Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Utterly Off Topic Wednesday: Turning My Garden Upside Down

Utterly Off Topic Wednesday returns with a product review. Incredibly, this is not a sponsored post. But I have to tell you about my experience with Topsy Turvy tomato planter bags.

No kidding. Those ones that are advertised on TV, where the guy breathlessly talks about how the special vertical grow bag heats up and causes a ROOT EXPLOSION! And you can get the bag and the 6 foot stand for only TWO PAYMENTS OF $19.95!

But wait!  You can also get..

Why don't you watch the video to refresh your memory, or if you have never seen it, check it out for the first time.

I actually saw a Topsy Turvy bag in action last summer. My sister-in-law bought one and had it in her back yard by the deck.  She didn't have really great results because her deck is shaded a good part of the day, and the success of these bags is having them in a location where they will get at least 7 hours of sunlight daily. But I could see how in the right location, they could really be interesting.

Getting 7 hours of sunlight hasn't been hard this summer, where we have had several months straight of dry, hot weather. Sometimes incredibly hot weather.  In mid-July we had a week or so of 100+ degree days. With only an occasional splash of rain, watering these bags every day has been even more important than usual. I have been giving them each about a half-gallon of water every day.

Now, I have been growing tomatoes for 20 years. I have a garden that I don't use any more because I can't keep up with it and everything else I have going on in my life. But once upon a time, that 25' x 50' space contained ten large raised beds and a 3 foot perimeter row that was used to grow sumptuous watermelons, cantaloupe, cucumbers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, pole beans, wax beans, zucchini, lettuces, celery, peppers,  raspberries, asparagus, corn, strawberries, carrots, various herbs, potatoes, and the finest Jersey tomatoes anywhere.

I lost a lot of the tomatoes I used to grow to pests of various kinds, and watering the plants and weeding the garden was a real chore. I spent several hours a day in the garden performing maintenance tasks.

Part of the problem was that the garden was kind of far away, and walking back and forth to the house when I forgot something, or if the phone rang, or I needed to adjust the hose, or the kids needed something, just added to the chore of it all.  I had some equipment in the shed, but in general, it was an ordeal.

My Topsy Turvy bags are hanging on my deck. The deck is in two levels, so they are hanging from the railings on the upper deck. I can step out onto the deck from my kitchen and water them, and pruning, maintenance and harvesting can be from the lower deck.  So easy!  I was able to fill the bags with potting soil from the upper deck. No more trudging through the wet grass and dog crap to get to the garden. No more backbreaking shoveling and bending. Twenty years ago it was no big deal, but now...I just can't do it any more.

And the results?  Incredible. 

I planted three slicing tomatoes and three Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. So far I have harvested 40 slicing tomatoes and several hundred cherry tomatoes. I used to have to plant six or seven slicing tomatoes to get 40 tomatoes. And these are nearly flawless. I have had about 3 tomatoes that were cracked on top, and lost two to a couple of tomato hornworms. But otherwise they have all been like these.

Red. Juicy. Delicious. The finest Jersey tomatoes anywhere.  And there are still more outside that are not ready yet!

I was so excited about this result that I posted this pic on my Facebook profile. Someone commented that it looked like I painted them for the photo op.  This photo was taken with my 2 megapixel phone camera, and no, they are not photoshopped or edited in any way.

Topsy Turvy bags are available most anywhere, and now that the season is ending, you should be able to find them on sale. Even before the season I purchased mine for less than $10 each at BJ's.  If you have a balcony, or a deck or just about anywhere that gets decent sunlight, this is a great opportunity for you get readyto grow your own fresh tomatoes.

Don't like tomatoes? No problem, they are supposedly good to grow cucumbers, squashes and other kinds of vegetables as well.  I plan to try that next year.

Watch this space in about a year and I will let you know how it goes.

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