How to make your own upside Down Planter In your Garden


Over the past year I have created a few different versions of garden planters for growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers inspired from my daughter watching a Topsy Turvy tomato planter commercial.  Here is a quick summary of the different options which you can click the link for full instructions how to build on yourself.

IMG_1883 2 Liter – The Original — This is the one that started it all.  Very simple design using a 2 liter bottle covered with duct tape with a hole cut in the side to add soil and water as needed.Pros: Simple to create, dark color helped keep soil warm during the early part of the year, unlike the sibling seedling which I planted in the ground as a control which did not make it.Cons:  Really had to keep up on watering, given it had a 2 inch hole in the side water was able to easily evaporate and it did not get the advantage of being watered automatically on raining days/weeks and given I wasn’t watering any other plants forgot about this poor one which led to reduced yields.
046 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.
043 1 gallon milk jug (with auto-watering) — I was curious about if the extra 1.799 liters with a larger contain would significantly help yields so I went with this version.  Also decided to add an experimental external watering source.Pros: Larger volume of soil, extra watering capacityCons: Keeping the whole thing balanced was a pain, currently have it under control with a couple rubber band but will probably have to be replaced with something more permanent later.


So there you have the short evolution of my homemade upside down tomato planters all created from materials from my recycling bin.  Though if you do not want to make one yourself here are a just a few of the commercial upside down planter versions on the market right now.

35 Responses to “How to make your own upside Down Planter In your Garden”

  1. Garden Austin » Blog Archive » Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes, and Turning Plants on Their Heads Says:

    […] This link is mentioned in the article, but in case the NYT page disappears, here’s a link to a guy experimenting with upside-down planters: at […]

  2. Don Says:

    Here’s my problem–my work keeps me on the road for over two weeks in a row each month. Will the auto-watering system last that long? I live in North Florida, so I anticipate a fair amount of rain, just in short bursts. I’d love to come home to fresh tomatoes and peppers, but I’m afraid they need more maintenance than I can give.

  3. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Don, when the weather gets hot you would need to water these daily. Now provided you got some nightly thunderstorms with some hard rains you could be ok but a 2-3 days without rain and your tomatoes would be in sorry shape. The peppers on the other hand like to be a little dryier and could survive a little bit longer without watering. One other option would be to setup a automated watering using a 5 gallon (maybe bigger for 2 weeks) bucket of water and a cheap fountain pump to provide some water to supplement the natural rainwater.

    Luisa, feel free to give this site credit as well 🙂 I was inspired by a topsy turvy commercial who was most likely inspired by people using 5 gallon buckets for the past 2-3 decades…

  4. Luisa M. Fournier Says:

    Thanks for sharing tips! Splendid summer ideas to entertain-teach-learn children out of school. Will share in my SWFL SOMOS GoGreen/Cultura Verde column. Who do I give credit besides NYT?

  5. Nancy Says:

    I bought that Topsy Turvy tomato planter. I hope it works like they say it does. If I get enough tomatoes, I would like to donate some to our local food pantry. If it’s got enough there, I want to share. lol

  6. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Nancy, great idea I have been meaning to post of sharing your extra crops. If you want it would be great if you could document your efforts with growing with a Topsy Turvy on our forum.

  7. curious Says:

    thank you, this is very nicely detailed. i wonder if one should expect any soil loss to occur through the opening at bottom after watering ?

  8. Upside Down Planter « Says:

    […] Did you ever grow tomatoes or peppers upside down? How to build your own upside down planter: […]

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  10. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    curious, with the restricted water flow I have seen almost no soil being loss at the bottom. Though adding a sponge or coffee filter should eliminate all worries of soil loss.

  11. EdgarAllenPoe Says:

    Don a possible alternative for you may be earth boxes. These are commercial self watering planters. But there is quite a cult following of homemade do it yourself ideas on the web to accomplish the same thing.

  12. Forsythkid Says:

    A cool sounding idea, but I do have my doubts as to how much produce can actually be had from these contraptions.

  13. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    I would completely agree that yields will not equal that of the same plant properly staked/trellised in the ground with unlimited space to grow. Though if you plant three of these small planters above that plant above area grown by the in ground plant even if the yields are half as much this still would be a 150% total greater yield. Or infinite if you didn’t have any ground to grow on 🙂

  14. shelly Says:

    I tried this and the plant has made a u-turn and is growing upwards – it has now reached the top of the bucket and is growing toward the handing handle – has this happened to anyone?

  15. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Sounds like your mix might have been a little high in nitrogen or possibly not in full sun. If it has a strong stem, once it starts to bear fuit it should bend more towards the ground

  16. Make your own upside Down Planter In your Garden Says:

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  17. Sue Dippold Says:

    I made upside down tomato planters out of 5 gal buckets used by a plastering company. I planted tomatoes upside down through a hole drilled into the bottom of each bucket. I also planted peppers in the tops of the buckets right side up. I hung the buckets on an old swing set. The tomatoes did well and the peppers did great. All would hve done a lot better if I had been able to keep up with the watering.

  18. Sunlight Says:

    i saw some where sold such planting items, but this DIY things looks much great.

  19. Judy Says:

    How does one stick the plant through the whole without hurting it?

  20. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Judy, normally once I shake off some of the dirt of the roots it fits in nicely. If you have larger plants you could consider using a utility knife to make the opeing a little bigger. As long as the plant does not fall through when you plant it, as it grows it will secure itself in there even more.

  21. Growing with ReNew | sparkhouse Blog Says:

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  22. 10 Tips for growing tomatoes in the Northwest Says:

    […] Upside Down Tomato Planter […]

  23. Chris Says:

    Try using a reusable grocery bag that can be bought for $1.00. Their nylon construction makes them sturdy and they have handles to hang from.

    Take the bag and cut hole(s) in the bottom depending on how many tomato plants you want. Take the plants roots and stick them through the hole. It’s best to place the bag on top of a bucket when filling with soil so you don’t damage the plant. They hold plenty of potting soil and don’t forget to add some organic fertilizer.

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  25. Michelle Says:

    I see alot of talk about using these homemade planters for tomatoes and peppers. But how about green beans? I prefer bush beans to pole beans. I was thinking that I would plant the beans in the 2liter bottles and hanging them. How well do you think this will work?

  26. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Michelle, I have not personally tried it (too be honest not a fan of the green beans) but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work. Not sure how tall they get so you have to make sure the container was at least that hight. If too hight to water may consider a larger container and trying bush beans.

  27. Michelle Says:

    Bush beans do not get very tall, maybe knee high. And they do not vine out. That’s why I was hoping the 2 liter pop bottle would work good.
    I was also wondering about another growing container. We have a black lab dog, so we always have large dogfood bags around. Do you think they would work for a planting container? Of course I would have to cut some drainage wholes.

  28. Interviewed on NPR's Science Friday - The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

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  31. Gardening Novice - The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    […] we are experimenting with other space savers like vertical gardening and upside down planters.  So far we have had mixed success due in part to poor planning (Who knew the garage cast that […]

  32. George Says:

    Great idea on the 2 liter planter.
    I use the 2 liter for rose cutting
    as a mini greenhouse and cut the bottom when ready to transplant. Now
    able to recycle the 2 liter into the
    upside down planter as another use.
    I guess you can now list the idea
    as a recycle recycle for the 2 liter
    bottle. It may never be thrown away.

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  34. haejin Says:

    hello.a reader from Korea^^
    I have been looking for information which is about how to make upside down planter with auto watering system(?). I read three of your postings but could not get how to make the auto watering thing. should I just put a water bottle into a bucket? could you please give me more details about making or adding the system? thank you^^

  35. panjang umur Says:

    Hi everyone, it’s my first visit at this web page, and article is really fruitful for me, keep up posting these types
    of posts.

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