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The "Topsy-Turvy" Tomato Planter


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I’ve never considered growing tomatoes. I suppose it’s mainly owing to the fact that I really don’t care that much to eat tomatoes except in pasta sauce. I don’t like raw tomatoes, tomato, basil and mozzarella salad, and I don’t care much for a BLT sandwich.

My Father is quite a good gardener, but over the years I’ve watched him struggle with all manner of dusts, sprays and powders to fumigate his tomatoes and fight off crawling, creeping and flying insects. He’s crafted wire barricades and small white picket fences to ward off neighborhood cats and other small creatures, who in spite of his efforts still found ways to burrow under or crawl over his barriers and get to his tomatoes.

I’ve watched him launch this never-ending, decades-old war without ever winning. He’s produced hundreds of delicious fruit over the years, but I’ve always thought there had to be a better and cheaper way to grow tomatoes. Then I was watching TV one day…..

As a rookie tomato gardener I was looking for the fastest, most economical, maintenance-free method for my first large foray into tomato harvesting. Other than an occasional dose of liquid fertilizer or pre-mixed bug-spray, all I wanted to do was water my tomato plant(s). Nothing else. And given my lack of knowledge into the intricate nuances of the delicate taste variances between the different breeds of tomatoes, I didn’t want to fuss with turning plants at 7am for maximum sun, or setting Italian heirloom tomatoes in Tuscan organic compost or anything complicated like that. Something that “I had seen on TV” would work just fine.

I purchased a “Topsy-Turvy Tomato Planter” at my local Home Depot for $9.95. Now if you choose to go the Topsy-Turvy route of cultivation, you are only purchasing the hanging planter device-the nylon hanging planter and the wire hanger and wire hook. You must buy the tomato plants, (2-3 are recommended), the dirt and fertilizer, separately.

I purchased 3 tomato plants-1 cherry tomato, 1 yellow tomato and 1 full-size tomato. Unfortunately, I threw out the plastic plant stakes so I can’t report the exact plant breed I purchased.

The tough part of the getting started with the Topsy-Turvy is the delicate part of threading your tomato plants through the “bottom” end of the planter. You have to be very gentle and weave the tomato plant through the hole in the end of the planter then secure it with a small sponge. This sponge is what secures the stem of the tomato plant when it hangs upside down. The dirt in the planter, and the weight of that dirt when it gets wet, is what holds the tomato plant “upside-down” and holds it in place-really an ingenious invention.

The planter has been up since mid-June and the only task is a daily watering. The planter takes about 1 gallon of water a day. We had record rain in June in Spokane, but the heat came in July and my first blossoms came this week. The plants are growing about 1-2” a day and the stalk is thick and green.

Tomato Plant 018.JPG

Tomato Plant 022.JPG

Now the tests await. Will the “Topsy-Turvy” produce fruit? Will the weight of the tomatoes pull down the plant and the planter? And the true test. Will the tomatoes taste as good as tomatoes grown the natural way in soil?

Do you have a “Topsy-Turvy” tomato planter? Has it worked for you?

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Just for additional info:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/20/garden/20tomato.html

I do like the idea of hanging buckets! Sigh, one more project to add to the list...

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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One gallon of water a day! My observations in the neighborhood have been that many people use them- hanging from front porches and similar spots, particularly on lots without an area that looks suitable for tomatoes. I think it is a great way for people to "get the bug" and to be interested in growing their own produce.

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Last summer I bought a knock off on ebay. Looks exactly the same but whatever fabric was used ripped in half in our triple digit heat and the weight of the water. I woke up to hanging wire, shreds of green material and my plants crumpled on the ground. I tried to save them but the deformity to the vines caused by hanging upside down didn't fare well when replanted in an upright container.

I think the 'name brand' "topsy turveys" are probably OK - I just won't buy another one and find out it's not.

I did plant more tomatoes in containers that are doing quite well - my husband put them on his painting scaffold to keep our dog away from it (he likes tomatoes).

I lost my little tag too. I think they are some kind of Roma tomato.

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I had one (which, as a matter of fact, just went to the Big Dump in the Sky last week, well, and the recycling plant in the sky too.....) several years ago. Mine had its own stand. Expensive POS it was....

The plants just did not thrive. I had put the contraption in the same bed where I'd successfully grown tomatoes for several years running before I developed RA and could no longer tend to things in the ground. So I know the location should have been fine.

I got one marginal crop, and then nothing. I was careful to select indeterminate varieties, and varieties I'd grown before. I like indeterminates, because you get a harvest over the whole season, rather than in one massive glut. The vines just sort of stopped growing and flowering after the first small harvest. The tomatoes I did get were small, too.

I think there were 2 things that doomed the concept. First, even though I watered religiously, sometimes twice a day, I think the heat build-up in the plastic bag made the soil too hot. Second, I think that there wasn't enough room and soil in the bag to support 3 full sized plants. Maybe if I'd planted one normal size variety, and then cherries or grape varieties, it would have worked better. But I think the roots got too crowded in there when they got to be mature.

I had high hopes for it, because I LOOOOOVE vine-ripe tomatoes, and as I said, can't do the ground level gardening any longer. But for me, it was a quite expensive fiasco.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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Probably depends a lot on where you live, but if you live in a warm climate, I can't imagine the Topsy Turvy would be a good idea as the blossoms will not set tomatoes once the roots routinely reach around 90 degrees, and that will happen a lot more quickly if you've got something hanging in hot sun and wind.

That's why they tell you to water deeply, so that the roots grow deep into the soil, and mulch as much as you can - to keep the roots cool as long as possible into the summer.

Of course, if you live in a cooler climate, that shouldn't matter. And perhaps the Topsy Turvy will work fine if you don't overload it.

After all, that smiling couple in the ad certainly looks pleased.

______________

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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In many tomato forums where I visit, I have read a lot about people's T.T. growing experiences.

Basically, if you live in an apartment and have only a balcony for growing, this is a good way.

Otherwise, do it the normal way.

dcarch

Edited by dcarch (log)
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I have one Topsy Turvy with an Early Girl (indeterminate) growing quite well and producing tomatoes but they are smaller than the same age plants in large pots but are perfectly adequate for salads.

I have it hanging from the east end of the deck on the north side of my house so it gets morning sun then is in shade until mid-to-late afternoon. Because of the changing track of the sun, it will soon be in shade for longer - during the hottest part of the summer here in the high desert.

We have had several days of 100 + temps but so far not much wind. I have ready a shadecloth wind screen on a frame (so I can move it depending on the wind direction) for when we do get those hot winds which seem to suck the moisture out of everything.

I have a drip watering system on timers and have a moisture meter to check the soil in the 100+ containers that compromise my garden.

I did note some yellowing of the leaves on the tomato plant in the TT but a couple of tablespoons of Epsom salts about every ten days has cured that problem.

If you don't know about this "trick" you might consider trying it. It really works well in container gardening where minerals tend to leach out of the soil more rapidly where the soil drains rapidly.

Just took these photos, first of the TT tomato and then of the same variety, same age (Early Girl) that is sharing a large (20 inch) container with a sibling.

HPIM2803.JPG

HPIM2804.JPG

The fruits on the TT plant are about 2/3 the size of the fruits on the other.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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The plants will still want to grow up towards the sun. The suggestion that weight of the fruit will make the plant grow "down" doesn't seem to apply if you're growing cherry tomatoes (like my mom discovered she is doing this year. Surprise, Ma! :laugh: ). As David mentioned, it was the threading of the plant through the opening that caused her to end up with cherry tomatoes this year...it was the only tomato plant she had on hand that wasn't too thick to fit through the planter opening.

I look forward to your seeing your progress.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Have you considered building a raised bed (or having someone build it for you)? We built 3 of them a few years ago - wooden box frame finished with Trex. They stand about 3 feet high and 4 feet long. I can weed and harvest without having to bend down. They are brilliant!

"Unleash the sheep!" mamster

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Do you have a “Topsy-Turvy” tomato planter? Has it worked for you?

We bought three Topsy-Turvy-esque planters last year from an online vendor. They went up a bit late and spent the growing season in our greenhouse. After the fruit was harvested and the units were cleaned up, I gave them a B+ grade.

Now it's year two and we're looking at a C or D. Last year's wicks disintegrated, the metal bits are quite rusted, and the nylon soil pouch is falling apart.

I like the idea of hanging tomato vines, just not the way they're made and sold. The ones I bought, in retrospect, are highly overpriced and soon will be buried in the landfill, not biodegrading.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Have you considered building a raised bed (or having someone build it for you)? We built 3 of them a few years ago - wooden box frame finished with Trex. They stand about 3 feet high and 4 feet long. I can weed and harvest without having to bend down. They are brilliant!

Raised bed planters will not work for me in the yard next to my house, which is why I am using containers. I've tried them in the past with limited success for one particular reason.

My shade trees are mature fruitless mulberry, with extremely invasive roots which grow into the garden areas within weeks of being rototilled.

The containers have to be off the ground, on pavers or the roots will grow up into the pots and strangle the roots of the potted plant and when emptied, the pots are absolutely full of the tough, red, wiry roots from the mulberry trees.

It is also difficult to grow grass under these trees - even the toughest hybrid Bermuda varieties. I have some tough ground cover plants, creeping thyme, germander and mints which do okay.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Just an update on my progress. One week since the last photo and I have considerably more growth and blossoms. No sign of fruit yet, but we've only had about three weeks of hot weather here in Eastern, Washington. The planter soil base was Miracle-Gro and I fertilized it once with a liquid fertilizer and then once today with a granular tomato plant food. Here's hoping that fruit will start to bear soon.

July 10:

Tomato Plant 018.JPG

July 17:

042.JPG

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just an update on my progress. One week since the last photo and I have considerably more growth and blossoms. No sign of fruit yet, but we've only had about three weeks of hot weather here in Eastern, Washington. The planter soil base was Miracle-Gro and I fertilized it once with a liquid fertilizer and then once today with a granular tomato plant food. Here's hoping that fruit will start to bear soon.

July 10:

Tomato Plant 018.JPG

July 17:

042.JPG

This past week the weather in Eastern, Washington, has been typically hot for late July--highs in the upper 90's. The tomato plant still is developing a lot of blossoms and in the past week fruit has started to develop. I'm still watering everyday, but I've drawn back a bit on the amount of water. I've read that the inside of the Topsy Turvy planter can get really hot during the heat of summer and if you water too much, the soil gets so hot it can basically cook the roots of the tomato plant so some people recommend drawing back on the water. Another traditional tomato grower I spoke to in Oregon last week recommended pulling back on the amount of water once the fruit started to set because she said that over-watering leads to mushy, tastesless tomatoes. We'll see if she's right when and if we get to do a taste test in a month or so.

In the meantime, here's another photo progress report:

July 10:

July 10.JPG

July 17:

July 17.JPG

July 25:

July 25 2 (2).JPG

July 25 2 (1).JPG

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If one started with a young enough seedling, wouldnt a regular pot work?

Use a wire around the rim or build a nylon rope basket around the pot, to connect it to the hanging wires/ropes, and grow the tomato out of the drain-hole?

That would allow for durability and take care of that UGLY fabric tube. I'd kinda want to grow some fuzzy herb on the top, and the tomato dangling down.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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If one started with a young enough seedling, wouldnt a regular pot work?

Use a wire around the rim or build a nylon rope basket around the pot, to connect it to the hanging wires/ropes, and grow the tomato out of the drain-hole?

That would allow for durability and take care of that UGLY fabric tube. I'd kinda want to grow some fuzzy herb on the top, and the tomato dangling down.

I suppose that might work, but the Topsy-Turvy planter only cost me $9.95 and it spared me the cost and labor involved in constructing my own upside-down planter. I do like your idea of planting an herb on top of a planter with the tomato dangling out of the bottom. It wouldn't work with the Topsy-Turvy though, as it's designed with a top that is primarily closed with only a hole for watering. The setup you describe would work though with an herb plant on top and a tomato on the bottom.

As far as the ugly design on the tube, I don't care so much what the Topsy-Turvy looks like as long as it produces some nice tomatoes in about a month or so.

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My plant bag has begun to split in one spot and is repaired with hose tape.

I saw This sturdier version in the new Gardener's Supply Catalog and when I went online saw the two-for-one deal so ordered the for next season.

The existing plant continues to fruit and bloom and so far I have picked eighteen small to medium tomatoes - all have excellent flavor.

I think that next year I will start a couple of determinate varieties that have produced a lot of fruit which sort of comes in waves. That is, they bloom, fruit and when the fruits are mature and beginning to ripen, another wave of blooms appear.

Planting them a few weeks apart should insure that one will have ripening fruit as the other has them about half way to maturity.

We had over a week of 100+ temps but I think the fact that the bag itself is in shade during most of the day is a big factor. The foliage gets plenty of sun.

There is a tomato planter that is on a stand and has a top that is intended to use as a planter. The Upside-Down tomato planter

It is more expensive but handy for folks who don't have a place to hang the TT.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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We tried this last summer along with our regular 6-8 mixed tomatoes. The thing was a disaster and a waste of time and money. Our other plants did very well. This year all are in the ground. Even Early Girl is late this year and we have had only two so far and absolutely delicious.

My neighbor tried to build his own hanging planter but it became so heavy that it fell so if anyone decides to try building one, I suggest you make it and hang it well.

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Back on July 25-

July 25 2 (2).JPG

July 25 2 (1).JPG

Not much news to report since my last photo update on July 25--still a lot of blossoms, a lot of growth and a lot of little green tomatoes. Yet I seem to be at a standstill in the past week. Not a lot of new growth and the green tomatoes don't seem to be getting bigger or ripening. We had a few days of thunderstorms. Other than that, our temperatures have been 85-95 with little humidity. I've backed off the watering a bit, but not to the point of the plant getting weary. Am I in a late summer tomato growing funk? Is this normal?

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David, your future looks tomato-licious.

This is the second year for me with a few upside-down baskets and I have to say it's not looking good. We went west for two weeks and had neighbors checking in to water everything. It all worked out except for the Topsy-Turvies. Those felt wicks failed and the reservoir got all punky with algae.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Your plant looks healthy. Weather is such a factor. My "in pot" ones are similarly slow here in Southern California. I will check out the topsy turvies I noticed on front porches around the hood and report back.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The past week was quite nerve-wracking for my Topsy-Turvy experiment. I travelled to Oregon last week for 4 days and watered the planter early the morning I left. Then it went two days without water and the temperatures at home were in the upper 80's with no rain. I returned home last Saturday and to my horror, (although I shouldn't have been surprised), the tomato plant was withered and appeared to be on its last few hours of life. This past week has been a struggle, but then to my amazement, Topsy-Turvy bounced back.

I clipped off the dead, brown end leaves and the few blossoms that didn't survive. I went back to my daily watering routine and one round of tomato food granular fertilizer. And--another surprise, I found these full-size beauties have appeared, (remember, I forgot to save the name of the specific tomato varieties I planted so we'll have to wait and see if this is the yellow or red);

Aug 13 #2 (2).JPG

The small tomatoes are still in abundance, and seem to be growing again after a slow-down in July. I left some of the brown leaves in the photo so you can see the damage I did by leaving Topsy-Turvy unwatered for two days;

Aug 13 #2 (1).JPG

The plant is still growing and it's almost to the front step. This week may be interesting--we're expecting a spike in temperatures up to 100.

Aug 13 #3.JPG

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No rain in the past week, temperatures in the mid-80's to low 90's, watering once a day. We are close, very close:

012.JPG

8-21 #1.JPG

008.JPG

What would be the perfect dish for these little beauties?

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A Tuscan bread salad. I've been having one at least every other day.

Ingredients vary but always a rustic bread, sometimes flavored with rosemary, garlic, etc. Cut or torn into bite-sized pieces

Coarsely chopped tomatoes

Chopped red onions - other types okay

Cucumbers, also cut into large dice

Fresh basil, chopped or scissored into pieces.

I like roasted garlic, thinly sliced

have also been using black garlic: :wub:

Whisk olive oil (I've also used grapeseed, macadamia and walnut)

with balsamic vinegar:

Ratio about 2:1 Oil to vinegar.

Combine in a bowl and toss until everything lightly coated.

I like to allow this to "rest" for half an hour or so but it can be served immediately.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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