Upside Down Tomato Planter – A Cool DIY Project

by craftmin | December 23, 2017

She woke you up in the middle of the night, your pregnant wife craving her favorite sandwich. You went to the kitchen, ready to make one for her. Bread, check. Salami, check. Parmesan cheese, check. Tomato, it’s just somewhere here. Wait, there are no more tomatoes? How can you make a salami and tomato sandwich without tomatoes? Being the loving husband that you are, you grabbed your keys and drove to the nearest store to find some tomatoes. Hassle, right? But you could have avoided this with a simple DIY project, one I’m sure your wife will love you more for – an upside down tomato planter.

Why Make An Upside Down Tomato Planter?

Aside from the fact your wide loves tomatoes, it is a simple and cool looking DIY project. Plus, it’s cheap. And don’t they look so pretty, those plump, red tomatoes? Rich in nutrients and vitamins and packed with so many health benefits, you can never go wrong with this upside down tomato planter.

Finished Upside Down Tomato Container Garden. Photo © Kerry Michaels Upside down tomato planter

First Things First

Don’t let this cool-looking DIY project fool you. It may look easy and all, but really, it’s not. So why bother with this when you can plant your veggies the conventional way? Well, we are looking for fun and innovative ways of doing things here. And it really looks cool, believe me. So here are some tips to consider before starting this upside down tomato planter project.

Stable spot

This planter weighs at least 50 pounds with all the damp soil and that tiny seedling, so ake sure to hang it somewhere that can hold its weight. Some ideas on how to hang these babies:

  • Hockey goal style – Hang the buckets in a square structure made of beams, sunken deep into the ground – just like a hockey goal, but let’s lose the net. This is an ideal set-up for those with enough yard space.
  • The wall – If your wall or porch faces the sun, it can be a good spot to hang your upside down tomato planter. Just make sure that the screws and hooks are sturdy enough to carry the weight of this plant project.

Mr. Sun

While Mr. Sun can potentially harm our skin with just 30 minutes of unprotected exposure, tomatoes are different. Do you know that they need sun exposure for at least 6 hours a day? Tomatoes sure love the sun even for a plant, so make sure that wherever you put this upside down tomato planter, that it gets the sun exposure it needs. Unsure whether your tomatoes get enough sun? Visually time the period when the sun hits the spot you are planning to hang your tomatoes. Use a watch for this and please, don’t cheat.  This sun calculator can also do the job.

Tomato variety

Since weight is already a challenge for this project, we suggest that you stick with the cherry tomato variety. Other tomato varieties are bigger and may become even heavier when ripe. The added weight might break your upside down planter, and we don’t want that to happen.

Things You Need

What You Need for DIY Upside Down Tomato planter. Photo © Kerry Michaels

Let’s get started with your own upside down tomato planter!

For the tomato planter:

  • tomato seedling
    – There are lots of types of cherry tomatoes to choose from. But our favorites would be Supersweet 100s, Sungold, Red Currant, Tiny Tims and Sweet Millions.
  • 5-gallon bucket with lid
    – You can find the white ones in local hardware stores. There are also those orange buckets at Home Depot which cost around $3.00 each. But hey, freebies are the best so ask for used and empty ingredient containers from the nearest bakeries and restaurants in your area. After all, more savings means more fun!
  • Potting soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Utility knife
  • Plastic window screening
  • Scissors
  • Hanging apparatus (please refer to Stable spot)
  • Second set of hands
    – For the weight and the hanging part or for any support you’ll be needing.

To cover the upside down tomato bucket:

  • Oilcloth or other waterproof material
    – It can be oil cloth from any fabric store. Or you can use those plastic tablecloths (love the great pattern choices) from discount stores.
  • Measuring tape
  • Waterproof tap
  • Plastic ribbon, twine or plastic raffia

Steps In Making Upside Down Tomato Planter

1. Cut a hole in the bottom of the bucket

Cutting Drainage Hole for Upside Down Tomato planter. Photo © Kerry Michaels

Carefully make a hole in the bucket’s bottom using a utility knife. Use the round part at the bottom of the bucket as a guide. Don’t worry too much as it doesn’t need to be exact or neat, but the hole should be at least 2 inches in diameter. Make another 4 smaller holes for additional drainage, and some more in the bucket for better air circulation.

2. Use decorative covers to dress up this upside down tomato planter

Upside down tomato planter. Measure Height and Circumference of Bucket. Photo © Kerry Michaels

Make this upside down tomato planter more appealing with a decorative cover. First measure the bucket’s height, from top lip to bottom rim. You also need to measure the bucket’s circumference. This helps in cutting the decorative cover for a snug fit in the bucket.

3. How to put on that decorative cover on your upside down bucket planter

Upside down tomato planter. Use Tape Ring to Secure Cover. Photo © Kerry Michaels

Cut the decorative cover based on the measurements. Remember to keep some overlap in the width for folding. You might have to do some folding for that snugly look, but it all depends on your chosen fabric. If you are using oil cloth, leaving that edge raw will still make it great. Use a utility knife with a straight metal ruler for a good, crisp edge. Scissors can also do the job, whatever works for you.

4. Secure the decorative cover with plastic tape

Upside down tomato planter. Securing Cover with Plastic Tape. Photo © Kerry Michaels

Use waterproof tape, like electric tape, to stick the short end of the fabric to the side of the bucket. Wrap the decorative cover tightly for it to circle the bucket. If your bucket is slightly larger on top than the bottom,  do some extra work to make sure you get those wrinkles out.

Secure the part of the oil cloth to that piece you taped before, by making a tape circle with the sticky side facing out.

Fasten the fabric cover further onto your bucket with a plastic ribbon.

5. Keep the upside down tomato inside the planter with plastic screening

Upside down tomato planter. Bucket with Cut Screening. Photo © Kerry Michaels

The plastic window screening lets the water out while keeping the damp soil and the tomato plant in place, by cutting some window screening that fits the bucket’s bottom. Cut the screen to have six tiny flaps, pretty much when you’re cutting a pie – it is easier to make a fold on the screen first before making the initial cut. Cut the screen opening as close to the size of the hole as possible to make sure that the tomato plant’s roots will fit through.

Load the potting soil into the bucket – the amount of potting soil will depend on the stability of the hanging apparatus and the method you used to plant the tomato seedling.

Add the fertilizer if your potting soil doesn’t already include it – just follow the instructions that come with the fertilizer box. Organic slow-release fertilizers work best, based on my experience.

6. Prep the upside down tomato plant

Upside down tomato planter. Root Bound Tomato Seedling. Photo © Kerry Michaels

Lets get those baby tomatoes ready for transfer! Remove the seedling from its original pot then separate the roots, if you’re using root-bound tomatoes. Remove the leaves and excess soil from the bottom. The tomato’s root ball should be moistened before squeezing it to help your tomato plant glide smoothly through the hole that you made in the bottom of the bucket.

7. Plant those precious seedlings

Upside down tomato planter. Inserting Tomato Seedling into Bucket. Photo © Kerry Michaels

We have two approaches for this. Either plant it the right side up, letting the tomato grow for a while before putting it upside-down, or plant it upside down from the very start. There are advantages and disadvantages to these approaches.

With the right side up approach, you’ll get a head start for your tomato seedling  until it reaches at least 12 inches tall, then you hang it up. Another good things is that the bucket will not cover the tomato when Mr. Sun is up high so if its upside down, the plant could get contorted. The disadvantage with this is the need to load the bucket with soil up to the top so good luck with the weight!

Right side up planting style: Load the potting soil up to the top of the bucket then place the lid and secure it, then flip it upside down.  The hole should be now be on top, then push the plant all the way into the potting soil. Tomato plants grow their roots from their stem, so make sure to plant it deeply. Find the first strong leaves on the tomato and plant it into the soil up to this set of leaves.

Upside down planting style: Fill the bucket with soil to about 3 – 5 inches from the top. Secure the bucket lid and tip the bucket onto its side. You now need those extra hands! Place the plant seedling deeply through the hole, to the first sturdy leaves. Pushing the tomato plant through those screening flaps will bend it back so when the plant is in, pull those flaps out to lay securely on the potting soil.

8. Securely suspend the upside down tomato planter

Upside Down Tomato planter. Photo © Kerry Michaels

Hang your upside down tomato planter securely from the handle. It’s better to have those extra hands again at this point because the weight of the tomato planter makes it very challenging to move. Because the plant is growing into the hole at the bucket’s bottom, putting it down on any flat surface will be next to impossible. It would really help if you have a big planter nearby where you can rest the plant whenever you’re having trouble with the weight.

Do you want to know a quick way to kill plants? Deprive them of water. Hydration is as important for the plant as it is for us. So water your tomato generously, making sure the soil is always damp. But be careful not to overdo it, because you can also drown the plant.

Leave the lid partially on to avoid the bucket getting too heavy from sudden rainfall and to give it air circulation.

Treat your upside down tomato planter with a diluted liquid fertilizer – fish emulsion works best for me.

Good luck and happy DIYing!