A hefty support is required for these planters. They can weigh 50 lbs at peak production. Photo courtesy of Marence1 on Flickr.

“Topsy-turvy” tomato planters have popped up everywhere within recent years. Although they are a novel way to grow tomatoes, they can actually present some difficult challenges for the new gardener.

Challenges of an upside-down planter

  • They require a constant watering. Water runs down the sides and out the hole in the bottom. In addition, because the container is exposed sunlight on all sides, the plant dries out much more quickly than its in-ground counterparts.
  • They’re very susceptible to wind damage. Here in Nebraska, it’s often very windy. The typical Topsy-Turvy tomato container can be whipped around quite violently by our summer storms. A tomato grown in-ground often has the support of a tomato cage or a stake. A tomato in Topsy-Turvy planter has no such support and the stem is very vulnerable to breakage.
  • Not all varieties of tomatoes can be grown successfully this way. Craving a Brandywine? Big beefsteak varieties will languish and fail to thrive in an upside-down planter. They need lots of room to spread out their roots.

  • Tips for your Topsy-Turvy Tomato Planter

  • Slow the flow. Water runs out the bottom of these planters because it quickly saturates the soil before it can be totally absorbed. You can purchase water-absorbing crystals to mix in with your soil mixture. They’ll hold the excess water and release it back to the plan as the soil dries out.Here’s another tip – when you first plant your Topsy-Turvy planter, wait until after it is hung to water it. These things get very heavy when they’re full of water and much more difficult to lift.You will need to water your planter every other day at first. After the plant gets established it will need to be watered at least once a day. A plant loaded with fruit might even need to be watered twice a day if the weather is particularly hot and dry.
  • Choose the right location and support. At the peak of growth, these planters can weigh more 50 lbs or more. A standard shepherd’s hook is not adequate. You can by stands that are specifically designed to hold Topsy Turvy planters, or you can secure your plant to another very sturdy support. In my neighborhood, I see many people that have screwed eyebolts into supports on the undersides of their decks and they’ve hung the planters from those. Other people have made use of old swing set supports or have put hooks into the studs above a covered porch.
  • Choose the right tomato. This is critical to your success. The Tumbling Tom tomato is a good choice, as it’s been developed to do well in containers. Plus it’s as cute as a button! The petite stupice tomato is another good choice.Topsy Turvy tomato planters are a good choice if you’re short on space or if you’re looking for a fun and interesting way to grow tomatoes. If you won’t be able to meet the demanding watering needs of the planter, or if you already have plenty of space in the ground, this planter may not be right for you.