D. Hopkinson, former owner/partner in the DanDe Greenhouse here in Clinton, reports that the experiment with the Upsy Downsy hanging tomato planter has both triumph and tragedy to report this morning. As the picture at the left shows, there is some color other than green beginning to materialize on the grape tomatoes planted in the top of the Upsy Downsy planter. The faint trace of yellow, orange, and red colors are beginning to show through, indicating that some of the tomatoes are beginning to mature; “a result that we were not sure was going to pan out”, Hopkinson says. “And while we have this triumph to report, that through the extreme heat and drought we have experienced this growing season, our persistence in watering these plants two to three times a day, has paid off. But at the same time we must also report a small tragedy. It may not be quite apparent in the picture, but the grape tomato plant in the top in the foreground had actually fallen over and broken off due to the weight of the tomato fruit on the vine. This was a concern we had early on in this experiment, that the plants might grow too tall and fall over, drooping down the side of the hanging basket. Some thought had been given to staking the plants a few weeks ago, but, in the interest of learning all we could from this experiment this year, we decided not to stake them and see what happens” Hopkinson continued.
“Now while we have both triumph and tragedy to report, we also, thanks to harvesting the potatoes growing in the large patio planter the other day, have a new experiment to add to those already done or in progress. It has long been known by avid gardeners that they can break off the “suckers”, the growth on the tomato plants that grow out of the joint between the main stem and another branch, and plant them in the soil, usually right there in your tomato plant row, and they will usually sprout their own roots and continue to grow; many times producing as well or better than the parent plant that they were broken off of. SO, the broken part of this grape tomato plant has not been planted in that large patio planter to see if we can salvage the plant, as well as the several fruits that were maturing on that part of the plant”, Hopkinson explained. Continuing, “If we lose the plant and the fruit, oh well, but if the plant sprouts roots quickly; if we keep it well watered; we just might salvage it and the fruit.” Hopkinson said that should these hanging planters be used in the future, stakes will be included at the proper time during the growing season. In fact, Hopkinson said, that some stakes will probably be added to the remaining plants in the planter later today, in order to avoid losing anymore of the plants to a similar fate.
Putting all of his accumulated knowledge to work on this dilemma concerning the broken grape tomato plant, Hopkinson broke off all the suckers from the main trunk of the plant and stuck them down into the extremely wet planting medium left in the large patio planter. In another article he explains that just a day or two after he harvested the potatoes in that planter, a torrential rainstorm flooded that planter and would have destroyed the potatoes that were planted therein. (Read about that and the good fortune of harvesting those potatoes in The harvest of the potatoes growing in the large patio planter came just in time) Then, gathering some grass clippings from the recently mowed yard, he mulched around each of those suckers. Next, he retrieved the water bucket and wet the planting medium down near the main trunk of the broken tomato plant to encourage the plant to root itself. Last, he moved the planter from the direct sunlight of the morning and early afternoon sun, to a spot where the plant would only receive direct sunlight during the mid-late afternoon and early evening. The direct sunlight in the dead of summer would cook the plants quickly without an adequate root system to keep it hydrated. To further protect the plants from the hot, direct sunlight while they attempt to root themselves, Hopkinson rigged additional shade, limiting direct sunlight to a couple of hours in mid-late afternoon. If the plants remain green and perk up with the excess water, and the limited direct sunlight, then we can extend the direct sunlight each day for a week or two until they have rooted themselves again and can handle the direct heat of sun all day long.