Knowing how to grow tomatoes upside down may seem like a gimmick, but many gardeners believe that this method of growing increases yields and saves space.
Benefits to Growing Tomatoes Upside Down
As many gardeners know, tomatoes are actually a vine that requires additional support as it grows. Unsupported, most tomato varieties will grow along the ground increasing the chance of the fruit rotting before it ripens. This is why most tomatoes must be staked or caged.
Learning how to grow tomatoes upside down will also save a significant amount of space. This may be particularly important in a smaller vegetable garden layout where every foot is carefully planned. Some gardeners even grow herbs on the tops of the barrels, doubling the space that is saved.
Growing tomatoes upside down may also increase the overall yield per plant. While no one is exactly sure why this occurs, some theorize it may have to do with the controlled environment present in the bucket, which often maintains a steadier moisture level.
Choosing Tomatoes to Grow
When you grow tomatoes upside down, you may want to limit the varieties you choose to those with smaller fruits. Many gardeners prefer heirloom tomatoes for their smaller, flavorful fruit. Most heirloom seedlings would be an excellent choice for this project, but common hybrids will also work. Just stay away from plants that typically yield fruit that are larger than eight ounces.
How to Grow Tomatoes Upside Down
Start this project with a sturdy bucket. Five gallon buckets with a handle can be bought at a home improvement store and are excellent for this type of project. These buckets are also used to hold paint and joint compound, so save the empty buckets as you do home improvement projects for your garden.
Once you have a suitable bucket, drill a hole that is two inches in diameter in the bottom center of the bucket. Place the bucket on several bricks or other items that will hold it at least six inches off of the ground while you plant the tomato seedling in the bucket.
Add some of the soil you will be using to the bucket. Thread the seedling through the hole in the bucket, but only allow three inches of the seedling to hang out of the bucket. The rest of the stem should be buried in the bucket. Any leaves on the part of the stem of the tomato plant that is inside the bucket should be pinched off to prevent disease.
When the plant is secured in the bucket, continue adding soil until the bucket is almost full, leaving only a two inch lip for watering purposes. You may also want to add nitrogen rich compost during this step.
With the tomato seedling planted, you can then hang the bucket. Be sure that the hook that is used can easily support the weight of the bucket.
Water the bucket until water leaks out of the hole in the bottom. Check for settling of the soil: if it is significant you may have to add more soil to the bucket. When the soil is at the correct level, put the lid on top of the bucket to prevent as much water loss as possible.
While this technique for growing tomatoes may save space, it may not work in your part of the country if wind is often a problem. You must also be sure that you have a structure that can easily withstand the weight of the bucket plus the tomato plant when it is covered in fruit. If you are unsure that your equipment meets these requirements, consider growing your tomatoes in the ground this year.