able to leave them overnight safely. I find mine take about 8-hours. Pack into a jar with some fresh herbs & olive oil. Refridgerate and start enjoying. Note: these aren’t meant for long term storage, so eat ‘em up (like that will be hard).
I grew Topsy Turvy Tomatoes last year on my garage. I put 2 tomato plants (as they recommended) in each of my 3 planters and got only about 15 cherry tomatoes and 4 regular tomatoes. I also tried a zucchini plant which didn’t grow any fruit. I think that there were a number of factors working against me last year: weather, soil, type of tomato, staking, and watering.
Here is how I did it differently this year:
Weather: Last year it was a cold and rainy summer, this year, so far it has been warm and sunny.
Soil: Last year I used coconut coir and topsoil with a bit of manure, this year I have used ½ compost from my garden, 1/2 organic vegetable mix, and a handful of complete organic fertilizer for each planter.
Type of Tomato: Last year I used 2 types of cherry tomato and a beefsteak. This year I bought tomato seeds meant for containers because they produce on small plants (Tumbler Cherry, Sweet Heart Grape tomatoes, and Gold Nugget Cherry). I still have 2 tomato plants in each planter, but this is working a whole lot better this year. The Tumbler is setting a lot of fruit, and the gold nugget is nice and bushy with small leaves. The only one that is too leggy and not setting fruit yet is the Sweet Heart Grape. I got these all at West Coast Seeds.
Staking: Last year the tomatoes grew up towards the sun then got heavy or wind blown and the main stalk would break or crack. This year, I’ve staked the plants downwards.
Watering: last year I would water from the top of the planter as recommended, and the water would run right through, taking all the soil nutrients with it and getting soil all over the leaves and fruit. This year I have put pop bottle watering spikes filled with sand to slow release the water over 12 hours.
The result: so far so good. After a sunny and average temperature June, I have lots of little tomatoes and steady healthy growth. No yellowing or drooping, the leaves are bright green, and they are setting fruit in healthy clusters. My next step will be pruning them. And the final step? Bruchetta, and salad, and salsa, and pasta, and omelets, and…