First time topsy turvy planter

Pulaski, GA

Last fall, I found a topsy turvy planter on clearance and bought it just for fun. This spring when I was setting out my tomatoes, I put a sprinkle of epsom salt and a sprinkle of bone meal in each hole and set the tomato plant in. An aquaintance who is an experienced tomato gardener suggested that. So when I put the tomato plant in the topsy turvy, I did the same thing. I put potting mix, epsom salt and bone meal in the planter. I ended up nearly losing the tomato plant. What happened was that when I watered it, the epsom salt (or something in the potting mix?) ran down and encrusted the tomato stems and it almost died.

Has anyone else had this experience? Has anyone had good luck with topsy turvies? What did you put in the potting mix, if anything?

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Hate to burst your bubble, but I don't think many gardeners actually use those topsy least, I haven't seen very much discussion about them in DG...

But. I could be very wrong...

BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

Bought several 2 years ago, with the Texas heat I don't think we got but 2 tomatoes off any of the plants. I think it was the heat, had plenty of blossoms, but no maters. I finally found Beefsteak plants at Wally World and got them in... Will have to see how they grow in the raised garden bed....

Memphis, TN(Zone 7b)

Four of my neighbors purchased those tomato turvies and got no tomatoes a couple of years ago... One neighbor said she couldn't keep the soil moist long enough. Even with watering it daily. We get hot summers too.

Albany, NY(Zone 5a)

Sorry. :( i've never heard of any of those working. i have actually heard that you can plantsmaller varieties like cherry tomatoes in plain ol hanging baskets. they'll trail naturally, and you'll be able to keep them watered, without it running down the stem. i've seen so many different reviews of the topsy turvey, none good. i mean, the way i see it, it's ad's are half hour spots, right next to the snuggies, the epilstop, the house flippers, people who buy gold, the people who sell gold, and detox foot pads.... all BAD ideas. sorry. relax, put on a snuggie and make yourself a drink in the magic bullet, and try again with some new plants. lol :) don't let it get you down. at least it wasn't full price! just think of ALL the people who did! PLUS shipping!

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Hi milesdt, looks like you started a testimonials thread on the evils of the Topsy Turvy planter! I purchased the Topsy Turvy Tree from QVC a couple of years ago. It consisted of a tall, metal stand and a jumbo size Topsy bag that was supposed to hold three plants. One week after assembling it, I received an email from QVC that the entire device was unstable and unsafe due to tipping of the stand and that it should be dismantled immediately and to "cut out" the top of the Topsy bag and mail just that to them for a refund. So much for my Topsy Turvy Tree. I was surprised to see them offering it again this year; don't know if it was redesigned. Anyway, I didn't bite this time.

This year while shopping at various stores (Big Lots, Garden Ridge, Menard's, Hobo) I saw boxes and boxes of the Topsy Turvy's all on clearance for about $4.00 with a pink round sticker that said "last years design" on it. I guess they're still trying to get some money out of all their excess stock.

That's my testimony! ;)

Victoria, Canada

I'm a sucker for any new-fangled invention, so of course I decided to try the Topsy Turvy when it came out 2 years ago. I used Sea Soil "Essential Soils" that Costco here in Canada sells as Sea Soil is a lighter soil filled with nutrient-goodness and the essential version has coir mixed in. That first year, I planted Juliet cherry tomatoes in it and was amazed at how well it grew. Sure, it had the problems everyone complained about; bag got really heavy when watered, soil dried out fairly quickly, etc. But it was a good experiment.

I used the same Topsy Turvy last year with a Black Cherry tomato plant and failed miserably. However, I don't think that was the fault of the Topsy Turvy as none of my Black Cherry plants did much of anything. Here on the west coast, we're blessed with mild winters, but we also get mild summers :p

I also tried the Strawberry and Pepper Topsy Turvys (did I mention I'm a sucker for anything new-fangled?) and those were less than successful and I wouldn't recommend either. The strawberry one barely lasted the summer as the plastic started to break down. The pepper one is still in good shape, so I might give it another shot if I have extra pepper plants.

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

Last year I had mild success with the topsy turvy-a few tomatoes. This year I cut holes into the sides and planted annuals-petunia, lobelia and bacopa. I put some in the top too. I am looking forward to the results of my little experiment. I also think that planting a tomato in the top is how I would do it next time-if there is a next time. They are deeper than most hanging pots and for that reason might be better for tomatoes. But the advantage to planting them in the bottom rather that the top escapes me.

Albany, NY(Zone 5a)

lol great idea! you should patent that immediately! :) i love those plastic bags with the holes cut out that you can hang on a mail box post, or anywhere really, anyone know what i mean? maybe i'll make one from a topsy turvey.

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

Yes Outlaw I know what you mean about those bags. I have used those in the past too. There is some challenge to planting these things, compared to planting in a hanging basket. One thing is that the smallest of starts works easiest. If you use a 4" the hole has to be too big and soil spills out. And of course it has to be hanging while you work with it. But some of the most luxuriant hanging planters are really large and planted down the sides like that. I have seen 6' vertical flowers and I want that!

Albany, NY(Zone 5a)

i've never found the actual planters but i've seen them at the market. i'm hoping to buy a few this year, and reuse them if they last next year i'd love to do some verbana and sweet potato vine in them cause i love the way they look like they're growing right out of the wall when they fill out.

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

This thread got me thinking about the various ways to create vertical color. I happen to have a 1 1/2" circular drill bit. I drilled a hole in a 5 gallon bucket and it is about the right size for a "pack" plant-about 3". I'm going to put holes in 3 five gallon buckets and stack them up, one on top of the other. This will just sit on the ground but will make a planter about 42" tall. With stuff planted in the top and down the sides it should make an impressive display. Outlaw, maybe you have something around the house you could use to fill with flowers and hang on a wall. I love that look too.

Albany, NY(Zone 5a)

as a matter of fact! i have some sort of large black plastic pipe with holes in it, culvert pipe? out back and i'm thinking of drilling some larger holes and filling it with dirt and standing it up on the side of the house, or somewhere and placing a bird house on top. :)

Belleville, ON(Zone 5b)

I have never used an actual 'topsy turvy', but I have been growing vegetables upside down in my own homemade planters for ages. Tomatoes, beans (shown in picture is my current bluelake pole bean planter), peas, peppers, strawberries... most things that are climbers work really well. The planters I make are mainly coffee cans with holes cut in the lid, or regular plastic pots, the seedlings stuck through the drainage holes. I place a layer of pebbles at the bottom, and fill with jiffy mix / potting soil, half and half. to avoid the soils, plant food, pebbles, etc coming through the holes, I put coffee filters around the bottom, with holes punched for the seedlings to come through. I put the seedlings in the planters from jiffy pellets when they are about 3 or 4 inches tall, but not bushing out yet, so it's easier to thread them through the holes. I have no actual ground space at my apartment, so everything I grow is grown vertically, upside down, vines trained on my balcony rails, indoors, in large pots, etc.
I have succesfully grown lots of things in jury-rigged containers, many of which were designed to grow vegetables upside down. In my experience, life will find a way.
So I'm not too sure why these topsy-turvy things DON'T seem to work for people. I've found it's pretty difficult to devise a planter that won't grow things, plants LOVE to grow upside down.
They must have some pretty serious flaws, and from what people are saying, the guys who designed them had never even seen a tomato plant!

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Pulaski, GA

An update on the topsy turvy planter. I just received the June issue of Consumer Reports. There is an article entitled "Don't flip over Topsy Turvy." The magazine testing staff set up 12 topsy turvies and 12 patio boxes. Both produced about the same number of tomatoes, but the topsy turvy was a lot more trouble, only lasted 1 season. So not at all recommended. Based on my own experience so far, I pretty much agree with their findings.

The planter is probably a fad that will run its course as people find that it really doesn't work well.

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

I just bought another topsy turvy at a garage sale. I do like the depth of them and the fact that they are so lightweight. Outlaw, I too am eyeing a drainage pipe with about a 4 inch diameter for a purpose such as you described. And xernyx, yes, I agree so many possibilities exist in common containers we might have around the house. Everything is getting new consideration for use as planters. I am going to have 6 verticle feet of flowers somehow. Another objective is to have strawberries growing where the slugs can't get to them.

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Has anyone seen the "new" version of the Topsy Turvy? I saw one at Home Depot today and it's some kind of contraption that looks like a hose reel and you're supposed to roll the vines up as they grow! Price was $19.97?

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

Pati 47 the idea behind the TT is very simple . It is a basic gtm sales idea lol.

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Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

eweed, what is gtm? I think I understand what you are saying though-just a new thing to get us to spend our money, right?

silver spring, MD(Zone 7a)

I saw that hose reel thing! Good L-rd! Do they really think people are that stupid! What really gets me is the store buyers. Look at the junk they invest the store's money on and then don't understand why we don't buy it.

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

Pati I gotcha lol a GTM is a get the money organization. They don't care if it's well built or if a couple small steps would make it better.They just slam it in the box and encourage the stores to have a white sale.

There are a lot of house contractors that fit this descripton.

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Albany, NY(Zone 5a)

Lol but there's a sucker born every minute. As consumers we allow corporations to slack, because we'll buy anything that sounds like a bargain in a shiny box.

great pictures eweed! :)

Houston, TX

Now, now lets not blame a plant hanger. The "topsy turvey" is not a bad design idea. Some people have trouble with them but they are not the problem. They require more attention, more fertilizer and use great soil but they produce great. I have a few vegetables/fruits grow in them right now. They are doing great! I have never grow a plant in my live before this year.

I have an image of a tomato plant and it was only 10 inches tail when i started and many others that has been planted for a little while some just last week a few from last month . All in a topsy turvey or Big Lots version Upside Down.

Water and feed, no feed no vegetables.

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Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

I'm all for hanging some stuff too. My cucumber starts have twice been eaten to the nub. I planted new seeds in the topsy turvy. I did everything I could think of to save the little plants, including monitoring them 5 and 6 times a day. I used DE and garlic spray and charcoal. Nothing prevented the darn slugs from devouring them. So into hanging containers they go from now on. My lettuce is all hanging this year too. Also basil. I'll foil those little b-------s.

Pulaski, GA

Ya'll are funny. I love your posts.

Tampa, FL

This is our first year at veggie growing. I have had great success with my first Topsy Turvy (see photo)! I also bought 2 Topsy Turvys for perinnials and they are doing great too! The flowers are coming out of the top and bottom. I will try to post that photo next.

This is my first post .... and loving the wealth of info (and friendship) on here!

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Tampa, FL

Here is my flowering Topsy Turvy .....

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Hyde Park, MA

Yikes, after reading this thread I hate to admit it, but I bought my first Topsy Turvy type planter this year, ONLY because it got excellent reviews on Gardener's Supply and was on sale (and it's letting me have 3 more tomato plants without taking up room in my raised beds). So far, keeping it wet has absolutely not been a problem, but I live in Boston, so we haven't had any real heat yet. I filled it with compost, chose determinate plants to put in, and planted herbs at the top, instead of using the cover (a suggestion by someone who reviewed it). I have to say, skeptical as I was (and rather embarrassed even before reading this thread; I keep feeling I have to justify how I've come to own this thing every time someone comes in my yard), my plants are looking great, and already have flowers and tiny tomatoes. Hopefully things will continue to go well, or I may never be able to show my face on this website again....

Albany, NY(Zone 5a)

LOL it's OK to topsy turvey this is a judgement free zone. Glad you're having success!

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

LOL enjoy your success then next year be on our side because we to enjoyed early TT success then ZONK.LOL Ernie former TT grower.

Knoxville, TN

I, too, bought 2 TTs at Big Lots - @ $3/each. They are for peppers, but I put in strawberries (in only 1). The berries are fantastic - but they will never win any prize, as they are quite small and misshapen. Yes, they take more fertilizer and LOTS of water. About every 2 weeks, I have to remove the plastic top, scrape up the soil, add more soil, then recover - watering from the center top hole causes a pretty good size indentation in the soil. Don't see either of them surviving to be used another season. One thing I don't like about it is, the plastic prongs keep the new growth from emerging, so I have to pull them out, where they can grow. I'm thinking of cutting out some of the top prongs but, with my luck, the soil will probably fall out. The upside is, one of them has put out several really long runners, which are forming new plants - just no roots 'cause there's no soil. Because of the variety of strawberry I chose, I'm wondering what I'm going to do with it, come winter - hang it in a dark, cold shed?? Sorry, no photos.

Glocester, RI(Zone 6a)

I tried a tomato topsy-turvy last year. I didn't bury the plant deep enough and ended up losing it when the stem snapped in half in a windstorm a few days later. I was lazy and never took the planter down until this spring. By that point the plastic fabric had gotten so deteriorated by UV rays that it literally disintegrated when I took it down off the hook. I'll never spend money on one of those again.

For what it's worth, some friends of mine do the upside-down tomato thing using a 5-gallon home depot bucket with a hole cut out in the bottom. They've had pretty good results with it, so the concept seems like it works, I just have issues with the construction of the topsy-turvy planter itself.

Yorktown, VA(Zone 7a)

Knowing this crowd, I would not be surprised to see an ebucket-TT hybrid get designed to solve all of the "design flaws" of the TT. Sounds intriguing.


Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

I hsve used the five gallon bucket for years. I have also used the reusable grocery shopping bags. If you do this you need to put a rope harness on the bag because the wieght of the bag full of water has a tendacy to tear.

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

This is an update on my tt. I mentioned that I planted cucumber seeds in one. They sprouted quickly and are really growing fast and looking healthy. Compared to the ones I transplanted into the garden and into some other pots, these are by far the best. One thing I became sure of is that cukes don't like to be transplanted so part of the succes is that the seeds were planted in the tt. It's depth seems to help keep it moist. So far so good. Now if cukes are produced I will call this a success and do it again.

Tempe, AZ

I've never heard of the Topsy Turvy other than for tomatoes. I live in Tempe, AZ and have been wanting to try one to grow tomatoes but not now, its too hot here for tomatoes until a little later. Thank you for all the great ideas!

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

Drew I have grown peppers in a five gallon bucket one in the bottom and one in the top for several years.

You can grow anything you like but keep in mind how big the root mass gets. Thats why I use 5 gallon buckets.

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

Eweed, describe how you hang your 5 gallon bucket.

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

Use 5 gallon pail with good metal bail. Tie a line around each end of the plastic hand grip to form a bridal. Now simply tie the hanging line to the center of the bridal.I shoved foam rubber in the hole around the stem to stop the water from pushing the dirt out. If you live in real hot country best to use a white bucket or cover with tin foil. You can also consider cutting a hole in the lid to and putting it on to conserve moisture but I just committed the top plant and let the lid whole.

I also used reusable fabric grocery bags but one has to be careful which one to use.The handles fail and while they do grow just fine whats the point of growing fine if the whole works ends up crashed onto the ground. If I used a bag again I would tie it up with a stout line and not try to hang from the straps.The last time I hung from the straps it crashed to the GH floor. I was so discussed I just let it grow the rest of the way from there.

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