Sunday, November 29, 2009

Upside down tomatoes

The idea of growing tomatoes upside down was something I had come across some time ago while cruising garden blogs on the nett. The idea seemed to be that growing them upside down would eliminate the hassles of weeding, pests, digging, staking out or using tomato cages. And for people with limited space, hanging the plant upside down might be a good way to go. Some sunny balcony or deck might just be the perfect place for growing a few tomatoes this way. But as space was not an issue for me I didn't bother following it up.

This year, after a request from one of my daughters for ideas on growing a few veggies in the limited space of her small unit I decided to revisit this method of growing them. But not being confident that upside down was the best method, I decided to also try another idea I had for growing in hanging pots. I will detail both methods in separate posts.
While there are a variety of commercial products available for growing tomato plants the wrong way round, I preferred a home-made solution and settled on some 200mm pots I had laying around. As the cherry tomato and small-fruited varieties seem to be considered the most suited to this growing method and I had a couple of extra plants of this type this is what I will be using. They are black cherry, a small fruited, climbing tomato.

First a hole needs to be created in the “bottom” of the container. Then some newspaper or fiber mat slit to allow the seedling to be planted through is placed in the bottom of the pot. The pot is then filled with the growing mix, I used a mixture of soil and compost. At this stage some sort of lid is needed to keep the soil in the pot. When the pot is filled with the soil mix it is then inverted and the seedling planted in the hole.

As growing the plant upside down puts some stress on it as it will still want to do what comes naturally, you will need to grow the plant right side up until it is about 300mm high. This will make sure that the plant has some decent root growth and will be large enough to be out of the shade of the pot. It is important for tomato health that they have at least 6-8 hours of sun a day so this will also dictate the hanging spot.

Once the plant is big enough it can be hung in it's chosen place. A few things need to be considered here. First upside down pots weigh a bit when filled with damp soil and a large tomato plant, this makes hanging them a challenge. Also, an upside down tomato plant will swing a bit in a stiff breeze, so make sure you take that into consideration as well. If you are going to hang one from a wall or ceiling, make sure all of your hardware is strong enough to hold all the weight. There would be nothing more soul destroying than having the whole lot come crashing down ruining your work and weeks of loving care.
The photo above illustrates one of the first problems with this method of growing tomatoes. Within eight hours the plant has twisted around and started to grow upwards. Nevertheless I will continue with the experiment and from time to time update progress.
As well as the hanging pots I will be looking at growing some tomatoes in wicking boxes. I will probably use some of the bush variates for this and grow them later in the season. Roma, Siberian or Taxi are a few of the tomato variates that work well here when its cooler, I may even throw in a few Black Russian.


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