More and more people are becoming interested in having a garden and growing their food at home. It’s a rewarding hobby and one way to make the most of your spacious backyard. But the lack of gardening space in residential buildings and apartments often leave avid gardeners discouraged. Well, there’s always upside-down gardening. With this alternative, you can start growing vegetables and herbs right in your tiny patio or balcony!
What Is an Upside-Down Garden?
An upside-down garden is an excellent example of vertical gardening, where gardeners hang inverted planters from the ceiling to grow plants. It was a gardening trend in 1998, popularised by gardener Kathi Lael Morris. I know, it looks strange. Even people then were not convinced about the idea. But it became a hit among homeowners with small garden spaces. Eventually, people went beyond the fad and found potential in upside-down gardening, especially for growing tomatoes and peppers.
Why Try Upside-Down Gardening
Aside from making the most of your limited spaces, growing plants upside-down has other benefits:
- Pest control. Upside-down plants grow off the ground, keeping them away from most insects.
- Rot and disease protection. Roots, stems and leaves stay protected from too much rainwater or moisture from the ground, which can cause rotting or fungal diseases.
- Water and nutrient absorption. Upside-down gardening allows water and nutrients to reach the roots faster.
- Low maintenance. Upside-down plants do not require staking, tilling or weeding. They’re eye-level, too, so you don’t have to crouch or bend when caring for your plants.
Upside-down gardening does have a few drawbacks. For one thing, constructing and hanging the planters or pots need some work. You need to strategically position your potted plants as well to get enough sunlight. The soil dries up fast as it doesn’t get any natural moisture. Too-heavy plants are not ideal for this method either. Still, it’s like any other gardening method that needs the proper technique and care. You only need to learn how!
Which Plants Grow Well Upside-Down
In general, any plant that can grow in containers can thrive in your upside-down garden. Your upside-down containers, however, should support the plant size, fruit and moisture needs. These options should help get you started:
- Tomato plant. An upside-down tomato planter is perhaps the most popular choice. Just make sure to bury the plant stalk deep into the soil for a stable root system.
- Peppers. Smaller varieties like sweet and hot peppers can grow upside-down. Large bell peppers are excellent, too, but you’ll have to harvest them while they’re still small.
- Climbing vegetables. Summer squash, cucumbers and zucchini can grow upside-down as well. But like bell peppers, you’ll need to harvest them right away to prevent large fruits from damaging your plant. Beans, on the other hand, can grow to their fullest upside-down, even without a trellis in place.
- Strawberry. A topsy-turvy strawberry planter is a joy to grow, especially when it starts bearing fruits. Choose a variety that produces fruit in spurts, though, to avoid stressing out your plant.
- Grapes. Grapes are also a great idea. But you’ll likely need to place your upside-down pot near a trellis to distribute the weight of developing grapes.
- Herbs. Creeping herbs like thyme and oregano are great additions to your upside-down kitchen garden. You can grow parsley, basil plants and lemon verbena, too. Make sure to harvest a few from time to time to stimulate new leaf growth.
- Ornamental or flowering plants. Petunias and nasturtiums have bright blooms that can spruce up your tiny space. For green foliage lovers, you can plant golden pothos and heartleaf philodendron in your upside-down containers.
How to Build Your Upside-Down Garden
Once you’ve decided which plant to grow, it’s time to start upside-down gardening! Here’s a list of what you’ll need plus the procedures for your DIY topsy-turvy creation.
Materials for upside-down gardening
- Strong hook (for holding your planter)
- Drill with a drill bit
- Old paint buckets with handle and lid (2-gallon buckets)
- Utility knife
- Garden scissors
- Small piece of window screen
- Electric tape
- Potting soil
Upside-down gardening steps
- Mark the ceiling spot where you want your planter to go. Make sure it’s a sunny spot.
- Install the hook. You might need a drill for a concrete ceiling.
- Next, use the utility knife to carefully cut a hole at the bottom of your bucket and on the lid. Plastic buckets usually have round marks on them that you can use as a guide. But if yours doesn’t have one, use a marker to draw a 5cm circle on your bucket and lid. The hole can be smaller or bigger, depending on your plant.
- Make a small cut at the centre of your window screen. Inside the bucket, position the window screen at the centre of the hole then tape its sides. The idea here is to have the window screen keep your plant in place so that it doesn’t slide off the bucket.
- Here’s come the tricky part. Put some potting soil into the bucket then carefully stick the seedling through the bottom hole and window screen.
- Now, you need to fill the bucket with more garden soil. You can do this by having someone hold the bucket for you, or by hanging the bucket onto your installed hook. Make sure to cover the root ball with enough soil and that your plant below is secure.
- After that, cover your upside-down planter with the lid then water your plant with enough water through the top hole.
- You can paint the buckets if you want to make attractive planters. Other alternatives for upside-down pots are soda bottles, plastic trash bags, milk jugs and used tires. You may opt for decorative pots, too. But keep in mind that some may need extra steps and materials so you can hang them safely.
How to Care for Your Upside-Down Garden
With no weeds or pests to worry about, looking after your upside-down planters should be easy. But to make sure they grow into healthy plants:
- water them every other day, or daily during warm weather
- use a bamboo stake when needed to support stem growth
- prune dead or dying leaves
- harvest fruits when ready
If you need more ideas for small garden spaces, this article on vertical pallet gardening should be interesting!