Three years into my experiments with the Topsy Turvy Planter, I want to add some new thoughts about my experiences. In my original article I explained why I bought the product in the first place and outlined my initial thoughts and impressions. In the second article, I expanded on my thoughts based on the experiences of an almost complete growing season.
We found enough success that after our first year, we purchased a second Topsy Turvy planter in hopes of expanding our porch-based hanging garden.
Third Season Thoughts
Heat – I have been reading that those who live in high heat areas find plants grow in Topsy Turvy don’t perform well. This is because even in temperate areas like the Mid-Atlantic, the soil in the planter can get very hot and affect the plant performance.
Yield – The first two seasons produced edible and delicious tomatoes but not in the abundance I had hoped for. At first I thought it was due to the fact that I kept them under partial cover, but I have seen user photographs showing larger yields than my plants achieved from planters that also appear to be partially under cover. As I mentioned previously, I do fertilize every 3-4 weeks because oft watered planters strip the nutrients from the soil.
Fruit Size – I found that slicing tomatoes were smaller in size than the adverts implied they would be. However I also found that any larger fruits cracked the vines due to their weight.
Thus this season I decided to experiment with cherry tomatoes and pickling cucumbers. My thought was that the small fruit weight of these two plants would provide less stress on the vines and would alleviate this problem. (More on this in a second)
Observations from the previous Topsy Turvy planter article
These observations from the previous article remain true to this year’s plants…
- If you leave your house for even a few days, you will need to have a reliable friend or neighbor keep an eye on your planter. You can never know when this thing will need to be watered. We left for 4 days and returned to one seriously wilted tomato plant. A tomato plant grown in soil would send its roots deeper into the ground in search of water. Obviously in the Topsy Turvy Planter it cannot.
– Using an indeterminate variety of tomato plant was the correct choice. You will need to take care to prune wayward vine shoots to focus the plant energy into producing and ripening fruit. We also had to prune vines that had grown too long and were laying on the deck.
– Aside from a few horn worms we plucked from the vines, we saw no pest or diseases that can normally develop with plants grown in the ground. Having said that, I remind you again about not watering the plant in the evening. The water goes all over the vines, leaves and fruit. You need to do it early enough in the day to allow the sun and wind to dry the leaves; otherwise you will risk leaf damage.
– It seems to my wife and me that it has taken longer for the fruit to ripen than it did in the past when we planted tomatoes in the ground. I have fertilized it using Miracle Grow because potted plants lose minerals after repeated watering. So I don’t think it is lack of nutrients. *** Update: I didn’t find this as much of a problem this year and maybe that is the result of a better fertilizer pattern.
I chose Cherry Tomato for two reasons, first I love Cherry Tomatoes and second, as mentioned above, I thought they would be the better fit for this growing method. After a slow start, the plant is producing a steady stream of delicious tomatoes. These little poppers are better tasting than any I have bought from local farmers markets or grocery stores. I am very pleased with the results and the hardiness of the plant.
The plants were purchased at a local nursery and I do not know the variety.
Like the Cherry Tomato plant, the cucumber took a while to get going and most of the flowers were male, meaning there was no fruit produced. Then the plant seemed to explode into healthy vines with lots of flowers and small fruit being set. Also as expected, the fruits were not so heavy that they cracked the vines or put them under too much strain.
Unlike the tomato plant, we only harvested two cucumbers before the vine health quickly deteriorated and died. This happened very suddenly and the plant was completely dead within two days.
The plants were watered and fertilized at the same rate throughout their life. In fact, the cucumber plant took off and started to show signs of life, producing flowers/fruit sooner than the cherry tomato did, but it couldn’t sustain this growth.
The reason for this sudden collapse is a mystery to me at this point. There is scant information about cucumber life cycles and none about cucumbers with Topsy Turvy. Was it not watered enough? Was it fertilized too much? Too Little? Is it not a good fit for the planter? It was very disappointing as pickling cucumbers are a favorite food of ours. The two cucumbers we did eat were delicious.
In the end, I will continue to grow cherry tomatoes in the Topsy Turvy and will experiment with other plants to find a suitable growing partner for the cherry tomatoes. Of course, having two plants producing dozens of tasty cherry tomatoes would not be a bad thing and would more than justify the time spent learning this product. I still believe the planters can result in a good harvest under the right conditions.
With that thought in mind, if Topsy Turvy people were ever to read this article – why not include some guidance on how to maximize the productivity from the planter? I have searched their web site and found nothing at all for the beginner. They might also consider setting up a user forum to allow ardent and successful growers to share best practices and provide advice as needed.
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