The Upside Down Tomato Garden
- They are generally less work than a vegetable patch since there is no digging and weeding involved. They even have an advantage over grow-bags since you don’t need to worry about using stakes to help keep the plant upright.
- You don’t need a garden or even a patio or balcony area to use them, you can even hang them indoors in a light spot.
- Since they are not in contact with the ground they generally suffer less from soil borne diseases, damaging insects and fungal growth, and garden visitors who may like to eat tomatoes too will have more of a problem getting at them.
- Tending them is a bit easier since you hang them high enough not to have to bend down and they tend to get a lot of air circulation which they like.
How to use an Upside Down Tomato GardenYou can either buy ready-made upside down planters or make your own. (see our article on How to make an upside down tomato planter). It is not that difficult to make your own planter if you are the handy type but you will probably want to buy a ready made planter since they are becoming both quite widely available and reasonably priced. One thing to be aware of with the fabric type of planter – such as the Topsy Turvy hanging planters – is that they tend to only last one season. Buying a planter made of plastic is generally a better investment since they generally stand up to several seasons of weather. One issue with the upside down planter, as with any other hanging garden, is ensuring it is kept well watered. Some of the more expensive planters – such as the EarthBox planter – are self-watering but if you are on hand to water the planter every day or two then a cheaper planter will be fine. One tip is to make sure you add some water retention granules – such as vermiculite – to your compost that you put in the planter, this will help ensure that the soil retains some of the water rather than just flushing straight through. Companion planting tomatoes with Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) is helpful in repelling tomato worm, whitefly and asparagus beetle, and other other complementary plants like basil and parsley can be planted on top of the tomato garden. Some other issues to be aware of are:
- some of the stands on the newer models of the upside down tomato garden are plastic and not quite as strong as the metal legs on the older models
- some models can also be a bit top-heavy and prone to tipping over, especially on a windy day, so one tip is to load the base and/or anchor it to something sturdy
- A few people I have discussed upside down growing methods with believe that tomatoes, like all fruit/vegetables, naturally dislike growing upside down and therefore feel that you are actually giving the plant a disadavantage by hanging it upside down. There is some debate over this, but the bottom line is that a lot of people have had good results with inverted growing methods and I think that speaks for itself. One common belief is that some varieties such as cherry tomatoes and other smaller fruited types of plant seem to be better suited to thee methods.
- Tomato plants do need a certain amount of sun exposure to grow and ripen the fruit and having the planter above the plant will obviously make it more difficult to get sun and light. To try and negate this problem you can ensure that your planter, or garden, is well placed, in an open area that receives a good amount of sunlight.
- While you could argue that an upside down garden or planter is less work in terms of digging and preparing a vegetable patch, there is obviously some work involved in preparing the planter, especially if you do not have any existing fixture on which its convenient to hang a planter. Upside down tomato gardens tend to be easier in this repect than a planter such as the topsy turvy, since they are generally supplied with a hanging frame, but of course the trade-off is that they are more expensive. If you are using a large planter then lifting this full of wet compost can often be a two-person job and you need a sturdy fixture from which to hang it, especially when you consider that hanging planters can move around alot in a heavy wind and can exert alot of stress on their anchor