Planting Tomatoes, Backwards and Upside-Down


Does anyone else have Silly Sally, who does everything “dancing backwards, upside-down? This is absolutely the way she’d plant tomato plants. I’ve been resisting, but this piece in the NYT has me convinced to try an upside-down container tomato plant this year.

The one in the picture is a “Topsy Turvy,” available at big box retailers near you, but I’m going the old bucket route advocated in the Times (available in a junk-filled garage near me). Cherry tomatoes sound like they’ll work brilliantly, and I know from last year that my kids will stand in the garden and eat them from the vine. If we had a fenced garden, I’d put a plant hanger up on their playhouse. In our case, the deer would make short work of that–but can you imagine your kids playing house and sending each other out to pick “dinner?” The hardest thing won’t be getting them to eat their vegetables, it will be getting them to wait until they’re ripe. (Ok, I know tomatoes are technically a fruit.)

I’m in the northeast, and we won’t put our tomatoes in until June–but for most gardeners, memorial day is the big weekend for getting your plants in. If you can resist the Topsy Turvy, plan to buy your starts from a farmer’s market or small local plant store, if for no other reason than that plants from Home Depot were suspected of carrying last year’s blight. Plus, buying plants locally helps ensure that they’re the right varieties for your climate, and you might find a new kind of tomato that will add color and flavor this year–we’re big fans of the green striped, yellow and purple varieties at our house.

Gardening is a great way to get kids enthusiastic about eating vegetables–tomatoes are great, but cucumbers–fast enough to grow from seed and equally yummy fresh off the vine–win raves, too, and it’s not too late to grow those from seeds. (I suspect they’re a little heavy for upside-down gardening, but it couldn’t hurt to try.) Let the kids at least pat down the dirt and add water, and see what happens in a few weeks. Summer’s always too fast–we’ll be eating those salads in no time.