upside down tomato plant

How to Grow an Upside-Down Tomato Plant

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Tomato Planter with a 5-gallon Bucket

Farmers discovered years ago that tomatoes can grow well if you plant them upside down. Today, there are plenty of good upside-down planters on the market. They can be expensive, but you can easily make an upside-down tomato planter.

  1. First, you need a good sturdy bucket for each plant. You will need to use at least a 4-inch tall tomato. We used Murdoch’s 5-gallon buckets as a planter. The bucket needs a good handle, but a lid is not really necessary.
  2. Cut a 1- or 2-inch hole in the bottom of the bucket — you don’t want your plant to fall out.
  3. Gently position your tomato plant in the hole so that the roots are inside the bucket and the stems are sticking out of the bottom by feeding the foliage through the hole in the bottom of your bucket. (You may enlist some help for this step unless you already have somewhere to hang your bucket where you can still reach inside.) For taller tomatoes cut the lowest stems and plant the main stem deep for an even stronger vine.
  4. Fill soil around the roots. When you have carefully arranged the soil around the roots, fill the entire bucket with soil because upside-down tomato plants can grow a lot of roots.

Caring for tomato plants

  • The main reason tomatoes become diseased is poor watering habits. Tomatoes should never be so dry that they wilt. Wilting weakens the plant and makes it susceptible to insects and diseases. The 5-gallon bucket dries out more slowly than the commercial pots seen on television, making it easier to care for in an arid climate.
  • With gravity pulling down on the plant, it will grow thick sturdy stalks that may curve up into the air. They will sprout more stems per stalk than a normal tomato plant and support a lot more weight.
  • Add a 16-16-16 fertilizer after planting. As the tomato comes into bloom, decrease nitrogen to push ripening rather than new growth.
  • Hanging your tomato plant keeps the fruit from touching the ground (preventing blemishes) and allows sun exposure all the way around. This helps tomatoes ripen sooner and more evenly than traditional plants. The gravity and additional circulation also help the tomato plant produce more tomatoes and bigger tomatoes.