This story originally appeared in the April 28, 2011, issue of The Trussville Tribune…
So here we are at the beginning of The Upside-Down Gardening Experiment: Year Three.
As you may recall, the experiment began two years ago when I purchased one of those “As Seen On TV” upside-down tomato planters. Inspired by dreams of growing bushels of tomatoes and using them to create mouthwatering batches of homemade salsa, I eagerly stuffed a starter plant into the potting soil and commenced to watch it grow.
And grow it did. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a plant take off like that one did. Before long, it trailed down the side of the porch to the ground several feet below. Sadly, though, the impressive length of the vine had no relation whatsoever to the amount of fruit produced. It yielded a whopping two tomatoes.
The experiment continued with last spring’s purchase of an upside-down strawberry planter. Since the strawberry planter accommodates multiple plants as opposed to the tomato planter’s one, I figured I had a fair chance of harvesting more strawberries than tomatoes. And I was right. After four strawberries, my crop was all in, and the homemade preserves I’d planned to enjoy mid-winter never materialized.
Clearly my upside-down gardening successes, if you can call them that, have been only slightly more productive than not at all. In fact, after last year’s letdown, I vowed to stop wasting time and money on what for me had become a futile effort. But despite my best intentions to forever forsake anything touted with the words “upside-down” and “planter” in the same sentence, well, here we go again…
Two weeks ago, I bought an upside-down pepper planter at an auction from a seller looking to liquidate some overstock items. When several planters went on the block, and the bid per unit failed to rise above a couple of dollars, I broke down and bought one. So in my defense, I got a screaming deal, something no true bargain-hunter can be expected to pass up.
My latest upside-down purchase isn’t exactly a thing of beauty. There’s nothing terribly attractive about these type planters in the first place, but the vinyl bag that forms the main part of my newest one is a permanently crumpled mess, probably from languishing in a hot warehouse one summer too many. I’m hoping the dead weight of wet potting soil will eventually pull all the wrinkles out, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
A few days post-purchase, Jimmie and I stopped by the garden center of our local home improvement store and scanned the pepper plant selection. For some reason, I’m always attracted to plants with people names, so when I saw a pepper plant labeled “Yellow Bill,” I knew it was the plant for me.
Then I got home and put on my reading glasses, only to discover I’d purchased a yellow BELL plant, and my enthusiasm waned. I’ve never much cared for the taste of bell peppers, but if this plant produces, I might learn to like it.
At any rate, the pepper plant is planted, and the watching and waiting has begun. So by summer’s end, will I be up to my eyeballs in yellow bell peppers? Or will my yield amount to the same paltry harvest I’ve reaped the past two years? Only time will tell.
But until I see some shiny yellow vegetables on the vine, I won’t be making any plans for stuffed bell peppers, roasted bell peppers, sautéed bell peppers or any other kind of bell peppers. I suspect my previous pre-planning with regard to salsa and strawberry preserves may have somehow jinxed my upside-down gardening efforts, and I don’t want to be disappointed again.
And by the way, if you hear about any kinds of upside-down planters I haven’t tried, I’d rather not know, so please don’t tell me. Three years of experimenting with this stuff is about all I can stand.