Maximizing vegetable garden space is the name of the game on our urban homestead this year. In addition to planting traditional vegetable beds, we’re looking at opportunities to grow vegetables vertically.
One popular method of vertical vegetable gardening is through the use of Topsy Turvy tomato and strawberry planters. These hanging containers are designed to grow tomatoes and strawberries upside down, and are a great space saver for gardeners. But as much as I’d like several dozen of these planters, at $14 a pop, these innovative planters are a little rich for my blood.
One cheaper alternative is to make your own upside down or vertical vegetable containers from gallon milk jugs. The shape of a milk jug is ideal for growing small vegetable plants. Better yet, milk jugs are totally free and 100% recyclable.
We’ve had great success with our milk jug vertical containers. Here’s how it’s done at our place.
* Clean gallon milk jugs
* 3 penny nail (for punching drainage holes)
* Heavy twine
* Potting soil
* Seedlings. (I’ve had the best luck with peas, beans, and spinach.)
1. Cut off the top of the plastic milk jug to a 4″ circle.
2. Cut out the recessed circles on the front sides of the milk jug. Punch drainage holes in the bottom of jug using the nail.
3. Loosely pack with potting mix. Plant on seedling in the top of the jug, and two in the side holes. Water thoroughly.
4. Tie the handle with a loop of string and hang from a hook or along the fence line.
Upside crops such as peppers and pickling cucumbers.
To create an upside down planter such as those Seen on TV, these simple instructions will work.
1. Cut off the top of the milk jug to create a 4″ diameter circle.
2. Cut a circle in the base of the milk jug to a 3-inch diameter. Cover this opening with a piece of burlap from the inside.
3. Loosely pack the container with soil. Lay a cake pan on top of the jug, and gently flip over. The pan will prevent the soil from falling out of the planter.
4. Use a scissors to cut a small X-shape in the burlap. Pull the cut flaps of the burlap up and out of the milk jug. Insert the transplant through the burlap and into the soil. Pack firmly, then press the burlap back into place. Tie a length of twine to the handle.
5. Keep the milk jug inverted for a couple of weeks so that the transplant has a chance to develop new roots, since the roots are what will prevent the plant from falling out. Remember to water as needed!
Once the transplant has reached 6-8″ in height, the planter can be flipped over and hung from the eaves, a trellis, or even the front porch. To reduce water loss through evaporation, add a thin layer of organic mulch to the top of the planter once it’s been suspended.