Monday, July 7, 2008

Upside-down tomatoes!

They're going great! You don't need any fancy product! You can make an upside-down tomato hanger for $8. Here's the setup:
  • 5 gallon paint bucket and lid from hardware store $7
  • permeable soil barrier scrap that fits inside bottom of bucket: scrap of landscape fabric, coffee filter, etc.
  • 100lb-test chain, S-hook for hanging, $0.69/ft, $0.30 (optional, if you don't have a hook from which to hang the bucket handle)

Please refer to my skillful Google Sketch diagram :)

  1. Cut a 2 inch hole out of the bottom center of the bucket. I used a drill. I also drilled 4-5 small drainholes in the bottom.
  2. Cut slits in the landscape fabric or coffee filter in an X pattern, like in the diagram. The slits should form a hole big enough for you to ease your tomato seedling through.
  3. Ease the seedling, still in its pot, through the fabric slits - tip first - so the fabric is snugly around the plant stem near the soil line, or however deep you want to replant the seedling. I wrapped my seedling gently into a saran wrap cocoon to protect the little leaves.
  4. Balance the bucket between two chairs so that it's right side up but off the ground and the seedling can hang freely from the bottom. Ease the seedling, tip first, through the 2 inch hole in the bottom of the bucket till the fabric is flush with the bottom of the bucket. While holding the seedling in place with one hand, carefully begin filling the bucket with soil around the seedling with the other hand. When there's enough soil to hold the seedling in place in the bucket, remove its pot and loosen the roots.

  5. Finish filling the bucket with soil to the top.

  6. Secure the lid and turn the bucket over so the bucket is upside down but the seedling is upright, sticking up out the hole you drilled. Let the plant 'sit' for a week or two so it can settle in its new home, extend its root system, etc.

  7. Turn over and hang by bucket handle in a sunny location. I hung each of my buckets from my plot's arbor/pergola by wrapping the chain around the handle and an overhead 2x4, and securing the chain with the S-hook.

Here's some real-world pics! My roommate and I painted the 3 buckets. Like the bucket monster? That one is actually a 3rd right side up planter I have at my house, inspired by my 3rd roomate. I painted the sunflower and monster buckets, and my roommate painted the sun/moon scene bucket. The pic with the red flower is actually just the other side of the sunflower bucket. Notice my earthworm with sunglasses :)

I left my plant right side up for about 2-3 weeks, during which time it got cold, the soil got really cold, and both tomatoes experienced symptoms of phosphorus deficiency (really, just an uptake problem b/c of the low soil temperature) - curled, purple leaves, stems erect. I thought it might be a real disease, because these mimic some leaf curl virus symptoms, but as soon as the weather warmed up the symptoms subsided. My tomato plants probably doubled to tripled in size by the time I hung them upside down in my community plot. That's not saying much, as they were pretty small to begin with. But, when I took off the lids after hanging them, I found the roots had made it all the way through the 5 gallons of soil! Hopefully that's a good sign I'll have some big tomato plants soon!

UPDATE: Here's a pic of the bottom hole.


  1. Thank you very much for your nice information.

    Sunbrella Fabric

  2. Nice paintin'- I'm either going to try and create wick containers or upside-down containers for a few of mine next season. Thanks for the info.
    Question about your Big White Pink Stripes; Mine are growing clusters of 10-20 on every other plant and I thought it was odd for a fruit supposedly up to 1lb... Is yours doing the same?

  3. I had the big white seeds, but I ended up not growing any to the point of making tomatoes; they became part of my grafting experiments, and unfortunately were some of the ones which didn't survive. But I'll have to keep your observations in mind when I do, hopefully, end up with a survivor ;) Sorry I can't be more help!

  4. Thanks for taking the time to reply. Sorry about your grafting experiments; I tried a few myself because of how vigorous the volunteer cherry had gotten but they never worked. I've got my BWPS on MyFolia if you wanted to see what not to do. :D

  5. I can't find you on MyFolia... what should I search for?

    I've didn't know about that site before - it's great! :)