23 April, 2010

A DIY Upside-Down Planter

A baby-wearing friend of mine posted a question on the TBW forums (http://www.thebabywearer.com) asking if anyone had ever tried the Topsy Turvy planters. I haven't, but being an active DIYer and Horticulture major, the hubby and I have made our own version in the past. We used 2L soda bottles, but really any plastic jug can be used (milk jug, juice, soda, plastic paint jug - you get the idea.) So following are my directions for making and using your own upside down vertical planter.

1. Buy something in a plastic jug and use it. Alternatively, you could get one or several off your local Freecycle (http://www.freecycle.org) or other recycling club as well. A note about containers - size matters! If you want to plant something that has a larger root system (like tomatoes!) use a larger jug. A smaller container, such as a 2L, would be great for a shallower rooter - we've had great results with peppers and trailing herbs, and pretty good with tomatoes in this size.

2. Wash said container, and remove labels if you'd like. Soap and water is fine, if you want to go crazy sterile you can also rinse it with a weak bleach or peroxide solution.

3. Open up the bottom. To just cut off the bottom on as lighter weight plastic, you can just use scissors, but I recommend you reinforce it by wrapping a couple layers of duct/duck tape around the bottom first. For a larger jug, such as a one gallon milk or large juice jug, you can also just cut a hole in the bottom (large enough to easily get your hand in and out) and leave the sides intact. For a harder plastic, such as a paint jug, you may need to drill a starter hole or two, or use a saw. Ii don't recommend saws or power tools on lighter plastic as they may collapse or be more likely to split.

4. Figure out how & you're going to hang this thing. We had ours hanging off hooks on our deck, so we needed to add a hanging loop. If you know macrame or knotting, you can probably whip up something. You could also use a mesh reusable bag. we used bungie cords. For our method, we poked 4 holes approx. equidistant around the large hole (the bottom) of the jug and inserted the hooks from the bungies into the holes. You'll want to reinforce the holes (another use for duct tape!) Anything that will suspend and keep it evenly upright will work!

5. Get the seedling in there! Take you seedling out of the container it came in and break up the root ball - you can save the soil and mix it in with your potting mix. You then can decide which method to use to get it in the hole.
A--> Carefully push the roots through "top" (smaller hole). This is the best method if the seedling already has a lot of branches.
B--> Carefully feed the top of the plant through the larger hole (the "bottom") and then through the smaller hole. this is great for a smaller, narrower seedling, or a larger root ball. If your plant came in one of the self-composting (paper/cardboard) containers you can also use this method so you don't have to remove the container.

6. *optional* Plug the hole. You may need or want to plug the small hole the plant is sticking out of, to ensure it doesn't fall out. A bit of sponge works well for this. You'll want to sterilize the sponge by soaking it in a weak bleach solution and rinsing it out, the wrap it around the stem at it's base, pushing it into the mouth of the small hole. If your plant has a large root ball or self-composting pot, this step probably isn't necessary.

7. Fill the pot with potting soil. Just dump in your soil mix though the big hole. Add in your in your preferred soil enhancers and fertilizer, and throw a bit of mulch on top.

8. Hang it up!

If you have questions or something doesn't make sense, let me know about it.

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