Growing Tomatoes In Black Plastic Bags


April 1, 2008
three tomatoes


Another poster on here mentioned using black plastic bags as containers for growing tomatoes. I was wondering if anyone could elaborate on that method?

Hardiness Zone: 6a

Tami from MO


Hi Tami,

Some folks swear by this method, while others swear at it. Essentially, growing tomatoes upside down in bags or buckets is an inexpensive do-it-yourself version of some of the more expensive systems, like the Topsy Turvey planter, that are now offered to consumers in garden catalogues. The theory is that growing tomatoes this way produces bigger yields and affords fewer problems with insects and disease. In addition, no pruning, no weeding, and no staking is required and the plants benefit from increased air circulation. As long as you have a sunny spot, it's a great way to save on garden space, or for apartment dwellers, to maximize the limited space of a balcony or patio. The bags can be hung from S hooks attached to eaves or railings, or by suspending them from shepherd's hooks, or even clotheslines.

I have never tried it, but the idea is simple. Get yourself a sturdy plastic bag (it needs to be able to hold a large amount of wet soil) or a 5-gallon bucket with a metal handle. Carefully slip the tomato plant into the hole (roots first) so that the leaves are sticking out the bottom. Holding the plant in place, start filling the bag (or bucket) with a lightweight soil mix (try a mixture consisting of 50% damp sphagnum peat moss, 30% compost, and 20% perlite). Fill in evenly around the plant and tip the bucket carefully upside down to test whether or not the plant is securely anchored into the soil.


Some people place a paper towel around the plant's roots or place a sheet of newspaper on the bottom of the container before pushing the tomato plant through. This helps keep it from slipping out of the hole while you're adding soil. Fill the rest of the bag to within an inch or so from the top. Hang in a sunny spot and water as needed from the top.

Keep in mind that small fruiting varieties will be lighter. Also, tomatoes like heat. Cover the top of the soil with a layer of mulch or fasten a dark-colored cloth over the open end of the bucket. This will hold in moisture and heat, and help keep insects out. I've also heard of people planting annuals on the topside of their buckets to help hold in moisture and make the apparatus look more attractive. Double duty! Other container ideas include large plastic nursery pots, burlap sacks, or 2-liter soda bottles. Make sure you water frequently, like you would with any container-grown plant.


Have fun!


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