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How do upside-down tomatoes compare to traditionally grown ones?

June 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you're tired of those hard, pale-red objects that supermarkets call tomatoes, it may be time to grow your own. It's not hard to do, but choosing how to do it can get a little more complicated.

One way to grow tomatoes is upside-down with one of those Topsy Turvy planters, but how do those tomatoes compare to others grown in a traditional way? We teamed up with Consumer Reports to test out upside-down tomatoes.

There's nothing newfangled about Antonio Sabia's tomato garden.

"I like a tomato. I eat in a salad, and me and, my wife, she make a sauce for me, for the kids," said Sabia.

Sabia has been growing meaty tomatoes for 20 years, from the ground up. So why does there seem to be so much interest lately in growing tomatoes upside-down?

You might have seen the ad for the Topsy Turvy Upside Down Tomato Planter. Consumer Reports wanted to know if it was worth getting.

"It costs about 10 bucks, and it's basically a plastic bag with a two-and-a-half-inch hole at one end, and wire loops that you can hang it by," said Bernie Deitrick of Consumer Reports.

Sounds simple enough, but tester Dietrick found it wasn't all that easy to set up. You have to work a fragile tomato plant through the bag with the stem poking through the hole.

Then flip the bag over and fill it with potting soil, and lift the plant, bag, and soil overhead to hang. All in all, a bit awkward.

Consumer Reports tested it out in a rooftop garden with 24 tomato plants in both Topsy Turvy planters and regular patio boxes.

Both the patio boxes and the Topsy Turvy planters yielded about the same quantity and quality of tomatoes. But testers found the Topsy Turvy plants are more vulnerable.

"Because the plants are hanging, they sway in the wind, and in fact, two of our plants broke off during wind storms," said Dietrick.

Be aware that watering is a bit messier with the Topsy Turvy. While you can't over water, dirty water drips out of the bottom and leaves stains below. Also, the soil dries out more easily because the plant isn't shading the dirt.

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