New Upside Down Tomato Planters

One of my new tomato planters

One of my new tomato planters

A few years ago I made my own upside down tomato planters from fabric and wire baskets. They ended up working fabulously well and lasted for 3 seasons, but this spring I decided that they were looking a little worn out. Time for new planters.

I took three pails which I already had and drilled a one inch hole in the bottom of each. Then I drilled out a spot where there had once been a handle and used a coat hanger to make a new handle. I decided that the red color wasn’t right, so I spray painted them in a new moss green.

To place the tomato plants in the pail I first wrapped them with saran wrap, then gently poked them through the hole until they were safely through. I added soil and adjusted until the plants were at the correct depth. After adding more moisture control soil, I  planted a wave petunia on top. Overall I think the new planters turned out pretty well and they cost me only $10 for the paint (which I could have done without).

Pails

Pails

Drilling holes
Drilling holes

Add the coat hanger
Add the coat hanger

Wrap and insert the tomato plant
Wrap and insert the tomato plant

Add a petunia and voila
Add a petunia and voila

 

 

 

 

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Product Review: The Plant Nanny

Plant Nanny

I don’t get too excited about products for the garden unless they help me solve a problem. If they help me solve the problem and cost only a few dollars, then I get very excited. The Plant Nanny is one of those products.

I bought four of them from LeeValley this year, planning to use them to solve the difficulty I had encountered when watering my upside down tomato planters. I grow Tumbler tomatoes in my homemade planters, with a tomato plant growing from the bottom and a wave petunia cascading from the top.

Last year I found that when I watered the hanging planters much of the water simply flowed through and out the bottom. The grass grew green and tall directly under my planters.

Over time the planters soil became compacted, and I wasn’t confident that the petunias were getting as much water and fertilize as the tomatoes, or vice versa. Not only that, I had to water them virtually every day, and sometimes morning and evening if the weather was particularly hot.

The Plant Nanny solved this problem flawlessly. This simple clay funnel slowly feeds water to the soil, encouraging the plants to send their roots to wrap around the clay and ensure a constant supply of water.

You fill a pop bottle, any size, with water or water with fertilizer, screw it onto the plastic insert and slide it into the clay funnel. Place the funnel into the soil and you’re good to go. I find that a one litre bottle is perfect for my containers and lasts for about 2-3 days depending on the conditions.

On Fertilizer Fridays I add a tsp of all purpose fertilizer to the water. Fertilizer Fridays is what I call my weekly feeding day – it helps me keep track of when to add fertilizer to my watering schedule.

Kudos to the Plant Nanny for developing a simple solution to an age-old problem.

Update: Upside-Down Tomato Planters

Tumbler Tomatoes

This year I made three hanging planters and tried the “Topsy Turvy” method of growing tomatoes. Topsy Turvy is a brand name which has become associated with this type of planter, but there are other brands and numerous self-made models on the web, including my design in my April 2010 blog post.

See April 2010 Making an Upside Tomato Planter

Down Having done some research on cultivars to use, I opted for the Tumbler tomato because of its suitability to growing in containers. In my raised beds I planted a Tumbler among my regular Roma tomatoes to use as a comparison.

Two of the three plants in my upside down planters have done remarkably well; the third has suffered from poor rooting from day one. I suspect that I didn’t plant it deep enough initially, as it has never thrived. It has produced a number of tomatoes despite it lack of vitality, but it’s hanging on (literally) by a straggly thread.

A clear disadvantage to the reverse planter is that it requires a significant amount of watering as compared to the traditional method. This would be expected given that the water can run out and/or evaporate from the bottom of the planter with relative ease. I’m sure much of the water consumption could be attributed to the voracious thirst of the wave petunia I placed in the top of each planter; the petunias have grown to produce a massive display of colorful blooms.

On the positive side, I’ve had no problem with any of the typical disease and pests that affect the plants grown in the ground. My traditionally-grown plant is similar in size but spotted with a mild case of blight.

I’ve been feeding my tomatoes on a regular “Fertilizer Friday” schedule, despite having used a high quality planting soil with fertilizer incorporated. Tomatoes can be fairly heavy feeders, particularly while they are producing.

Overall I’ve been happy with the outcome. I’ve been plucking fruit on a daily basis since late June and there appears to be no end in sight to the flowering. My Romas won’t be ready for several more weeks, so having the bite-size Tumblers to munch on is a treat.

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

July 2010

These planters were filled in May with one wave petunia

These wave petunias have been outstanding

Eating Fresh: A Raw Deal

 

Tumbler Tomatoes

My favourite time of the growing season is when I start to eat the fresh produce that’s I’ve affectionately tended since spring. Although I’ve already been into my herb garden for over a month and eating lettuce for several weeks, this was the first week I was able to enjoy some of the slower to develop vegetables.

My Tumbler tomatoes, both in the upside down planters and my regular tomato box, have been producing a few ripe red fruit each day. Sliced on a hummus and vegetable tortilla, the tomatoes are like a ray of sunshine caught in a tender juicy package.

My Mr. Big pods are long, plump, and full of sweet green peas. Any pods lower than a foot off the ground have been meticulously plucked by my dog and gleefully consumed while I’m not watching. It’s the price I pay for having taught her where they come from.

I pulled and peeled the first of sixty garlic bulbs which are now two seasons old. I’ve decided that garlic cloves pulled fresh from the garden and added to a salad are one of the finest things in life.

The second finest is vine-ripened peppers, and I can start picking my Banana peppers any time now. The more I pick, the more the plant will produce.

My bok choy and spinach have been struggling, primarily because of the feisty nature of local sparrows that appear to have an insatiable hunger for leafy dark greens. Those plants that I covered with wire mesh are toiling away and should be ready in coming weeks.

There’s a certain melencholy that comes with the beginning of the harvest season. Days are getting shorter, the sun’s a bit lower on the horizon, and it won’t be long before the peas are done, the lettuce bolts and the herbs lose their best flavor. I have to remind myself that there are still beans to come (another puppy favorite), potatoes to harvest and my personal favorite: juicy carrots to eat fresh and raw from the soil.

Making an Upside Down Tomato Planter

 

 

This year I decided I wanted own an upside down tomato planter, similar to the Topsy Turvy planters seen in magazines and on TV. With the price as high as $20 for a single planter, I had to figure out a way I could make one for far less. I wanted it to look nice and be functional, but not break the bank. 

I bought some green waterproof fabric at the discount fabric store for $2.50 a meter. It was great to work with because it had no fray. I also purchased a 90 cm package of no-name velcro at the dollar store for a buck. 

I had a 23 cm (9 inch) peony ring (plant support) that I wasn’t using and I thought would work perfectly for the upper support. At the dollar store there were also some  25 cm wire hanging baskets which would have worked nicely and were only $1.50, but I didn’t buy them. If I hadn’t had the peony ring I would have used a wire coat hanger or two.

Using  C= pi x d , I calculated that I needed approximate 73.5cm of fabric for the circumference and I added 2.5 cm for the seam allowances and 1 cm for flexibility for a total of  77 cm. I cut out a piece of fabric 77cm by 66cm.

I folded over 5 cm along the long side of the fabric and pressed it. This would become the top of the planter. I made three buttonholes 25 cm apart along this folded edge, with one of them 1.5 cm from the end. Between the buttonholes I sewed an upper row of velcro and a lower row of velcro, each 24 cm long.

I sewed the side seam, making sure to leave the buttonhole near the edge just outside the seam. Then I folded over the bottom seam of the planter 2 cm and sewed a hem leaving an opening large enough to insert a cord.

Instead of a cord I found a plastic cable tie that I thought would work  just as well. I ran it through the pocket at the bottom and cinched it up to make about a 5 cm hole.

I put the peony ring between the upper and lower velcro, folding a flap over and securing the velcro to itself. The three legs of the peony ring were threaded through the buttonholes. All I had to do was make a bend at the top of each leg and I had a three evenly spaced hooks to hang my tomato planter from.

Voila: only $3.50 for my tomato planter and I think it looks as good or better than the store bought version. I plan to plant a tomato in the bottom and perhaps a wave petunia in the top.