Does the Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter Work?

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Topsy Turvy tomato

Planting season is in full swing in many areas so I thought I’d cover one of the more frequently asked questions I get about balcony gardens.  The question is whether those hanging tomato planters such as the widely advertised Topsy Turvy works.  As you have seen, I have tried this planter myself.  (Please note:  I do not have a financial interest in the Topsy Turvy, nor do I endorse the product – it is just something that I experimented)  Not only did I buy the large size planter, I bought the entire stand and placed it on the balcony.

The small bags that you see in the ads have a hole in the bottom of the bag where the tomato plants grow out from.  The large bag that I purchased had holes along the sides.  According to their website, here is how it works:

“As the sun warms the plant like a greenhouse, the root system explodes and thrives inside the planter. Because Topsy Turvy® tomato planter is upside down, water and nutrients pour directly from the root to the fruit, giving you up to 30 pounds of deliciously ripe tomatoes per plant!”

To get started, you fill the bag with potting soil.  I then planted a tomato plant out of each hole, sticking out of the bag, with the roots well situated in the soil.  Try not to break disturb the roots as much as possible.  Water the soil as soon as you plant the tomatoes.   You will need to check the soil dryness the next day, and water accordingly.

Did it work?

I can’t say that I got 30 pounds of tomatoes per plant as indicated in the website, but I did get a decent harvest weekly (about five to six tomatoes) for about five weeks.  It was exciting to find new tomatoes growing daily.  Being able to harvest them right out of your balcony was a big thrill.

Homegrown tomatoes

Tomato plants do need a lot of care, especially if you do not have an automatic water source such as a sprinkler system.

  • They needed to be watered daily, as it gets really hot and humid in our area.  Try the low tech drip irrigation I featured on this post.
  • Because the plant is in a bag, in a balcony, you will still need to water it even if rains as not enough rain gets in the bag.
  • To protect from birds that make their nest in apartment balconies, I bought mesh plastic tenting from the garden center.  The mesh also seemed to protect against larger insects such as beetles and moths.
  • Fertilize weekly – I used Miracle Grow and that worked for me but you may prefer more organic fertilizers.
  • You will find that the leaves tend to turn yellow closer to the root.  Remove dead leaves as you see them.

I was happy about how the planter worked during our growing season.  However, don’t count on the planter lasting longer.  The bag is plastic after all.  When the tomato plants died out in the fall, I removed the dead plants but left the planter out in the balcony.   We do not have any other room for it in the unit.  With the winds, rain, and freezing temperatures in the winter, the planter got torn sitting out in the elements after a while.  It was no longer useable for the following spring.  There are several ways to make the hanging planter yourself, some of them quite inexpensive.  We know that growing tomatoes upside down works so go give it a try!

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  1. I bought regular hanging planters from the dollar store.I had one plant coming out the drain hole and another growing out the top.It worked great and was cheaper than the topsy planter.

  2. If you indeed harvested 5 tomatoes for 5 weeks you would have been very successful, and pretty close to 30 lbs if not right there—did you weight the harvest? I’ve not heard others get that much result, so good for you. I’ve heard more the story of connie, the commenter here, one or two tomatoes.
    I have tomatoes every year (and other produce/herbs/flowers), everywhere I am even if it is containers (which I recommend over this idea if you have any solid space to place it).
    Now, most apartments have restrictions on what can be planted or placed on window sills (high-rise situations), so that is a problem.
    Look for community gardens space in that case.

    1. Hi fellow gardener, I did not weigh the total harvest but since I had 3 plants, it seemed less than 30 lbs per plant. Nonetheless, I was pretty pleased with the turnout and I would recommend the upside down method to other gardeners. Thanks for the comment!

  3. a coworker got this (in s. CA) & said it was great the first year. then it didn’t grow anything the 2nd year. I didn’t get a chance to ask details but when I asked him if he would recommend me buying it he said no.

    1. Hi sk8r, He’s right- it won’t work the following year-mine fell apart after 1 growing season. Since I didn’t count on it the 2nd time, I was okay with at least getting some tomatoes out of it. Thanks!

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