2-liter bottle upside down tomato planter

DIY Upside down tomato planter

Though my first attempt at an upside down tomato planter worked out great, I have a habit of forgetting to water the plants everyday.  More commonly when we have decent rains when only the hanging tomato planters need to be watered.  So this year I have modified my design a little to make this a little easier.  As a bonus you can create this new version much quicker and minimal tools.

Materials required

  • Empty 2-liter bottle
  • Spray paint
  • Drill or hot nail
  • Chopstick or 1/4 in stick

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Step 1 — Cut off bottom

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There is a natural ridge at the bottom of the two liter bottle, simply cut at this ridge and remove the bottom.

Step 2 — Attach water reservoir

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Take the removed bottom, flip it over, and insert it into the bottom of the bottle until flush with the top.

Step 3 — Drills Holes

First you need to drill a small hole in the bottom of the reservoir (the bottom you cut of)  Use the smallest drill bit you have, this will reduce the water flow coming into the planter during rainfall and/or manual watering.  With this reduced flow there should be much less soil loss during watering.

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Second you need to drill two holes about 1/4 inch from the edge with a 1/4 inch drill bit.  It is a little difficult to get enough pressure against the plastic to make this hole without causing the plastic to collapse.  To take care of this place a small piece of wood on the floor and drill the holes from the inside.

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Step 4 — Paint planter

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You want to protect the roots from being exposed to direct sunlight so you need to cover the outside.  This can be done with contact paper, duct tape (as I have done in the past) or for a fast cleaner look just quickly add a quick coat of spray paint to the outside.  It is probably best to use paint that is made to adheres well to plastic, though in my case I had some nice multipurpose light green paint leftover from another project that with a few hard rains appears to be holding up well.
Step 5 — Secure with stick (chopstick) and fill with soil

DIY Upside down tomato planter #2

Now add your plant (tomatoes and peppers are my favorites) to the bottom (previously the top) of the planter by carefully pushing the roots through the hole or alternatively you can the plant out from the inside.  If your plant is too large to do this safely you may also cut a larger opening in the bottom, but I would recommend wrapping a sponge or coffee filter around the plant to assist in keeping the dirt in the planter.

Fill your planter with a mixture of 1 part perlite to 2 parts (potting mix, peat moss, coconut coir) with the top 1/2 inch being only (potting mix, peat moss, coconut coir)  After a couple of waterings, this 1/2 inch layer will compact and restrict the water flow for a slower and more distributed watering.

DIY Upside down tomato planter #3

Use the thinner end of your chopsticks to thread it through both holes and both sets of plastic, attach a piece of twine attached to bother ends, and hang wherever the plants can get some good full sunshine and you should have plenty of early tomatoes this summer.

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  1. Pingback: Topsy turvy tomato planter

  2. Pingback: Some Tips In Growing Tomatoes Upside Down

  3. Rob, thanks I am enjoying not having to water them after 2 days of rain like I had to with the old design. I also think these look a little better.

    I have quite a few pepper plants growing in the grow box if I can find a place to hang them might have an army of these things in the back yard.

  4. This is great! I wanted one and saw some ideas for a DIY project but this is so easy and very northwest friendly. Thx.

    • Dina, at they are so easy to make might create an army of these things for my peppers, though have to figure out where I can hang all of them from now :)

      Matron, my peppers did excellent but tomatoes required daily watering which is the main reason for the redesign. Hoping to get better results this time and planning on having much more consistent montoring and reporting this year.

  5. I tried to do one of these last year but it didn’t survive. I look forward to seeing your results!

  6. Do you have squirrels in your area and if so have your upside down tomatoes been safe from them? Thanks for the wonderfully detailed directions!

    • Fortunately our only vicious predators in my neighborhood are little bunnies, though I have heard this method has deterred squirrels though they are a crafty animal. Either way should be much more dangerous and difficult than the in ground versions.

  7. Thanks so much for the quick reply! Wish we had bunnies instead of squirrels. Squirrels put on surprisingly loud performances on our roof in the wee hours of the morning.

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  11. Thanks, this is a great adaptation and I’m going to give it a whirl.

    Do you foresee or have you had any issues with mold given how airtight the container is?

    • Brian, I just checked this morning and no signs of mold yet, though that is a good point and will keep an eye out as the temperatures increase. I easy fix for this would be to add a few small holes into the side to allow some additional air flow but obviously this would increase the evaporation as well…

  12. I like your idea of using contact paper or duct tape to cover the bottle, but I would be worried about using spray paint. Would constant exposure to ultraviolet light possibly cause toxins in the paint to make their way into the plastic and get into the soil, which would then make its way into the tomatoes that one ultimately ingest? (America’s Test Kitchen on PBS did a comparison of plastic Ziploc-style freezer bags, and one criterion they used was the gas permeability of the plastic — apparently all plastic food bags have a degree of porosity to them. I don’t know if this applies to plastic bottles as well. )

  13. Instead of spray-paint or adhesive-based methods, perhaps a sheet of aluminum foil wrapped tightly on the outside of the bottle would work. At the top of the planter, the foil would be folded over to the inside (between the inverted bottom and the bottle’s walls) and be held in place by the chopstick, while twisting the foil around the neck of the bottle could secure the foil at the other end. Or use the foil as an inner liner of the bottle.

  14. Heard you on Sci Fri. This is great. I’ve been thumbing my Gardener’s Supply catalog to shreds trying to figure out which thing I can afford, and which I have to forgo.
    I’m just wondering what variety of tomatoes you can plant in your 2 liter bottles?
    thanks.

  15. Hi, thanks for the instructions! I never do DIY projects but I actually tried this today. It was difficult to get the plant through the narrow neck, but I found a trick after I mostly killed my tomato seedling in the first attempt — wrap the leaves/stem in the coffee filter like a cylinder and feed through the neck. Also, was unsure of where to put the mini hole in the water reservoir so I put it directly in the middle (not the lowest point). Might need to drill another hole…

    Thank you!!

  16. Woodrow, might even get some added benefit of reflecting some sunlight off them. Red foil could also be interesting for some additional effect from the red spectrum…

    Harriet, for 2-liters I stick with cherry or grape sized tomatoes. I am considering experimenting with a larger variety using some hydroponics concepts to see if I can get away with the smaller roots with extra nutrients.

    Taraq, sorry for the loss. That is a great tip. I will be sure to add it to the post to help save some future seedlings. As for drilling I went with the lowest point, but in the end it doesn’t matter too much given there are still 5-6 valleys that will still pool some water.

  17. Thanks for the variety info.

    It occurred to me that securing a mesh bag to the neck of the planter might support a larger-fruited type. It would look even more peculiar than an upside-down plant already does, of course!

  18. Harriet, I have heard of using nylons to grow melons vertically with a similiar concept, though one concern I would have is the ease of picking those first few ripe tomatoes.

  19. This is an engenious idea!! love it!! how do you think it would work with strawberry plants – I will be planting these soon and as I live in a retirement village I don’t have a lot of garden and – maybe these would work – regards

  20. Re the mesh bag…I hadn’t thought of harvesting them! You mean you don’t just look at them? LOL

    Re the strawberries – make sure you get the alpine variety that doesn’t sen out runners. ….Harriet

  21. Harriet, you are always welcome to have them as ornamentals :)

    That is a good idea for non-running strawberries. Though trying to imaging a plant dropping runners looking for soil in the air…

  22. We just tried this, and it seems like the water from the first watering is coming through pretty fast (one or two drops a second coming out of the neck of the bottle). I’m not sure how often to water it today. Any thoughts?

  23. Elizabeth, the point is for the water to come in slowly so it doe snot cause the soil to wash away. The rate it is coming out the bottom sounds good, you should water once a day (assuming it has not rained that day) or twice a day (morning/evening) on very hot days.

  24. Thanks! It seemed like it was dripping pretty fast to me, but I guess I’m not used to being able to see how fast the water works its way through the soil. :)

    My six-year-old daughter is very excited, the more so because the planter is where she will be able to pick cherry tomatoes and eat them when we eat at the patio table outside. :)

  25. this is a great idea. i want to do this project myself and i’m curious as to a couple of things if you can please help me out. in step 3, drilling the holes, did you only drill one small hole in the center? secondly, does this only work for a plant that has already grown with roots or can i start from scratch with tomato seeds? also if i start from scratch, would the plant still come out from the bottom? also if i start from scratch, how do i keep the soil from falling out of the bottom?

    • Danny, I have not tried it but I would start a seed in the planter unless you start it the plant right side up. The seedling will search for light though I would guess the sprout will go with gravity and not be successful. if you restrict the water flow using the small holes you should lose much (if any) soil out the bottom. Though it you are still concerned (or you have an especially small seedling) you could cut a coffee filter halfway through and wrap it around between the stem and roots. This will keep in more soil and give the seedling a little more support. I have started plants with as seedling as little as 3 inches tall with just the weight from the soil and the existing root ball with plenty of support from preventing the plant from falling out.

  26. ohhh ok thanks a lot. so i should plant seeds in a regular pot first and let it grow out to about 3 inches tall and then transfer it over? also how many holes did you drill into the reservoir? thanks for all of your help in advance btw!

  27. Three weeks into the experiment, my plants seem to love the upside-down planters (they nearly doubled in size the first week and all but one are flowering nicely)… BUT… I discovered this morning that I definitely do have a problem with mold in the soil now that temperatures have risen.

    Is it too late to add some air holes? Will that get rid of the mold? Should I add them above the soil line or beneath?

    And is there anything else I can do to get rid of the mold now that it’s there?

    • Peter, I haven’t seen any mold in mine though fortunately/unfortunately our weather has been pretty cool. You might try removing the plastic top and let the mold die off or adding a few extra holes in the sides to allow more airflow while still allowing the water to flow in slowly from the top.

  28. I made 30 of the 2-liter bottle hanging planters. They have been selling fast at the local farmer’s market for $5. All the plants are looking great.

    Modificaitons: Organic potting soil. Added bone and blood meal at time of planting. Sticks from the garden instead of chopsticks. Composted at the bottom to hold the soil in. Inoculated with Mycogrow mycorrizal fungus. Sturdier agricultural twine for hanging.

    • I also add some blood and bone meat to my potting mix before filling. So when should I be expecting my royalty check? :)

      I would like to see some pictures of your planters and your results in the forum if you have a chance. I am about a week behind on my last update but I can say mine are looking great as well. Though the weather has been cold and wet here they are starting to flower and expect some fruit shortly.

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  31. I have tried growing upside down tomatoes a couple of times now. Its a neat little idea and definatly a conversation starter. however I haven’t had as great a result from these tomatoes as the ones I grow the normal way. What do you guys think?

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  33. I used this method and grew tomatoes, sweet peppers, jalapenos, zucchini, squash, eggplant and various herbs on my balcony last year. It really does work amazingly well, though depending on the weather, you may have to water them a bit more often.

  34. Thanks for posting this. I’ll be trying it here soon. This part isn’t clear to me, though:

    “Fill your planter with a mixture of 1 part perlite to 2 parts (potting mix, peat moss, coconut coir)”

    Do you mean 2 parts of a *mixture* of potting mix and peat moss and coconut coir? Or do you mean 2 parts of *either* potting mix or peat moss or coconut coir?

  35. this sound good but what about the BPA problem? that is noy safe or healthy

    • norman, don’t know for all products out there but did confirm that pepsi products the bottles are BPA free…though there could be a other compounds in the plastic to worry about but BPA is not one of them.

  36. This is a fantastic idea, thanks. For years I have used the same section of 2-liter bottles, drilled with holes, as small greenhouses over seedlings. It helps with unexpected frost, torrential spring rain that might wash away or pummel seedlings, birds and other garden predators. Acclimating the plants after they’re established is as easy as taking off the “greenhouse” for several hours and replacing it, until the plant is hearty enough to live without it.

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  39. This upside down planter is a fab idea & design.
    Last year, as I did not have enough small pots I cut the tops off plastic milk cartons & drilled holes in the bottom, so I had free pots ( with carry handles ). All my friends who garden then did the same. So simple, but why not & recycling bottles for gardening rocks! Thanks for sharing your design.

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  41. wonderful idea for my deck i have at my apartment…going to try it :)

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  43. I was just reading and think you got a great idea… Didn’t read them all but maybe a hand held hole puncher might be a better means of punching the holes. Not sure if it will work but I am going to try it. Thanks for the suggestions…

  44. I’ve never done anything like this, but would love to try. When is the best time of year to do this .. or can it be done year round?

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  49. I have been want.ing to try this for about 2$ years now and finally got my first batch up amd hanging. I am in South Africa with very hot and humid summers…. i read about the mould issue any suggestions?….

  50. I live in a condo and putting up a plant is not possible. So I make a planter put of big softdrink bottles. Not only I’m making my surrunding green, I’m harvesting all-natural and organic food.

  51. Wonderfull idea! Better than tilling the ground or having raised beds.being a pop drinker I wondered how to reuse all my bottles.I have planted tomatoes in the ground before and noticed some of the main stocks got pretty thick.. would the opening of the bottle be too small? I would love to try this.

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