Garry2009
Full Member
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:12 pm
Location: Belleville, MI

Upside-Down Tomatoes / Peppers

Hello all:

Has anyone here had experience with growing tomatoes & peppers upside down? I live in a condo where there's no ground for a garden, but I have 3 covered terraces facing due-east. So it'll have to be pots, and I'm going to try something I've never tried before...growing some things upside down. I've read numerous articles on it, and they all declare (with pictures) overwhelming success...so I'm gonna give it a whirl. My seedlings are already underway (in the furnace room with a grow-light...sigh) -- Beedsteak tomatoes, Green Bell and Sweet Banana peppers.

My questions are:
(1) The Beefsteak tomatoes are kinda heavy when full grown; do I need to do something the make sure they don't "fall off" the vines? They don't fall off normal plants (well, most don't), but stilll...there's just something that bugs me with that planter that'll be swinging in the breeze.
2. I'm using Vigoro All Purpose Plant Food: After I transplant into the kooky trapeze planter, how often should I use the "feed"?
3. I've seen where some folks plant things (herbs, spices, etc) on TOP of the planter...does (or can) this alter the taste of the tomatoes? Or maybe...could certain things alter the taste more than other things?

Anyway, that's it for now...any advice on this daffy new process would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Garry

User avatar
tomatodude
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Sat Mar 21, 2009 8:57 pm
Location: Texas

Before you start to grow tomatoes or peppers, how much sun does your east facing terrace get? Anything less than 5-6 hours of full sunlight won't do.
Yes Beefsteaks are a big tomato..typically tomatoes don't fall of the vine till they are ripe..a strong breeze may make them fall off sooner than expected.
Companion planting does not affect the taste of tomatoes....
It's not what you Grow, it's How you grow it.

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

There was a fairly long (2 page) thread on Growing Tomatoes Upside-Down last summer. Maybe some of the advice will be helpful (some of the experienced gardeners who posted then haven't posted in a while, so last year's thread will give you additional input from folks who aren't here right now):

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=77675

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

Garry2009
Full Member
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:12 pm
Location: Belleville, MI

Thanks for the responses:

Cynthia...thanks much for the link to that old thread, I'll definitely read it.

Tomatodude: Thanks for the comments; you supported my concerns that maybe the Beefsteak is too heavy for something like that. Yeah, we get 5-6 hours of sun, no trouble with that. But we also get plenty of wind (the hous is right on the shore of a lake).

So I think I'll adjust my plans a little: I'll do ONE plant upside-down, just to see how it works out, and the rest in pots. Same with the peppers.

Thanks again, folks.
Garry

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Garry, I am enclosing a picture of a tomato plant that I am growing upside down in a 3 liter coke bottle, I found the directions for making it online but am having difficulty locating the site...I will find it, tho! Anyway, I put this plant in when it was just tiny, and it has outstripped all the others from it's 'litter'...unfortunately I am inpatient and didn't think it completely through, because the plant I chose is a Brandywine...and they get big! We will see, however. I'm going to make a couple more for some of my smaller varieties, as well. Basically what you do is cut off the bottom, firm it up with duct tape around the cut end, punch holes in, rope through the holes and voila, you've got a planter.

Here's the picture:
[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-2.jpg[/img][/img]

Rebecca

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

[url=https://www.instructables.com/id/Matts_Original_Inverted_Planter_aka_IPlanter/]Found that link[/url]!

Rebecca

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28040
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

elvenpants :wink: This is terrific! I just sowed seeds from some organic grape tomatoes that tasted so yummy I had to try growing it. Tomato package was labeled Sugar Plum Grape Tomato, and a quick search revealed that it IS a real variety, but with a rather long maturing date of 102 days. :shock:

I think this one will be perfect for the upside-down soda bottle (or maybe a gallon/2 gallon jug?) Maybe it'll grow faster like yours. Also, it's indeterminate, which should mean I'll be able to keep pruning it and, hopefully, bring it inside in the fall.

Thanks for the link! :D

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Y/W, applestar. I have the Black Cherry variety going and that's one I'm going to try next. And I think you're right about the pruning, that's kinda my plan too. Wouldn't it be great to extend the growing season that way??

Let me know how yours progresses.

"Elvenpants" :wink:

Garry2009
Full Member
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:12 pm
Location: Belleville, MI

RE:Planter

Hi Rebecca:

Hey, that's a great idea for a planter! I had originally planned to buy the "Topsy Turvy" thing, but I'm discovering that just about anything sturdy enough will do the job. As with you, my concern is weight: My seedlings are Beefsteak, and I'm kinda thinking they may be too heavy for an upside-down planter. I'm gonna try one of the plants that way, though. As you say...we'll have to wait and see if it works or if the tomatoes fall off prematurely.

Thanks for the picture, and good luck with everything!

Garry

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Garry, a couple of days ago I put together two more upside down planters, and this time, I put a Paste tomato plant in one and a Black Cherry in the other. Sometime today I will post pics of those two. They have already grown noticeably just in that short length of time! I also had my husband fix me a 5 gallon pot, it is ready for planting now, and as soon as the weather warms back up after the cold snap coming this next week, I will put either a Russian Black or a Bloody Butcher into it and see what happens there. I just love to experiment! Another good reason to grow from seed. 8) :D

Rebecca

Garry2009
Full Member
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:12 pm
Location: Belleville, MI

RE: Rebecca

Hi Rebecca:

WHOA! Sounds like you are WAY more advanced at this than me. I've pretty much decided that I'm gonna do one called the "Husky Cherry Red" upside-down...a healthy-looking seedling I picked up at Home Depot yesterday. Common sense tells me that a hanging vine, swaying in the local breeze, just isn't going to support a dozen Beefsteak tomatoes weighing maybe a pound or so each. So the Beefsteaks will go in regular planters, with support cages. Speaking of planters: A friend gave me a half dozen of those 5-gallon paint pails yesterday, so my "Cheapskate" reputation is still intact!

Yeah, I agree with you about starting ffrom seed; I think it's far more rewarding. I also have some green Bell peppers and some sweet Banana peppers that have just broken through the soil.

Good luck with everything, and thanks for the message. Do you plan to show a few pictures when things get further underway?

Later,
Garry

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

I am actually posting pics of my two newest that I mentioned in my last post. Here, without further ado, the Paste and the Black Cherry....

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-4.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-6.jpg[/img]

I will post pics as we go with these two and my other, bigger one. Also the 5 gallon pot planter once I get it started.

I don't know about more advanced than you, but I'm probably a dang sight more impatient! lol

Let's see your pictures too. And everybodys.

Rebecca

verdeman
Newly Registered
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:13 pm
Location: Mesilla Valley, NM

Upside down planting

I tried the topsy turvy planter last year and it did remarkably well even with the wind we get here. The only inconvenience was the water leaking out the bottom onto the patio. The tomato plant did not produce as much fruit as my container plantings, but still did a pretty good job.

Dennis

Garry2009
Full Member
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:12 pm
Location: Belleville, MI

RE: Rebecca & Dennis

Hi Rebecca:
Thanks for the pictures; it looks like those plants are doing beautifully! I'm a little curious about the 3-liter Coke bottles...That's gonna be enough soil for the plants, huh? As for pictures of my things, it's still a little early for that. My seedlings are still about 3" or so high. But they're coming along nicely, though! About every other watering, I use a mild solution of Vigoro All Purpose Plant Food.

Dennis: Thanks for the reply. I read a posting on the Internet that said something like, "Don't believe the Topsy Turvy commercials!"...and the guy had the same complaint: His plant looked pretty and grew well, but didn't produce a whole lot of tomatoes. But in fairness, that could be attributed to soil condition, watering, exposure to sun, temperature, and a host of other reasons. Oh well, huh?


Thanks to all,
Garry

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Garry, we will find out whether or not there is enough dirt capacity in the bottles to handle these plants...I am skeptical myself, but as I said, when you grow from seed, you have lots of 'free' plants to experiment with. And experimenting is one of my favorite parts of gardening! I have higher hopes for my 5 gallon bucket planter, which I will plant on the next good planting day and post pics. Here in Northeast Alabama, we have one more night of bone-chilling temps and then (hopefully!), winter will be gone for another year and we can get on with it!!!

Rebecca

Garry2009
Full Member
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:12 pm
Location: Belleville, MI

RE

Hi Rebecca:
Well, hopefully it'll be enough soil. I suppose if it isn't, all that would happen is that nutrient starvation would cause skimpy fruit, right?

You mentioned that planting from seed allows plenty of room for experimentation: Now, you see, there's the difference in people: Me, I'm a total nutcase! Every one of my seedlings (36 of 'em!) are like family members, you know? I had two that were kinda puny, and I put 'em on boxes that reached up under a lamp shade on a bedroom dresser...tended to them a dozen times a day until they finally perked up and took off on their own. So...I'd never dream of exposing them to a potentially harmful situation. (Do you know a good psychiatrist??). Anyway, now I face another dilemma: I'll grow maybe 4 plants in containers out on the terraces, so I'm struggling with what the heck I'm gonna do with the other 32! Quite honestly, I was figuring that maybe a half --or a quarter-- of them would turn out, but every single seed grew into a healthy plant.

Weather: It's nasty here in Michigan, too. We've now got a couple inches of snow on the ground, and the temp is somewhere in the low-30s.

Take care, thanks for the message.
Garry

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Garry, I used to be the same way about my seedlings, until I figured out that I always ended up with left-overs. So now I'm all about the ultimate yield. Still, I have enough to give away to lucky friends and family to plant for themselves, and then when theirs don't produce well, I end up giving them tomatoes! LOL. I only have limited space myself. I don't even count them anymore. You'll be fine, just keep up the good work.

Rebecca

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

On this same thread a couple weeks back I posted pics of my latest 'upside-down' tomatoes. Today I am updating to show their growth.

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-9.jpg[/img]

The Black Cherry

and....

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-10.jpg[/img]

The Amish Paste

Anyone who cares to can compare these pics to see that there is amazing growth taking place. What is uncertain is how these 3 litre bottles will accomodate the root system once these really get going! The Brandywine that I also have in the 3 litre bottle is huge and seems to be doing great so far. Here it is:

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-11.jpg[/img]

Rebecca

Garry2009
Full Member
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2009 6:12 pm
Location: Belleville, MI

RE

Hi rebecca:

Well, you certainly should be proud of those plants...they seem to be doing beautifully! Thanks for the pictures!

(Now I'm jealous...big sigh)

Garry

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

I find the whole upside down thing a little faddish and from watching the plants I see grown this way I'm not sure that growing greens down and roots up is catching on with the plants, either. They all seem to be fighting gravity, and I have seen more than a few examples where they shoot out the top anyway...

Elevenplants, sounds like you are running a side by side trial with varieties both in ground and upside down. Might it be possible to measure fruit output on a plant by plant basis, measuring like cultivars from the same batch of seeds, one against the other? It might be a little extra bookeeping but you would be doing science and your fellow gardeners a service and confirming a long held belief of mine that this method is counterproductive. Waddaya say?

HG
Scott Reil

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

HG, I had actually planned to do that anyway....like you, I am skeptical, and am only doing this for the sake of knowledge. A trial, as you say. I will be happy to do the bookkeeping (in my garden journal is recorded almost everything anyway), and share with you all what I learn. By pictures, as well.

Rebecca

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

Thank you, Elvenpants. You officially rock.

8)

HG
Scott Reil

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Ok. Here's an update. The Brandywine in the hanging 3 litre bottle is budded....the kicker is, so is the one in the ground! About a month difference in planting time, and the container plant is way bigger, but so far, judging by the buds, I'd say they are progressing about equally. As soon as the buds get big enough to show up on my camera/phone, I'll post some. Right now they are tiny, visible only by a dedicated observer (me) looking very closely. :-()

Rebecca

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

My wonderful husband made me a 'yardarm' type hanger that will fit 3 of my hanging containers - including the 5 gallon bucket! - and get the required sunlight....I'm posting a pic, although it's not the best resolution, you'll be able to tell.

So far they're all going great, except the black cherry, which mysteriously died. So now I have the 3....Brandywine (oldest), Amish Paste (newest), and Bloody Butcher (5 gallon).

Here's the pic:

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-13.jpg[/img]

Rebecca

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

So EP, any differences in size and flowering between our soil group and our yard arm group?

HG
Scott Reil

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

As I posted on the 22d, HG, both the Brandywine's are blooming! The one in the hanger is much bigger, though, having been planted roughly a month earlier. So....the one that was planted first is larger, but only now blooming. The one in the ground is not as large (though catching up quickly), but also blooming. My other two hangers are the Amish Paste and the Bloody Butcher, and since the temps have (FINALLY!!) warmed up some, they are going full guns as well. The only other Paste I have for comparison was only planted over this past weekend and will have to play serious catch-up. The other Bloody Butcher I have was planted within a week of the one in the 5 gallon, so they are proceeding about the same.

Confused yet?

:lol:

Rebecca

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

Not yet. I thought that increased soil temps in the hangers might give them an early boost, so holding even is about what I expected. The real differences should come with warmer weather and much increased growth rates...

Thanks!

HG
Scott Reil

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Yes, I agree. I too am expecting problems when the real growth kicks in. But so far, that Brandywine especially is just gorgeous!

Rebecca

msuc5vette
Full Member
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:27 pm
Location: Norther Oakland County MI

The Helpful Gardener wrote:I find the whole upside down thing a little faddish and from watching the plants I see grown this way I'm not sure that growing greens down and roots up is catching on with the plants, either. They all seem to be fighting gravity, and I have seen more than a few examples where they shoot out the top anyway...

Elevenplants, sounds like you are running a side by side trial with varieties both in ground and upside down. Might it be possible to measure fruit output on a plant by plant basis, measuring like cultivars from the same batch of seeds, one against the other? It might be a little extra bookeeping but you would be doing science and your fellow gardeners a service and confirming a long held belief of mine that this method is counterproductive. Waddaya say?

HG
I tried this last year as an experiment. I took about 5 suckers from various tomato plants and stuck them in milk jugs filled with dirt to root. After they rooted I hung the milk jugs upside down and let them grow.

It was a challenge to keep enough water in them, but they grew pretty well. Mine seamed to fight gravity and grow upward anyway.

One problem I see with the coke bottle is that it is totally clear. Sunlight will kill the roots that come close to the outsides of the bottles.

This year I am going to use the costco milk jugs since they are sturdier and let less light in.

I think the easy way to use a free bottle would be to fill a costco milk jug with dirt. Saturate the dirt. Turn it upside down with the cap on. (they are square sot hey will sit fine upside down. Drill a hold in the bottom of the jug large enough to stick a cutting into. After the cutting roots turn it upside down, take the cap off and add water through the cap opening. You will have a strong convenient handle to carry and hang it from too!

Starting a seed in the upside down milk jug would work fine too.

According to the square foot garden book, you only need 1 suare which is 0.5 cubic feed of soil for a tomato plant. Assuming 1/3 of it is organic compost. The milk jug is about .17 cubic feet. I can tell you my tomato plants roots did not take up anywhere near all of the 0.5 cubic feet last year, so maybe it is enough. I am sure amending with fertilizer would help if the plant becomes nutirent deficient.
If we all stop waiting, we will see something happen.

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

Vette, do you believe that starting with equal plant stock, if we put one in the ground with adequate space for roots, and one in an upside down milk jug, upside down itself, allow the same photoperiod, fertilization and watering regimens for both, the two plants willl have equal yields?

HG
Scott Reil

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

I'm about to go out in the rain and try to get a decent upclose pic of the brandywine....with blooms....I don't know about the clear plastic but so far, all 3 of my plants are growing great...and the ones in the clear bottles seem to be outdoing the one in the 5 gallon bucket...but we'll see. I have decided to 'sucker' these extensively to cut down on the weight, although I know it might make the fruit larger and still be too heavy....but we will see. Going out now to try to get a pic.

Rebecca

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Here's the first one...just a pic of the plant. Looking incredibly healthy and happy.

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-15.jpg[/img]

And here is the closeup of the blooms....

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-14.jpg[/img]

The Brandywine in the ground, as I said, is also blooming but not quite as large. When the rain slows some I will make the trek out there and get one of it as well.

Rebecca

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Ok...for comparison purposes....here is the Brandywine in the ground:

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-17.jpg[/img]


...and a closeup of the blooms:

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-16.jpg[/img]

So you can see that they are proceeding - AT THIS POINT - at pretty much the same rate.

But as I have said several times....we shall see. :D

Rebecca

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

Caliper of the stems is hardly concurrent; seems the in-ground model is much sturdier...

Increased soil temps from the clear bottle might well be beneficial at this point; we'll see if that continues as well...

Thanks Rebecca!

HG

p.s. Did you know I was married to a Rebecca? S'true... :)
Scott Reil

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

I'm not sure the stem size is a true indicator, Scott, for it seems to me the in-ground model would need a sturdier stem to hold itself up, whereas the hanging model would not necessarily have that requirement. From the looks of the bloom and the general health of the hanger at this point, I am letting myself hope for a few possible fruits before it completely outgrows it's container! But....we shall see. :wink:

...and you're a lucky man to have a Rebecca for your wife. I know my husband certainly feels blessed! :lol: :lol:

Rebecca

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

He and I should compare notes sometime; there might be beer involved... :)

I agree with your take on things and was talking with my friend Lisa (whom I have always credited for my organic conversion) this morning about it. She says her daughter is going into year three with hangers and loves it, but she has no real experience herself...

I remain sceptical...and curmudgeonly, entrenched in my thinking. I need data...
:wink:
HG
Scott Reil

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Yes, any note-comparing you'd do with my sweetie would most definitely involve beer. :lol:

Is there any other specific data you want that I am not currently providing? You want me to get out there with my cloth tape measure and actually measure those stems so we can compare? :lol: I will if you think it's necessary. But I will tell you that after you said that about stem size, I looked a lot closer at both plants yesterday, and there is actually very little difference in the circumference of the stems. There has been rain for two days now, and I expect a big growth spurt in the next week....soon, we should start being able to tell if the bottle is going to be large enough, for there'll be signs of stress to the plant if it isn't. I am HOPING for the best, because at the moment, it is a beautiful, healthy plant, and those blooms! :flower: Of course, the other two look good too, but this one is a beauty.

Oh, and one more pic of the blooms, from another angle:

[img]https://i701.photobucket.com/albums/ww13/elevenpictures/photo-20.jpg[/img]

Rebecca

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

I keed, I keed... :lol:

No further data collection EP, I thank you for your contribution to science as it is. I am more interested in fruit prodution than caliper and height; if the plants can keep up then I will eat my words...

HG
Scott Reil

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Now you know I don't mind the data collection - I do it anyway for my garden journal - I just hadn't realized you were going to want things like stem circumference!! :lol: :lol:

Checked on these guys a few minutes ago, and I swear they've grown 6 inches in the past couple of days! Amazing. I'm holding my breath.... :mrgreen:

Rebecca

elevenplants
Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:23 pm
Location: alabama

Came back from picking asparagus yesterday at a friends, and the first thing I noticed was my Bloody Butcher in the 5 gallon pot was all limp and dying. :cry: Upon further investigation, found the stem was nearly rotted through right where it came out of the hole in the bottom of the bucket. Not sure about why this happened in the 5 gallon bucket and not the bottles, but the Brandywine is lovelier than ever and blooming like a crazy-plant!

RIP Bloody Butcher.

That sounded ominous. :shock:

Rebecca

Return to “TOMATO FORUM”