Hanging your tomatoes

by: Steven Hill

Five years ago I read an article about hanging tomato plants upside down to grow them. The article talked about how much easier it was to grow tomatoes that way because you did not have to stake the plants and the fruit would be in easy reach. I thought it sounded like a very interesting idea. The article also talked about how the plant's natural inclination is to grow upward, so I wanted to create a planter that could start with the plant on top and be turned over when it got to the point of needing to be staked.


After thinking about various options, I went to my local home improvement center and purchased four 5-gallon buckets with lids. These were the kind of bucket you would see joint compound or paint sold in; they are also sold as just empty buckets. I thought they would make a good container for hanging tomato plants.


I cut a hole in the center of the bottom of each bucket. The hole had to be just large enough to fit a tomato plant container through; you know, the composting container they sell plants in that you can simply plant container and all in your garden. Next I covered the hole with a few sheets of newspaper and filled the buckets up with soil, being sure to add plant food at that time. I then placed the covers on the buckets, poked a few holes in them to allow drainage and turned them over, setting them up on a few bricks to keep them off the deck. I broke through the newspaper and scooped out enough soil to allow me to set the tomato plant deeply in the container, and filled in around the plant with the soil I had removed. This gave me four deeply planted tomato plants in containers that I could grow them in until they reached the point where they would need to be staked up. At this point, I picked up the container, inverted it and hung it on a bar just off the deck, leaving the plants within easy reach of the deck. I then removed the covers from what was now the top of the buckets again and had a good amount of space to plant something else, such as herbs.


We moved from that area the next year, and the buckets stayed there for someone else to use. Over the last couple of years we (and probably you, too) have seen many commercials for hanging tomato planters. At the beginning of planting season this year we saw some on sale and thought that we should give the hanging tomato plant thing another try. We have a patio-type area where we could hang them and it would give us easy access to them, so we thought it would be a good idea. As it turns out, the area does not get nearly enough sun and after a little while we discovered that the plants were not going to do very well if left there.


So, my son and I went off to the local home improvement center to buy six 8 foot two by fours to construct a structure that could best be described as looking like a backyard swing frame. There is an A-frame structure at each end with a “ridge” supported at each end by a joist hanger suspended between them to hang the containers from. This went together very easily but was a little flimsy, so back to the store to get two more 8 foot two by fours. We attached one on each side, end to end, at about knee height, which strengthened the structure significantly. We placed this structure out in the middle of the front yard, where it gets much more sun all day long, and moved the three containers to it. The plants have improved greatly and we may very well get enough of a crop to warrant the investment in the stand and the containers. With any luck, the structure and containers will last through the next few years and that will certainly make the investment worthwhile.


Below, on the left, is a picture of the structure that we built in a few hours. The picture on the right is a rectangular structure used for the same thing that my wife came across on one of her outings. You can grow tomatoes, and even some herbs for your salads, even if you do not have a garden spot to plant them in.


Our tomato hanging structure
Aother tomatoe hanging structure