Wednesday, May 21, 2008

making upside-down tomato buckets

So, to get started, you need your buckets, your tomato plants, some dirt, some osmocote (or if you'd prefer no fertilizer, that works, too), some wire mesh screen, and some landscaping cloth. Scissors and wire cutters also required.

First, you cut the wire cloth in a circle that is smaller than the bottom of your bucket. Next, you cut two holes in the middle that have paths from the edge of the circle so you can eventually slide the tomato plant in.

Then, make sure your wire mesh fits in the bottom of your bucket/container.

Cut the landscaping cloth into circles that are the same size (almost is good enough) as your wire mesh.

Match the holes in the wire mesh with holes in the cloth. Cut different paths from the edge to provide extra structure to hold the dirt up.

Trim leaves from base of tomato plant and put the wire mesh and the landscaping cloth on/around the plants. (You'll want the mesh to be on top, but it doesn't matter too much which goes on first - whatever works for you.)

Place the tomato plant inside the bucket. I've read that you should plant tomatoes deeper in the dirt so that the stem will put down more roots. Our have always been fine, but I thought I'd pass that idea on.

Turn upside-down. When you take the plastic containers off the plants, you can scootch them closer together. You want to make sure that the stems are in the middle of your mesh holes so they won't get cut or run out of room to grow.

Place osmocote or other fertilizer into bucket of dirt before hanging.

Place buckets in shade so that leaves don't burn while they're turning in their new direction. Last year we had a few leaves that burned (turned yellow) because it was a little too much sun too fast. In a few days the plants will be growing away from the ground.

Mulch the top of the buckets. And move into sun when the leaves have all turned.

So, counting cutting the holes in the buckets, it took about a half day's worth of time to finish the project. And I must admit, I'm not sure everything we did was necessary, but we like the way it looks. There are lots of sites you can find with Google that have other ways to do this - though I think the buckets look better than the bags (and the buckets last year after year!)


Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see these when they turn. You're awesome!

Anonymous said...

Soooo...what's the advantage? They look cool...but do you do this mostly to save space? Better yields? Fewer bugs?....?

Daisy said...

Well, I think they are mainly a space-saving stragey for growers/gardeners that live in small spaces. The increase in air circulation around the fruit is supposed to be good. There are supposed to be fewer bugs that climb up the stem of the plant. And, being able to harvest them without bending over is nice, too. There's no weeding either. But to be honest, the main reason why we have them is cause they just look so darn nifty.

Lucille Morning said...

This is such a nicer (more attractive) way to hang tomatoes than I've seen before. Do you think it would be possible to grow basil (or other companion herbs) in the top of the planters? Or would that encroach on the tomatoes' roots? Great post!

Fred Cannon said...

As usual, I've come late to this discussion, but I wanted to comment about growing basil in the top of the bucket. I use 5 gallon plastic buckets for hanging tomato plants and have played around with companion plantings. Borage is supposed to discourage tomato hornworms, but I plant it in the ground around the area, not in the bucket. Marigolds repel root nematodes, but planting in buckets I've never had that problem so again if I use them I plant in ground around the area. I do like to plant spring mix leaf lettuces in some of the buckets and carrots in the others. The lettuce is great until it gets too hot and the carrots grow great in the top of the bucket, just be careful when harvesting that you aren't removing too much soil and exposing the tomato plant roots to air and sunlight. You may have to add additional soil after harvest.

Unknown said...

I am trying this, but found the plants turned up to the right way round. I have put a small weight to hold it down. This seems to work. I have put basil and a chilly on top. So far so good, but early days yet.