Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Upside Down World of Gardening

I am not a gardening expert, but I wear gardening on my sleeve -sometimes literally. Amongst my less experienced friends and neighbors, I'm called the expert. I enjoy getting the gardening questions, like to be helpful. To me, gardening is a universe that we can all choose to travel in, with different choices, decisions, and results. But it was hard for me last year, when I heard so many youngish city folk talking-up the upside-down tomatoes. I understood that it could work, I understood that tomatoes are vines, but I didn't understand the excitement! I had to admit to not knowing about it, I had to stay quiet.

I wonder if its no surprise that I've heard little of hanging tomato gardens this summer? I can understand a city gardener with limited space wanting to get their tomatoes off the ground. But when I saw this one on Sunday, on my block, in a nice front yard garden, I thought -oh my, there's one of those upside down things. And, while the hanging tomato plants were maybe 12-inches long, they had one or two tomatoes on each. Its a bad photo, but if you click on it, look closely and you'll probably see how small the plants are. This is in the yard of a knowledgeable gardener, so I cannot believe it has something to do with nutrients or soil or any ordinary gardening issue. It appears all contraption, no plant.

Trey, at, thinks that TopsyTurvy is iconic of the current gardening excitement. Maybe business taking advantage of new gardeners too? Click the TopsyTurvy link for a funny video of two older people struggling to grow their tomatoes until they get their topsy turvy on. Does any of the claim below make any sense?

The Upside Down Tomato Planter
Topsy Turvy® tomato planter works in a simple yet ingenious way. As the sun warms the plant like a greenhouse, the root system explodes and thrives (or burns) inside the planter. Because Topsy Turvy® tomato planter is upside down, water and nutrients pour (WHAT?!) directly from the root to the fruit, giving you up to 30 pounds (because of pouring water/nutrients?) of deliciously ripe tomatoes per plant!


  1. I think it is more indicative of a long term problem - the notion that new must be better, and the lack of independent research. I just cringe when I see them.

  2. I held off on buying one because I wanted to see others' results first. So far it looks like the ads are very misleading! But I read that they are great for people who are disabled, since the plants are more accessible.

    One of my friends planted an "Italian Tree" tomato in hers! She has about 3 fruits so far.

  3. Jorge Garcia, the guy that plays Hurley on Lost, was on Bonnie Hunt talking about his garden (the dude is really, really into gardening). He had bought a couple of those and was having the problem that the roots of the tomato plants were trying to grow in the ground. So all these tomato plants that were suspended a few feet in the air had roots shooting out from the top (?) and going into the ground. To say the least, he was not a fan.

  4. I might imagine that when or if the tomato stems neared the ground they would start sending out rooting nodes near that point. Just like when a tomato plant stem runs across the ground, it freely roots from it.

    I wonder how easy it is to water one if you are disabled. My concern is that the soil will bake if it gets over 80 degrees.

  5. The problem we have out here in Nor Cal is during the summer it is routinely in the 90 and 100 degree range with 10% humidity. Dry as a bone. I beleive the Topsy Turvy recommends moving it from a full sun situation to the shade when temperatures rise above 90degreeF. Hanging in the air the plant will just dry out too much. If we move it out of the sun for the summer, the plant does not get the required light. So maybe in other, more humid areas it might work. I understand the needs of the disabled, yet they could be just as well served with a container, and the plant trained up. You could group other containers around it to help shade the pot.


If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...