Our New Tomato Hangers

One stack of buckets
Over the past several years I have been growing tomatoes in those topsy turvy planters that I've been hanging on my grape arbor for the last several years with mixed results for various reasons.  They have done well for the most part, they do well enough for me to keep wanting to do more.  I mean they do take up less room and they don't require cages or stakes when they're in those planters so I keep coming back for more.  I guess the biggest problem I have though is the flimsy material they are made from, it doesn't last very long, rips easily once it has aged a bit and has been exposed to the elements, not to mention the ugly color they fade to when they have been exposed to sunlight.  Usually I can squeak out up the 3 years from each planter, but I don't like living a disposable lifestyle so I thought I'd look into a more permanent solutions.    I am tired of replacing and/or repairing them as the material ripped when handled.  Worry not, I have plans for the "trash".

We made our own containers this year.  (Note to self, remember to come back and share results.)

During my search for a solution to the never ending parade of garbage, I considered many different things. It has taken some time to find the right container.  I thought about using some of those car washing buckets, but the plastic was flimsy and I wasn't so sure that the handles would hold up.  Most of them ended up holding less soil too, so I didn't want my containers to dry out.  The largest size I found in those was a 2 gallon bucket anyway.  In years past, I have also used 2 liter bottle planters wrapped with duct tape to block out the sunlight, but those would be WAY too small for tomatoes anyway.  We finally settled on the 5 gallon buckets.
Drilled buckets 
 I found most internet resources recommend a container that is 5 gallon or larger for tomatoes.  That got the wheels turning.  Usually those containers are pretty sturdy, weather well, can handle heavy use and they are inexpensive.  They are already set up to hang because they have a heavy duty handle.  I could even set them on the ground if I wanted to (unless of course there is a plant coming out the hole in the bottom), unlike the topsy turvy which has no wall or floor structure built into it.  The larger buckets will hold more soil which will hopefully help to keep it more evenly moist.  They will also allow for deeper roots.  These buckets are also inexpensive, costing basically half as much as the other planters I used to use cost.  I am excited to see how this turns out!

We drilled a larger central hole that the plant could be placed into as well as several drainage holes.   Personally, I would  have loved to have had more holes around the edges and I would have also drilled them smaller, but please don't tell hubby.  I was happy to have the help so the planting process could be much quicker.  I was filling these almost as fast as he could go hang them up.

The planting hole needs to be smaller than the root ball of the plant you are putting in there or it may fall out.  I added more support by placing several layers of newspaper in between the bottom of the planter.  This also helps to prevent the soil from washing out of the container.  The entire bottom of the bucket was covered with newspaper with only a small hole ripped into the center to put the root ball through.
Planting the tomato

Once the plant was placed in the bucket, it was time to add soil.  Some of them I planted deeper to allow more roots to grow along the buried stem.  I did not mark them, so it will be too hard to track which ones I did that way, but I suspect those may produce better than the ones that have a smaller root system.   Maybe I will keep track of which ones I get the most tomatoes from and check their roots when I pull them later.  Pack the soil firmly and continue filling until the roots are completely covered by dirt by at least a couple inches.  I didn't want to completely fill the containers until they are put in place, because seriously 5 gallons of dirt can get very heavy.

 At that point, hubby toted my planters to their home for the summer.  Once they were all hung, I threw in a hand full of shredded leaves and grass into each bucket, then filled the container to within a couple of inches from the top with finished compost.

We put the same tomato type (Box Car Willie) into each of these hanging planters, so there won't be a variation other than which side of the arbor they were on or how deep they were planted.

I have also planted some tomatoes in the ground, in our garden, and in containers that will be firmly planted on the ground so we can compare those factors as well.  We planted  over 30 tomato plants in various locations.  I can't wait until I get to start picking fresh tomatoes off the vine!

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

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