My experiment in growing tomatoes in upside down containers.
|Posted on Tuesday, April 10, 2007 - 09:31 pm EST : ||
http://xrl.us/mzmf 4 May 2006. Pictures depicting the method I choose, with captions on the bottom left of the pictures.
There is a lot of babble from commercial interests about growing tomatoes upside down, mostly about supplying the containers. There are few convincing pictures on the internet, so I am trying an experiment by growing two and possibly three plants.
At first sight there seems to be some advantages to this method, no staking, freedom from soil pests and fungi, complete control over watering, and small space requirements.
I have three plants set ready to grow on an eight foot frame in full sun. The tomatoes are Manitoba and Russian Krim. I intend to add one more, Sweet Million.
So far the plants are outdoors during the day, hanging upside down. I find the plants curl their leaves to find the sun, so I rotate upright to get straight growth on alternate days. Plants have some unknown structures called statoliths which cause roots to grow toward gravity and stems to grow away from it. Also, the five gallon pail I chose is semi-translucent, and the roots are now completely at the other end of the bucket, which may be the plant trying to grow upright. I added a black cloth to eliminate light at the end opposite to the plant. I have not added water after the initial wetting at the time of planting. The perilite in the professional soil mix seems adequate for holding moisture..
The plants are very healthy with super strong stems. They cannot be put out until about the third week of May. I have two similar plants for garden use which will be a sort of control.
http://xrl.us/mzmg 5 May 2006.
Here are pictures of the support for the upsidedown tomatoes. The location is full sun and the support is more than adequate.
http://xrl.us/mzmo 8 May 2006 Two pictures of the hanging.
Hanging tomatoe plants upside down. The Manitoba and the Russian Krim I grew from seed. I purchased the Sweet Million from a greenhouse. It is too small to hang upside down, since the bucket shields the plant from the sun most of the day, so I will leave it upright until it gets larger.
I put a stake inside the bucket to tie the main stem to keep it straight, since it tends to curl due to the effect of statoliths, plus the leaves tend to follow the sun.
I have clear plastic bags to cover in the event the weather turns cold, which is highly likely until the first of June, but the long rang weather forecast is favourable.
There are hooks to tie the plant if the fruit gets too heavy. They will be tied to support holes at the bottom of the bucket to take the weight, thus preventing breaking of the fruiting stem.
To water the plant I simply remove the lid of the bucket.
http://xrl.us/mzmb 4 June 2006
Pictures captioned indicating growth . The middle tomato is sweet milliom, it was planted later than the Manitoba and Russion Krim.
http://xrl.us/nkmz 19 June 2006
UPdate on plant growth. Pictures are captioned.
Added 9 July 2006.
So far the experiment has not demonstrated any advantage in the method. I strongly suspect that growing them upright in a five gallon bucket would produce the same or better results. The Russian Krim will be a more substantive case to make judgments, since the Manitoba seems to produce no matter what one does. The Sweet Million is not doing too well. I think the soil was too heavy. Anyway I will make a final analysis when the season ends to get a feeling for the trend. If highly positive, I will repeat next year with more stringent conditions and better controls. In conclusion, the method has no merit up to this time.
25 July 2006. The experiment of growing upside down tomatoes has been abandoned. The method is simply without merit. The vegetation is stringy, possibly due to the container partially shielding the plants from the sun. The fruit is marginal compared to typical growing methods. So, if you are limited in space use a 5 gallon bucket and grow upright. The media and various fast buck artists have produced containers for growing tomatoes by this method, without any evidence that it has merit.
I have grown tomatoes in 5 gallon containers right side up almost the same as growing in a garden location, and the fruit and plants were as good as it gets. Growing upside down plants does have a bit of merit; in that, it is a conversation piece when a group is around at a barbeque.
22 August 2006. My conclusion is it has no merit to grow them upside down. The economy of effort is simply not there. Plants have mechanisms to insure that roots go towards the center of gravity and the stems follow the light. They simply don't produce properly if forced into an unnatural environment. Greenhouse hydroponic tomatoes are a case in point. The fruit produced by these methods is decidedly different from what I will call naturally grown plants. At best all the "unnatural' methods are a necessary compromise if we want tomatoes under adverse conditions.