Community Philosphy Blog and Library

HOMEGROWN Life: My Topsy Turvy Tantrum






First off, let me start this post with an apology to all of you reading right now.  What I write may offend you and be critical of something you very much enjoy.  For that, I’m sorry.  Though I don’t intend to alienate you from reading my posts, I need to get something off my chest or I’m going to explode…


I CANNOT STAND THOSE ABSURD TOPSY TURVY TOMATO CONTRAPTIONS!  And since it’s that time of year again where friends, relatives, neighbors, and complete strangers are dusting them off and letting those Topsy Turvy freak flags fly, I’m going absolutely berserk.

True, they’re terrific for getting people interested in gardening: They’re compact if you’re short on space; they hold water for days if you’re busy and away; and they’re conveniently sold at places like Walgreens so you can pick up your prescription drugs, the latest Us Weekly, a pack of smokes, and your Topsy Turvy all in one fell swoop.  It also eliminates all the struggle, hassle, and physical pain associated with conventional gardening.     Hooray!

So what’s my problem?

How about the fact that it’s a manufactured, mass-produced, plastic device shipped from overseas?  Probably plenty of people are attracted to the Topsy Turvy due to romantic delusions of being more sustainable and growing one’s own vegetables.  However, if you’re growing in something that traveled half the globe to get here, and it won’t ever biodegrade, is it still sustainable?

Why not just fashion your own DIY upside-down planter out of repurposed materials?  Upcycling, even if it’s a plastic milk jug, is wholly more sustainable than purchasing something from the As Seen On TV store.  It doesn’t take much effort, or even much skill, to figure out how to put together something similar to the Topsy Turvy.


Then there’s the issue of soil without toil…  The Topsy Turvy promotes itself on being a way for people to enjoy the fruits of gardening without the bothersome nuisance of having to actually garden.  There’s no need for a trowel, getting dirty, pesky bending up and down, or breaking a sweat thanks to this modern marvel.  While I can understand this being a benefit to folks that are disabled or elderly and want to enjoy fresh tomatoes, many of the people I witness hanging Topsy Turvys in their yards are physically capable of gardening and could likely gain from the fresh air and time spent outdoors.     You know who you are.

If you’re a Topsy Turvy enthusiast, great.  I’d rather you eat upside-down tomatoes than no tomatoes at all.  It’s just that our species’ relationship with food and agriculture is so perverse these days.  The Topsy Turvy seems to only further disconnect many of us from the growing process at a time when it’s so pivotal to feel truly connected to and involved with the food we eat.

Yellow Tree Farm’s web site is


Danielle Yellow Tree

“I’m half of YellowTree Farm, an urban homestead that I founded with my husband in late 2008.  Together, we grow vegetables and raise animals on less than 1/10 of an acre in St. Louis, Missouri.  I don’t have children.  I have animals, which is kind of the same thing as being a parent, except I eat my babies.”


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9 Responses to “HOMEGROWN Life: My Topsy Turvy Tantrum”

  1. I so agree with your sentiments. Get outside! Get a community plot! Get involved with the gardening community!

    That said I’m glad you have shown people that they can make their own if they are physically or financially unable to do any of the above 🙂

  2. Topsy Turvy freak flags??!! Haa haa! You crack me up. This is too funny yet it serious too. I just love how you describe it. I hate those things. As much as I try to avoid plastic, I hadn’t even gotten that far in thinking how they were constructed.
    Thanks for this. Btw, love the Bittman.

  3. Very eloquently put- couldn’t agree more. Also, thanks for cutting through the duh-factor and showing your up-cycled topsy turvy.

  4. I love your article! What has always gotten to me, however, is this: How do the TOMATOES feel about hanging upside down? ?? I mean, they are plants, after all, and plants have this imperative to grow UP and maybe out. . but UP is definitely part of the plan… just ask any onion or tulip that got stuck in the ground with the roots end pointing up. They go to all the trouble to grow, regardless… with the roots working their way around and down and the sprout turning immediately UP even before it can see the sun.

    It just doesn’t seem natural to me. And if you want to grow ‘maters without the fuss, why not just use a patio tomato in a POT? If getting it up higher is an issue, put it on a table. At least it would be happy.

  5. I love the idea of upcycling these as gifts for the gardening-challenged. How did you do it and what did you use?

  6. hahahaha just forwarded to BF who is not deterred by last year’s minimal success on the Turv and now has three swinging from the front porch…. hopefully we can get some sense into the man

  7. You GO Girl!

  8. Amen. And, they are ugly.

  9. Terrific post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Cheers!

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