Have you seen any of the variations on this? The theory is that you don’t have to stake the tomato plant because the growing weight of the fruit will simply hang down. It looks intriguing, but does it actually work?

I asked some garden people. They agreed it looked interesting but they hadn’t tried it. They did, however, urge me to tell them how it went if I tried it.

Then I went to a “localfoods” seminar earlier this week, in Laramie WY. Great, I thought, here is my chance to ask some experts. So I did. None of them had tried it, but they too wanted me to let them know how it went if I tried it! One audience member said she had a friend who had tried it, but the tomato plant grew upright anyway. Well, if you think about it, that makes sense. Plants *do* try to grow upwards. But as the plant set fruit, the weight should have gradually pulled it down. Naturally, this didn’t occur to me until later, so I don’t know if the friend gave up the experiment or if something else happened.

Being a perpetual optimist when it comes to gardening (in spite of the historical record of my black thumb – I have actually killed a mint plant), I decided I would be the one to try it. With no place to hang a planter, but with both kitchen and living room windows having a great southeast exposure, I bought the upside-down patio garden at good ol’ Wal-Mart. This gives me a little over a square foot of conventional growing area on the top of the patio garden, as well as two holes on  the bottom to set tomato plants through.

So I set to work. First challenge was to get a couple of tomato plants ready to transplant upside down. I have a tomato plant growing from seed, but it really isn’t ready to transplant. Someone at the localfoods seminar was giving away unlabelled heirloom tomato plants, and I took two. But I managed to knock them over travelling home, and although I carefully replanted them ASAP, only one looks like it’s going to recover. What the heck, I decided to plant both of them and see what happened.

Next challenge was to keep the plant and dirt from falling out of the holes! This is in my living room, and I can guarantee my DH will not be happy if I leave dirt around there. So, while the plant was still upright, I took a half-sheet of damp paper towel, folded it in half, tore a little hole and pushed the tomato plant through, then carefully pushed the leafy part of the plant through the garden hole. The damp paper towel should keep dirt and roots up in the garden for a while, and hopefully by the time it decomposes, the dirt will be packed enough to not fall out and the roots will have spread to keep the plant from falling out. I thought about using pieces of cardboard, but I couldn’t find anything suitable around the house and I didn’t want to wait any longer. I wouldn’t use anything non-compostable, though, otherwise as the tomato stem grows thicker it might get choked.

So they are both planted. The healthy plant started trying to grow upright almost immediately (less than 10 minutes after planting). The other poor plant is just lying there. I have lettuce and spinach starts that I bought and really need to get planted, so they will go in the top part. (Does anyone besides me buy too much in the gardening department?) Watch this space for future developments!

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