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Topsy Turvy Vs. Traditional Tomatoes: A Research Report

Any fans of late night infomericals are keenly aware of the latest fad in container gardening: The Topsy Turvy. 
It is basically a thick plastic bag with a circle of foam in the bottom.  You insert the stem of you plant upside through the foam and then fill the plastic bag with soil.  The plant grows hanging upside down. 
If you order them online (or from TV) you can get 2 Topsy Turvys (one tomato and one strawberry) for $17.95 or two of each for $25.95.  That is a little rich for my blood, especially knowing that I have a black thumb.  HOWEVER, when I was at Big Lots earlier this summer I found last season's model for $3.50 each. (Side note: who even knew that they had different models? But that is what the sticker said!) For under $4 I decided to give it a try.   
In my previous life I was a lab scientist, and so in the spirit of research I decided I would not only plant my tomatoes in the Topsy Turvy, but I would also use a control plant in a traditional pot and see if the Topsy Turvy lived up to the hype.
All the seedlings from the same store, planted in the same soil and at the same time.  I was able to put the traditional pot on the side of our tiny yard that was near the lawn sprinklers and they were consistently watered daily and supplemented with an Aqua globe (another Big Lots "As Seen On TV" discount knock off) .  The topsy turvy on the other hand...  Well, that only got watered when I noticed the plants were looking wilted.  (Hey! I didn't say I was a GOOD scientist!)
Total elapsed time: 3 months

Subject 1: 
A traditional pot 
 Total tomato production: 1 (yes, only one tomato!)
It actually looked really sad.   It was tall and leggy and the one tomato it produced practically tipped it over.  It reminded me of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.   This is pretty typical of tomato plants in my hands.. I warned you I had a black thumb!

Subject 2: 
Topsy Turvy 
Total tomato production: 15 Tomatoes
 This looked a lot better.  Not as full an dense as the photo on the box, but it was shockingly healthy.  This plant hung mostly in directly sunlight (as suggested on the box) on the pergola.

Subject 3: 
Topsy Turvy 
Total tomato production: 11 Tomatoes
This plant actually hung in partial shade and above the air conditioner.  When the A/C would run it would blow and shake the plant like crazy (yes, yes.. poor planning in plant placement!)  I noticed quite a few blooms were damaged from all the shaking, but even with that abuse it still yielded 11 tomatoes in the 3 months it has hung there.

When you put the two subjects side by side, there is a clear winner in this experiment:

Of course the statistical data backs that up:
Average Tomato Yield:
Traditional (n=1): 1
Topsy Turvy (n=2): 13 +/- 2.8

Besides the better yield, the Topsy Turvy came with some other advantages too.  It was great for a small yard.  Since they hang, they have no footprint and although they are large plants, they don't need the same amount of space in our tiny yard as they would in a large pot.   They also don't require any sort of staking or trellising, which is a great perk.  Trying to keep the plant standing up in the traditional pot became quite a headache.

I will admit I am shocked at the results.  I thought the plants would grow equally well, or maybe the traditional (regularly watered/cared for) plant would do slightly better.  The Topsy Turvy beat all my expectations.  I am not sure if it is because the roots grow deeper (towards the water) vs. a shallow root system in the traditional pot, or if it was the fact the water flows towards the bottom of the Topsy Turvy and is easier for the plant to absorb (the claim made by the maker.)  That is another experiment for another day..

All in all, this was a great little experiment, with a surprising outcome.  A great $7 spent.. and I will definitely be using the Topsy Turvy again next summer!

This post was not paid for or sponsored by anyone, including the makers of the Topsy Turvy. All opinions expressed here are my own and your experiences with the product may vary from mine.  This information is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered an 'accurate scientific study' of any sort.  Just sayin.

Sharing at some of these parties (maybe):
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  1. I must say I am completely shocked and amazed! I have grown tomatoes in a traditional pot with my tomatoe cage holding it up and gotten about 10 tomatoes total, but they were very small ones (and they weren't supposed to be cherry tomatoes either!). I will definately have to try the Topsy Turvy to grow my tomatoes - especially since we live in an apt. and hanging it is much easier to do. Thanks for all your "research." Now what are you going to do with all those tomatoes?

  2. This is so cool! I definitely never would have purchased one of these based on tv, but now I'm definitely interested!

  3. Great experiment - and good to know!
    Thanks for linking up this week!
    Stacey of Embracing Change

  4. I was given two of them as a gift and it was my first time growing tomatoes. My grandson loved checking on them and waiting for them to turn red so he could pick them. The only thing I wish is that i had a higher place to hang the thing. The plants really grow long!


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