Up-side Down Tomatoes; Results
By Doug Hackbarth
Broadview Florist & Greenhouse
I am glad to report that I received several letters and pictures regarding the “Up-side Down” tomatoes over the last two weeks and the results varied from very bad to very good. Professional containers to homemade, natural fertilizers to commercial brands and soils from top-notch, artificial to topsoil with mushroom compost were all tried.
Grace says, “Never again…” as she used the kit from Burpee which included the container, the soil, and even the tomato, a variety called “Sweet Seedless Hybrid”. She said that it was hard to plant, hard to water, and speaking of hard…so were her tomatoes, and not many of them. You can find her kit in her next garage sale.
Bonnie used one of the official containers (not sure of what kind of soil) and the Rutger tomato. She felt that the opening at the top was much too small to ever catch any rain so therefore had to hand water way too often…daily. The largest tomato was the size of a tennis ball and she felt the whole process was not worth all of the effort. Too much babysitting!
Lisa used the Topsy-Turvy container with the Better Boy tomato and mixed topsoil with mushroom soil for a rich, water retaining (but too heavy) medium that still gave her problems. Even though the soil was a heavy mix, the container is still small and therefore dried up too fast for an easy growing crop. She also ran into black spots on her tomato fruit, probably caused by blossom end rot…a disease cause by a calcium deficiency in her soil. Had she added just a tablespoon of lime in her mix before planting the tomato, she may have avoided the spotting. Lisa is not going to try this again as it was too much watering, etc.
Eddie tried growing a yellow, salad type tomato in his up-side down container using miracle-gro soil and a moisture control product that helps to retain moisture for longer periods of time. He did not like the moisture control as he thought that the soil stayed too wet. Eddie will probably try again next year, although without the moisture control. (I feel that the moisture control sounds like a good idea, especially for hanging baskets but that the problem is that it is not necessary until the root system has time to develop, and then how do you add it later?)
Mark really enjoyed the challenge and said that his first attempt failed immediately as he over- fertilized his tomato. So then he tried a couple different tests using the official container and a one gallon milk jug. The milk jug dried out two times a day and heated up way too fast, not good. Mark used an Early Girl tomato in the official container and had success. He says that next year he will try using a five-gallon bucket.
And then there is Roger…the success story right out of the Topsy-Turvy catalogue. Here is a guy, with pictures, that shows “it can be done”, and with Beefsteak tomatoes no less. Roger used Miracle Gro soil and Miracle Gro fertilizer to easily produce the perfect up-side down tomato. He said that he had to water daily and fertilize weekly. I saw the pictures and quizzed Roger on whether or not he grew them upside down from the very beginning…He assured me that he did.
So there it is…three “no’s”, one maybe and 2 yes’s. I am sure that Roger and Mark will try different techniques next year as I know many of you will try again also. In summery, you must be prepared to water daily, fertilize weekly (or more) and be sure to use a very good quality soil mixture, preferably an artificial mix…no name brands recommended as they all have good qualities and contain elements that retain moisture and give good drainage as well as prevention of soil compaction.