Upside-Down Tomatoes — Grow Vertically to Save Space! 24


We struggled with too much shade at our previous home, but we had plenty of sunshine on our driveway. My husband, however, remained steadfast in his refusal to rip up the concrete to put in a garden. Not to be dissuaded, I came up with an alternative plan to utilize the space: upside down tomatoes. You’ve seen those Topsy Turvy contraptions, right? I decided to create one of my own with a bucket I had on hand to see how well it works. It took about two hours, including paint drying time. If you’re not painting, you’re looking at 20 minutes or so to put one of these together.

How to make a planter for upside-down tomatoes

Drill a hole in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket. I used a 1.5″ or so hole saw. (I also opted to paint the bucket so it wasn’t so glaringly white.) Set the bucket up on blocks of some sort. This will allow you to place the tomato seedling without smashing it or requiring a lovely assistant.

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Cut a piece of scrap fabric roughly the size of the base of the bucket. Cut a slit to the center of the fabric.This does not have to be neat and tidy, as evidenced below. You’re doing this only to help hold the soil and tomato seedling in place until it gets rooted in. Place the tomato seedling in the hole, with the greens hanging below the bucket. Pull the edges of the fabric slit together, snug around the stem. You can see in the photo on the right (below) that my poor little seedling lost all of its surrounding soil in the transfer. That little dark line in the center of the bucket are the roots of the seedling.

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Gently add soil around tomato roots and continue adding soil until the bucket is nearly full. I used a mixture of roughly two parts potting soil, two parts peat moss, and one part perlite for a lighter mix, since it will be hanging.

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In the left photo, you can see the little planted tomato hanging there between the blocks. And in the photo on the right, you can see the tomato bucket hanging from the outside of the carport.

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I made two of these planters for upside-down tomatoes and hung them in two different locations. Here’s what they looked like a couple of months later.

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24 thoughts on “Upside-Down Tomatoes — Grow Vertically to Save Space!

  • SoniaR

    I like the idea of painting it too… looking forward to hearing more about this project.

  • Dawna Chipman

    My father has been doing the Topsy Turvy in buckets for year now. He used a styrofoam circle, with a slit cut in it, in the bottom of the bucket to help hold the tomatoe plants in and keep the soil from washing out. You dont want to use a foam that soaks up too much water or it can rot the plants off. Last year I also planted some with holes/plants in the side, seemed to work well and its nice not having to tie up the plants!

  • The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet

    This is great. A couple of years ago our gardening space was limited so we hung a similar version (osh buckets) along the patio wall…we did tomatoes and zucchinis… and drilled a hole in the top and a hole on each side…it actually worked out really well…I’ll post a picture if I can find one…!

  • vollmerdp

    Fun! I have two cloth-in-a-wire-frame hangars from Gardener’s Supply and I’ve used them over and over again. Hopefully you have enough soil in the bucket to handle the lack of moisture compared to right-side-up planters and just using the ground. You will need to keep an eagle eye on the moisture — as you know, tomatoes require a LOT of water during fruiting.

    I was very successful with them in NebrasAlso, those in colder climates can consider painting their buckets flat black to keep them warmer. Yes, dark colors will indeed make a difference. There’s even this particular shade of red that a university (Cornell, I think?) determined is of the proper wavelength to help out tomato (and related plant) growth.

    • Attainable Sustainable

      @vollmerdp Good to know you were successful with them! I dislike growing in containers because keeping them moist can be so difficult, but we’re so limited on growing space, I figure it’s worth a try. We’ve got pretty high humidity, so maybe that will make it slightly less forgiving??

  • alisab

    You are brilliant! My kid has been wanting me to get a topsy turvy, mostly because she likes to buy things off TV. The pro for me is that I need to keep plants close to the house to dissuade deer from doing them in. I CAN’T WAIT TO TRY THIS.

  • alisab

    You are brilliant! My kid has been wanting me to get a topsy turvy, mostly because she likes to buy things off TV. The pro for me is that I need to keep plants close to the house to dissuade deer from doing them in. I CAN’T WAIT TO TRY THIS.

  • Brette Sember

    Great idea! I haven’t bought one of these but have always wanted to try it!

  • Sheryl

    Clever idea! Although it’s too cold here right now, I look forward to being able to grow some nice juicy tomatoes when the warm weather returns. Keep us posted on your success!

  • Melanie Haiken

    My sister did this last summer and her “upside down” tomatoes outproduced her others by quite a lot! I’m determined to try it myself, although I haven’t figured out a good place to do it yet. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • MyKidsEatSquid

    I want to try this too. It’s too cold here right now for tomatoes but I’d love grow fresh tomatoes this summer.

  • Living Large

    We have problems with our growing space as well. I’ve made my own upside down tomato pots for the past two years and they’ve done better than the ones on in the deck pots!

  • JCreatureTravel

    Love this idea. We have very little room for growing anything. And this step-by-step makes it easy to follow. Having fresh tomatoes would be delightful

  • Erika

    Brilliant!! I also have wanted to do the TV version, but refused to dish out that much $$ for something I’m sure cost $3.00 at best to create..I knew there had to be a DIY version….YOU ARE GENIUS and provided great instructions. Thank you in advance.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Erika, I’m the queen of figuring out how to do something with what I have on hand! LOL It doesn’t *always turn out, but sometimes it does. I’m glad you think this will work for you!

  • Donna F.

    My back porch is facing a busy highway that has a redlight not far from where I live. I get noxious gas fumes on a daily basis. My question is…is it SAFE to eat the tomatoes that will be exposed to gas and diesel engines exhausts? Thank you.

  • Sammi @Sammi Sunshine

    This is so cool! I just moved into my own home, and I am so excited to grow veggies!

    Peace & Sunshine
    Sammi at Sammi Sunshine- a food blog

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