Grow Upside-Down Tomatoes: A Step by Step Guide

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Have you ever bit into a store-bought tomato and tasted...nothing? 

Some remedies: buy tomatoes at the farmer's market (which can get expensive) or grow your own. 

Sure, there are a lot of excuses people give for not growing their own produce, namely: I don't have space. I don't have time.


All you need is 20 minutes to set up, and a 2-minute daily watering commitment, a hook and sunny spot to grow tomatoes upside-down.

Even if you do have loads of space, upside-down tomatoes have a few additional upside-sides: you don't have to stake them, you don't have to deal with the soil-residing pests, and the container is easily moved for optimal sun or shade exposure.

According to Bruce Solomon, a garden expert at Baker's Nursery, now through the end of September is the perfect time of year to start planting fall tomatoes. Plant now and your tomato will grow and flower during the warm months, the fruit will grow and set as it gets cooler. By October and November, you could be enjoying a BLT with a home-grown tomato.

Project difficulty: Easy

Time: 20 minutes

1) Find a receptacle

If you've watched late-night television or shopped at Walgreens, you've probably seen the Topsy Turvy upside-down tomato-growing contraption. That is but one way to achieve upside-down plants. Any sturdy bucket will do (Let me emphasize sturdy.  I once used an old bucket and my tomato plant unceremoniously smashed to the ground). A 5-gallon pail is a good place to start. Mine is a used kitty litter container covered in wood-grain contact paper (it's not as gross as it sounds).

Cut a 3-inch hole in the bottom of the container. Your plant will emerge from this hole.

2) Get the dirt

Solomon recommends using an all-purpose potting soil and, if you so wish, mixing with a slow release fertilizer (like compost).

3) Choose your tomato plant

Solomon suggests small fruited tomatoes in the summer, like cherry sweet 100, and yellow pear. "Early varieties" are also popular: Early Girl (a salad and slicing tomato),  Celebrity, Champion and Glacier.

4) Plant your tomato

Strip off all but the top 3 inches of leaves and branches on your tomato. The whole buried stem will eventually grow roots, making your plant stronger.

Position the plant so it's hanging upside-down and only the top 3 inches are coming out of the bucket and fill it with dirt and fertilizer. 

If you'd like, take advantage of the top of the bucket and plant basil (which tastes great with tomatoes), coriander or other herb seeds.

5) Hang in a sunny spot

Find a space that is close to a water source and gets about 8 hours of sun a day.  A hanging tomato bonus, you can move the bucket around as the seasons change to ensure the right amount of sun.

6) Maintain

It's not enough to plant, you will have to maintain your new piece of greenery.

Since the  soil is above ground and in contact with sun, it dries out more quickly than ground-grown tomatoes. Water daily through the top of the bucket (about a gallon or until you see water run out the bottom). "Tomatoes are heavy feeders," explains Solomon, which means  fertilizer every 2 weeks or so with a fertilizer like Miracle Gro or mix your own organic variety using fish emulsion (fish poop)  or seaweed.


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