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.

67 Responses to “2-liter bottle upside down tomato planter”

  1. Rob Says:

    Very cool redesign. Genious idea to make a water resevoir!


  2. Topsy turvy tomato planter Says:

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  3. Some Tips In Growing Tomatoes Upside Down Says:

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  4. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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.


  5. Dina Berry Says:

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


  6. Matron Says:

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


  7. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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.


  8. Cynthia Says:

    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!


  9. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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.


  10. Cynthia Says:

    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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  12. Upside Down Tomatoes! « Jess In Ohio Says:

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  13. M3talinks for May 21st Says:

    […] 2-liter bottle upside down tomato planter The Cheap Vegetable Gardener – 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. […]


  14. Brian Says:

    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?


  15. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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…


  16. Woodrow Says:

    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. )


  17. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    I would also wonder about the toxicity of the adhesive on duct tape or contact paper…


  18. Woodrow Says:

    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.


  19. Harriet Says:

    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.


  20. Taraq Says:

    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!!


  21. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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.


  22. Harriet Says:

    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!


  23. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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.


  24. Jas Patrick Says:

    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


  25. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    I haven’t tried but doing the same design with 3-4 holes on the side would probably work great for strawberries.


  26. Harriet Says:

    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


  27. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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…


  28. Elizabeth Says:

    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?


  29. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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.


  30. Elizabeth Says:

    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. :)


  31. Danny Says:

    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?


  32. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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.


  33. Danny Says:

    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!


  34. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Yeah any bigger you probably will have problems getting it through the small hole in the bottom.

    As for holes in the reservoir, you just need one.


  35. Peter Says:

    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?


  36. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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.


  37. Bob Albrecht Says:

    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.


  38. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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.


  39. Plenty of room for a garden! « Newport Beach & Corona del Mar, CA Real Estate Blog Says:

    […] One urban gardening option gaining popularity is germinating plants upside down from hanging containers. That is, the plants dangle upside down from homemade planters, such as five-gallon buckets, or commercially available planters. A recent New York Times article spotlighted this technique. These hanging options allow those without a yard to grow fresh produce, and those with a backyard garden to add a rack of hanging planters and boost their gardens’ yields. Condo dwellers can get in the act too with easy-to-make hanging window pots. For a step-by-step pictorial on making your own upside-down soda bottle container, please go here. […]


  40. Top gardening posts of 2010 Says:

    […] off my mention in a New York Times article and subsequent interview on Science Friday on NPR, this article on making your own tomato planter held the #1 spot.  By taking a two liter bottle, a little spray paint, and a chopstick (or […]


  41. Landscape bob Says:

    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?


  42. 10 cool homey things « thrifted. Says:

    […] I attempted this last year with a few sweet pepper plants and I’m sure it would have worked wonderfully if I had remembered to water them. Found at Cheap Vegetable Gardener. […]


  43. Winter Says:

    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.


  44. Anthony DiSante Says:

    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?


  45. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Anthony, 2 parts either peat moss or coconut coir


  46. norman Says:

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


  47. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    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.


  48. SteveDenver Says:

    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.


  49. So many ways to garden, so little time! | Peaceful Valley Farm Blog Says:

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  50. 12 Ways To Raise Healthy Happy Eaters | Bit of Earth Farm Says:

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  51. Tracy Deakin Says:

    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.


  52. Pinterest Inspired Gardening — Syd Gill Says:

    […] is to make some raised beds, maybe even a few vertical planters from gutters and perhaps even an upside down tomato planter. Wish us luck as we start to move the seedlings to bigger pots and then eventually harden the […]


  53. Donna Says:

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


  54. de behoeftes die je kunt vervullen met een lege fles « ZIENR Says:

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  55. Phil Says:

    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…


  56. Emmes Says:

    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?


  57. Ghetto Gardening « bebop moon Says:

    […] http://www.cheapvegetablegardener.com/2010/05/2-liter-bottle-upside-down-tomato-planter.html Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Published: May 21, 2012 Filed Under: Uncategorized […]


  58. Effbe World » D.I.Y. Upcycling Says:

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  59. DIY Planters | Crafting a Green World Says:

    […] 6. Upside down planter – Transform an old two-liter bottle into an upside down tomato planter. […]


  60. How to make your own upside Down Planter In your Garden - The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    […] 2 liter — Version 2.0 — This year I wanted something that did not appear as hideous hanging and also took care of the watering issue from the previous version.  With this I created a slow drip watering reservoir and used spray paint and skipped the duct tape.Pros: Easy to water through manual or automatic (rain), evaporation is minimized due to small drainage holesCons: At the moment, there are none known.  I am happy with this design. […]


  61. Yvonne van Eck Says:

    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?….


  62. Dana Caffrey Says:

    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.


  63. michele Says:

    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.


  64. Spring Garden Prep: Creative Seed Starter Ideas Says:

    […] Image credits: The Cheap Vegetable Gardener […]


  65. Dave Says:

    I recently began making some new “pop bottle planters” for this year. This time, I tried a minor variation: rather than going to the trouble of drilling holes, I cut a wire coat hanger (any strong wire would do)into pieces slightly longer than the width of the bottom (actually top) of the planter. A standard pliers will do it with a good squeeze and leaves a pointed end. I then heated one end of each piece over a butane lighter for 30 seconds, and pushed it right through the bottle almost effortlessly. It went all the way through four layers of cleanly and there was no smoke or smell of burning plastic.

    I am using two cut pieces of hanger crisscrossing the top of the planter and plant to attach a hanger at the crossing point. This should allow the planter to move a bit more smoothly with the wind, spinning rather than swinging, which I’ve had some trouble with in the past. One wire hanger will yield enough pieces of steel wire for two planters.

    I’ve been painting my bottles in the past, but this year am going to try some green-colored (e.g. Seven-Up) bottles without painting them. The color should filter out enough light that the roots will not be “sunned”. The green bottles are not quite as dark as the material a “Topsy Turvy” planter is made from, but they’re close.


  66. DIY 2L Upside Down Tomato Planter Says:

    […] Here is a great way to grow tomatoes or peppers indoors or when you have limited space available for your gardening needs. Why not use this diy 2L plastic bottle upside down tomato planter? […]


  67. 1 Gallon Milk carton upside down tomato planter Says:

    […] I wanted to see if (how much) my yields varied by allowing more volume of dirt in my homemade tomato planter, so I made this variation with the same type and size “Husky Cherry” seedling I am using in my 2-liter planter version. […]


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