The Upside Down Patio Tomato Garden
Tomato Vines and the Trellis
I have grown tomatoes on our balcony patio for several years now, and always with marginal yields for my efforts. Usually the tomato vines grow about 1 1/2 meters (about 4.5 feet) tall and thus, are necessarily tied to a trellis-like scaffolding of green sticks to support them. Growing on a patio with western exposure and a brick wall backdrop means that the plants will get hot and dry fairly often. Daily watering is always required. Over and under-watering are common occurrences.
Too much water and the pot sits in mud and the bottom leaves of the tomato plants turn yellow and drop. Too little water and the plant begins to wilt. I have tried various shading methods including a tarpaulin sunscreen for the balcony which did help last summer but I installed it a bit too late to really help the tomatoes grow properly.
As it is, I have to trellis-up the plants to avoid wind damage. If the tomato vines tip over they might survive but the space they would occupy on the limited footage of our balcony would be unacceptable. The plants must be tied upright. This of course means that the plants must work extra hard to draw-up water and nutrients one and one-half meters to the top branches and fruits. There must be another, simpler way to grow tomatoes on limited space.
The Tomato Vine as a Vine
I cannot claim ownership for this idea; I saw a commercial pot like what I am describing, used for some houseplant vines like philodendron, etc. You grow the plant upside down in the flower pot!
Beginning with a common terra cotta flower pot, we create a hanger for the pot. Use either wire (coat-hanger, etc) or if you are crafty, you can macrame a hanging harness for the pot. It will be hanging upright in the usual manner.
Use as Small a Tomato Plant as Possible
The idea is to have the tomato plant grow inverted whereby it will hang from the drainage hole in the flower pot. This way you will not need to tie-up or trellis the tomato vines; they hang by gravity. Since our balcony patio has that dreaded western exposure and brick-face wall backdrop, plants tend to scorch in the sun rather quickly. Daily watering is absolutely necessary. If the plant were hanging upside-down, the water would more easily run the length of the plant and there is no need to tie-up the vines. Hanging upside-down is also advantageous for us as it keeps the tomato vines below the sold-panel balcony rails, out of the wind as well as direct blazing sunlight.
Visualize the End Result: An Upside-down Potted Tomato Plant
I am eager to try this. I know that it will work. As the plant matures the stalk will increase in girth. This will also cause the stalk to swell and 'lock in' to the drainage hole, plugging-up any water that may leak out. I suspect that this arrangement will require less water to satiate the plant's needs as it all soak to the bottom towards the root-ball anyway.