Introduction: Tomato Grower in a Gatorade Bottle

Have you ever seen the upside down tomato growers on late night TV?

Yeah, you have to admit, it's pretty ridiculous how they can charge someone for that. Why not make your own from your recyclables??

It's very simple, and it cost me nothing to make it. All I really needed to buy was a tomato plant.

If you're going for something simple and easy to do to get nice, plump tomatoes, I'd recommend this project. If you're not really for the aesthetics, you can skip some steps.

Enjoy!

Step 1: Gather Materials

It's in all our blood: Our ancestors used to do this...

Gather...Not so much the hunting today, but getting your materials/tools is very useful.

Tools:
- X-Acto knife
- Metal Snips or Scissors
- Marker

Materials:
- Electrical or Duct Tape
- Empty & Cleaned Gatorade Bottle (32 Oz or larger) or Milk Jug
- Metal Clothes Hanger
- Plastic Bags (Preferably not white or black)

Optional:
- Glue (Rubber Cement was used in this case because it was on hand)
- Lighter

Step 2: Mark & Cut

Next, using a marker, mark about a half inch to an inch from the bottom of the bottle.

Then, cut along the line with the X-Acto knife or Scissors.

The result should look like so:

Step 3: Deburring the Edges (Optional)

Now, at this point you'll probably notice that the edge that you cut is pretty sharp and it isn't nice to get your fingers caught on here.

You have 2-3 Options:

1) Use your lighter and gently bring the bottom of the bottle through the flame so that you can gently melt the sides to a duller edge.

2) Use the Duct/Electrical tape to tape the edges down.

3) After (1), do (2)...Which is the method that is done here.

Step 4: Applying the Protective Layers

Now, you have to have wrap the bottle in a material, especially since it is clear. Otherwise, when the sun's rays hits the bottle, there's a good chance it can damage the roots and heat up the soil more quickly than usual which does a heck of a lot of damage.

Take the electrical/duct tape and tape the entire bottle up, seen below.

Take the plastic bags and flatten them. Now, fold them into quarters and, in between the layers, spread some glue and make sure it's sealed.

Step 5: Applying the Final Layer

Take the plastic bag and wrap it around the bottle.

Use the duct tape to form 2 loops with the sticky side out, and place about 1 inch apart with respect to each other, & 1inch from the bottom of the bottle. Stick one end of the bag onto the pieces of tape and begin to wrap it around the bottle. At the end of the bag, you can seal it with another piece of tape on the outside or you can use another 2 loops of tape to stick to the underside of the plastic layer.

Repeat this for the other half of the bottle.

1: Top layer completed
2: Starting bottom layer
3: Finished covering

Step 6: Hanging the Grower

Now that the soil and root system are protected from the sunlight, take the x-acto knife and cut 2 slits into original bottom of the bottle about 1 inch from the top, 1 inch long each. The cuts should be on opposite sides of the bottle.

The long, straight part of the hanger should be cut by the scissors or metal snips. Bend the straight piece appropriately to accommodate the bottle. Afterwards, use the pliers to make a small "L"-shaped hook to insert into the slits. The L's should be about 0.5" from each end.

Insert each end into the slits, and curl up to lock the metal hanger in place.

Step 7: Planting

The last step is to insert the plant. The plant must be already germinated and ready to go.

Ideally, you want to place the plant through the small opening of the bottle. Keep the bottle upside down, with the mouth opening towards the ground. Place the plant through the opening, with the original soil. I've found it to be easy to place the plastic pot of the plant into the large bottle opening, and then pull out the pot

Then, put more soil into the big opening of the bottle, on top of the root system of the plant.

Remember to hang it outside so that you can get some good results and enjoy!

Comments

author
christiaansa made it! (author)2009-06-19

i think it's a great idea. One thought - tomato's a fusy about water on their stems and leaves - getting easy fungus etc. How do you prevent excess water from dripping down the stem and fruit?

author
wushuair made it! (author)wushuair2009-06-19

You could actually use the cap from the bottle that you're using and make a hole. Screw on the cap and then the plant can go through as well. As for the extra water on the stem, by keeping the plant in sunlight, the fruit and the leaves will droop downwards. This means that any water on the stem base will evaporate. I hope this helps.

author
thewhatleys made it! (author)2009-04-23

Definately worth a try! Have you done this before? How do you "support" the plant when it gets larger and is carrying the weight of all those huge tomatoes? Are the roots really that strong that it can hang upside down and not get pulled out of the pot by the roots?

author
wushuair made it! (author)wushuair2009-04-23

I'm still in school (College) and my work load has been insane. I wish I had some time to plant the tomatoes in there. Hopefully, I can do it this weekend. The reason to choose the gatorade bottle was for its material. The plastic is pretty durable; if you think about it, when athletes take swigs of the drink, the bottle does take on some abuse, being thrown around, etc. As for the plant, when the plant produces roots, its root system has to be pretty extensive being able to support itself. As the root system is able to extend through the soil, the roots are also pulling the soil with it, which makes it impossible to pull 20oz+ of soil through a mouthpiece at one time... should it attempt to "fall out." This is my guess, though I'd really like to give it a shot.

author
Scott_Tx made it! (author)2009-04-20

I was going to try doing this this summer using an old hanging flower pot with a hole in the bottom. The real question is does it work better than ground tomatos?

author
wushuair made it! (author)wushuair2009-04-22

That's the brilliance of this project: It only really takes no more than an hour to construct and plant. Meanwhile, you could also plant a ground based tomato plant and compare the fruits of your labor. My guess is that this method works better because the roots are more open to aeration as they're growing upwards. In addition the tomatoes are exposed to more sunlight. And when adding fertilizer to the system, the roots directly get the nutrients from the tips of the roots, instead of waiting for trickle downed nutrients. ANNDD, there's little to no runoff if you do add fertilizer.

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