Sunday, June 3, 2012

Grow Tomato Plants Upside Down with Topsy Turvy Planters

Click on Photo for Larger View

  Bed Bath and Beyond had Topsy Turvy upside down planters on clearance last Winter for $5 a piece. I bought ten of them and planted them this year inside of an 8 foot by 10 foot chain link dog pen to protect them from deer or anything else that might be a tomato fan.

Several years ago, I had grown nice big red tomatoes, but when I harvested them, it turned out they were all black on the bottom. I found out it was called blight and I was supposed to have treated them for that. I had no idea. I read somewhere that the upside down method reduced the likelyhood of the fruit developing blight. Other friends have advised me to add Epson salts to the soil as well as calcium to produce stronger stems and prevent blight. I watched a PBS show the other day that confirmed it. I'm much more comfortable using Epsom salts and calcium to fight blight as opposed to some chemical that I'll injest later.

Epsom salt is not like regular table salt, it doesn't burn the plants or the roots like sodium chloride would. It consists largely of minerals like magnesium and other trace elements and are beneficial to the plants and fruit. Some have recommended that I use lime or eggshells for adding calcium. I bought a bag of lime. I'll check what the calcium content is before I put it in the soil. Usually lime is used to reduce the acidity of the soil. I haven't checked the ph of the soil and probably won't since the plants seem to be thriving.

Also, it's recommended for bigger tomatoes to prune off the sucker stems. These are extra tiny stems that grow in the elbow of regular stems. Eventually they themselves can become large. The theory is that they take the plants energy to produce stems rather than giving it to the fruit. I haven't suckered my 10 plants this year, so we'll see.

The amazing thing is that as soon as you transplant the Tomato plants into the Topsy Turvy planters and give them a good watering, they start explosive growth in two days. Even lifeless transplants seem to grow like weeds in just a few days. They recommed full sunlight of at least 6 to 8 hours a day.

The Topsy-Turvy instructions say to water the plants daily especially during the hot dry season. Also, they encourage you to put appropriate fertilizer on them from time to time.

 I'll take some more pictures later in the season and especially when the tomatoes start ripening.

One thing I know for sure, there's nothing like a ripe vine grown fresh tomato compared to the green cardboard ones you buy at the supermarket.

One more interesting thing. You'll notice a distinctive smell around the tomato plants as you're working on them. It is memorable. Caring for them has been therapuetic for me and I highly recommend growing something. I've got ten terracotta pots growing herb on my porch this year too! Indulge your green thumb; plant something and care for it!

Feel free to add your tips and commnents as I've got a lot to learn about growing tomato plants.


Anonymous said...

Keep us posted on your progress Glen! Nice write up as we move into gardening season. This will probably inspire lots of city people and help cut some supermarket costs!

Gemma said...

Just a quickie from an expert tomato grower.

Blight is a very serious disease in tomatoes and any related species such as Potatoes. In these plants its effects are swift. You can literally lose a crop within a week. I know: I have.

Tell tale signs: spots on the stems of the plant and leaf. By the time it gets to the fruit, it is too late. Keeping a lookout is essential here.

There is one organic method of countering blight. Use equisetum (common horsetail)*

Take as much as will fill a large soup pan, half fill with water and boil gently for 20 mins. Allow this tea to cool to hand heat and spray on your plants. You may need to do this frequently, and you can do it before the disease hits.

Keeping a lookout for this useful plant is always recommended. It grows across the entire of the northern hemisphere.

The next thing to do is to find varieties of tomatoes that the supermarkets can't sell. That is to say the ones that don't pass the car-bumper test. Yes, that is the machine used to test supermarket tomatoes! After all, they have to sit in boxes and be transported hundreds of miles without damage - which means they need to be tough! Nor do you need them all ripening at the same moment - or being exactly the same size or color.

You want flavor, a long harvesting season and delicacy. All the things that do not interest the commercial farmers who dominate the industry.

Tasty salads are made from tasty food - food that is grown with the love, care and respect that humans deserve.


Gemma said...

Suckering Tomato Plants

There are two things you can do here. The suckers in themselves are not a problem for the plant. Only that when they get big, the plant is a mess. This means that air cannot flow around the plant as it otherwise would and that is where blight can get a foothold.

Suckering - removing these little mini-tomato plants - is therefore recommended.

However. Two very important points.

firstly, the suckers if of a certai size (three to five inches, before flowering) can be planted out and they will readily take root in good soil. They will flower earlier than any seeds planted at the same time. If you want a second crop quickly, plant suckers!

Secondly, if you have a rare species of tomato and it has any kind of disease, the sucker will be the one place where it is least active. Take the sucker whilst still small and plant it. This will have all the characteristics of the original plant but less of the disease. Do this several times and you are home and dry. Several stricken varieties of potato were rescued in this way (yes, you can do this for potatoes too!).

Glen Woodfin said...

I've never heard of using Horsetail tea to fight blight. I've been using calcium. My first tomatoes had blossom end rot and the calcium cured it.

I think I'm getting blight confused with blossom end rot. For blight, I picked up a spray that has calcium and chlorine. I think the chlorine kills the blight, but your natural method sounds better.

I've been reading about Neem oil too.

Tomatoes are really fussy, but they respond quickly to treatment. The plants look different every day.

I don't have any more space in my pen to root the suckers, so I just throw them away in hopes it gives more energy to the plant to create fruit. Maybe that's just a wives' tale.

Gemma said...

You are right about suckering the plants. It will give more energy to the remaining trusses, and keep the plant open to ventilation too.

The horsetail tea works for all fungus diseases. Keeping the upper layers of the soil active through hoeing and weeding also help - along with good airflow.

The great thing is that it only costs your time+++++++, energy and enjoyment!

Glen Woodfin said...

It's interesting that air flow around the leaves is so important. I was thinking it might be so that moisture on the leaves doesn't create an environment for fungus & bacteria.

Being that I work on a computer inside without sunlight. Growing the tomatoes has been therapeutic for me. I'm also growing herb on my porch in 10 different 8 inch terracotta pots with dishes under them.

I've got Rosemary, Thyme, Cilantro, Oregano, Dill,Parsley, Mint & Stevia.

The Stevia is almost 3 feet tall. It's very easy to care for. The Parsley is particulary bushy.

I've harvested the Cilantro for cooking as well as the Parsley a few times.

I love fresh Cilanto in cooking. It really makes the dish come alive with a unique flavor. It's probably why I love Thai, Chinese & Mexican food.

Gemma said...

Yes, you are right about the moisture and so forth on the leaves. It makes for a tidier plant too. It goes for most plants that they like being open and airy, with their branches clear of each other.

"Being that I work on a computer inside without sunlight." - why don't you get a laptop and sit out on the veranda?? It is what I would do ... if the ruddy battery hadn't died on me. Mind you, most of my garden is 200m away on the allotment - but there is also a railway line between me and it!

Tomatoes like growing with marigold, nettle and parsley - which usually means in the same patch of ground. This is what is commonly known as "companion planting" - of which there is an entire science.

Freshly cut tomato with a french dressing and fresh basil. Wow!!