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Tomatoes Grown Upside Down

Page history last edited by ecop 10 years, 1 month ago

Growing Tomatoes Upside-down

By: Juliana Spicer

 

 

 


 

Description and Rationale

 

Description:

            The Philippines’ weather is very hot and dry; this tropical climate makes the soil in the crowded city harden into a clay-like material and less likely to produce healthy crops. So whatever soil is left from the land occupied by homes of the numerous residents of Manila is not fertile enough to be able to grow a good crop. Filipinos need to be able to grow their own fruits, vegetables and the like so that they can have good nutrition when they don’t have enough money to buy healthy food.

 

            Why don’t people try to make their own personal gardens? Is the weather too hot and dry for the full growth of tomatoes? Can tomatoes be grown successfully and repeatedly in this climate? Are tomatoes a more difficult plant to take care of? Is hanging tomatoes upside down helpful to the plant? Can this method of planting be used with any other kind of plants?

 

             The tomato plant was first found in South America where the climate is warm and very sunny, which are the main factors in growing tomato plants (Tomato). Its fruits are rich with vitamin C, vitamin A, and a chemical called lycopene. This chemical can help fight against prostate, lung, and stomach cancer and also reduces the percentage of cell damage in the body (Tomato Nutrition Facts). Also, this fruit is found in many dishes and can give Filipinos a healthy variation and taste to t

heir diet.

 

            The purpose of this project is to find a way to teach Filipinos how to grow tomatoes in their own homes. Through research, the best way to plant, grow, and care for the plants will be used, noting that tomatoes are a very delicate kind of fruit. Most Filipinos do not have enough room to be able to keep up a big enough garden, so the tomato plants will be grown from an upside down tomato planter which can be hung in front of the house and out of the way of their busy lifestyle.

 

Rationale:

            This project is designed to help improve the health and diet of local Filipinos by introducing a new way to grow tomatoes of their own. Eating tomatoes will help fight some kinds of cancer and raise the level of vitamin C and vitamin A in their diet. Furthermore, helping them grow their own tomatoes will possibly encourage them to plant and grow other fruits and vegetables on their own and possible sell them, making money. 

 

 

 

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Biology

 

Common Names and Synonyms

     The tomato plant, or Solanum lycopersicum, was erroneously associated with the atropa belladonna or more commonly known as the deadly nightshade. This plant is poisonous and was used as a beauty product and a hallucinogen in medieval Europe. As a result, it was soon associated with witchcraft and it was said that witches used this plant to call on werewolves. In remembrance of this myth, it was called the Lycopersicon esculentum which in German translates, ‘edible wolf peach.’ The English name, tomato, came from the Mexican name, tomana, which means growth. The tomato is also often called the ‘love apple’. In Filipino, the name for tomato is kamatis.  

Classification

Kingdom: Plante

Subkingdom: Trachecobionta (vascular)

Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plants)

Class: Magnoliopsida (dicotyledons)

Subclass: Asteridae (petals joined by tube)

Order: Solanales (herbaceous plant)

Family: Solanaceae (potato family)

Genus: Solanum (nightshade)

Species: S. lycopersicum (garden tomato)

 

     The tomato is often thought of as being a vegetable because it is cooked like a vegetable and served raw in salads. Yet biologically, it is a fruit because it contains and protects its seeds. 

 

 

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Morphology and Physical Description

     The first shoot of a tomato plant is very long and spindly. At first, the sprout shoots straight up and tries to reach enough sun. Later on in growth it becomes too heavy to support itself and starts to bend, lying on the ground and resembling a vine. If not supported efficiently, when the fruit ripens it becomes too heavy for the branch and makes the branch bend, the fruit often reaches the ground and rots. The stems and branches are covered in fine hairs that help with the absorption of water.

The plant has about five to nine leaflets per branch. The leaves are a mix between crenate (rounded toothed) and lacerate (‘torn’, parted or ‘cut’) leaves. The surfaces of the leaves are not smooth nor glossy, but coarse and hairy.

 

     The plant’s flowers are yellow and have five pointed petals. The sepals of the flower are seen on the top of the tomato when the fruit is forming. All of the flower’s reproductive structures are hidden inside a tube-like formation, making pollination and fertilization harder than most plants.

The fruit can vary from a bright red to a yellow-orange color. They can also come in many different shapes; some include: circular, pear-shaped, oblong, flattened, or misshapen fruit. The tomato is covered with a thick and firm wall. The inside of the tomato has two or more sections that are called locules. These sections are separated by a thick membrane or wall similar to the walls enclosing the fruit. Inside these locules is a concentrated liquid that contains the seeds. 

 

 

 

 

Getting Food

Cultivation Practices:

 

    Tomato plants are, in some ways, the same as other garden plants. They need soil that is rich in nitrogen and organic matter. Tomatoes grow best in hot and dry climates; consequently the soil must be moist but not soggy. The seeds do not need sunlight after planting. When the seeds start to sprout, however, they need direct sunlight for at least eight hours each day.

 

     When planting numerous tomato plants, the plants need to be spread apart, enough so that when the plants are full grown, they will not touch. The distance will vary with the kind of tomato that is being grown (the seed packet might have this information).

 

     Tomato plants only need to be watered when the soil is dry; this is to make sure that they maintain a constant, moist state. Having inconsistent watering will not only prolong the growth but will eventually affect the fruit. When the fruit starts ripening, the amount of water may be lessened in order for the plant to use the sugars from photosynthesis for the fruit instead of growing.

 

     Mulching is another well known practice among tomato gardeners. Mulching is when the gardener covers the ground around the plant with something like wood chips, straw or plastic coverings. This helps the plant in many ways by trapping any excessive evaporation, helping during erosion, fertilizing the soil, and reducing weed growth.

 

     Because of the plant’s weak stems, most tomato gardeners use a ‘tomato cage,’ which is a simple, wired cage that gives the plant something sturdy to grow on. However, other gardeners let the plant lie on the ground and even dig a small ditch for the stem so it will grow roots along the stem.

 

     Pruning suckers is a very common practice in garden plants. A sucker is a growth that appears at the joint of a branch and stem. It is given this name because these additional branches will ‘suck’ the nutrients and water that is needed for the growth of the original branch. Some gardeners choose not to prune some of these, hoping that they will eventually bear fruit. 

 

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Reproduction

  

   Tomatoes can be either self-pollinated or cross-pollinated. The flower’s reproductive structures are enclosed inside a tube-like formation. The stigma sticks out slightly for more probability of catching pollen. The stamen, howev

er, are located deep inside the tube-like formation and enclose the pollen even more, making it almost impossible for the pollen to float away except for a few pores in the tube. Instead, the flower heavily depends on movement from pollinators like honey bees or insects to pick up the pollen and brush against the stigma. Another way of pollination is by the wind. Yet because of the unusual structure of the flower, the wind is mainly used to shake the pollen and make it fall away from the anthers.

 

     When the pollen finally reaches the stigma, it travels down the style until it reaches the ovary. Then it fertilizes any egg that it comes to and forms a seed. It flowers for about two weeks and then the fruit starts to form. The stamens fall off and reveal a small, green fruit. It grows and develops for about six to seven weeks until the tomatoes are full grown and ready for harvesting. 

 

 

Environmental Factors

     Good tomato gardeners keep away any other kind of plant including other tomato plants. This keeps the soil clear for the growth of the plant and makes sure that the plant gets the maximum nutrition and water.

There are many pests that can attack the tomato plants, but one of the main pests is the Tomato Hornworm. This caterpillar is usually one to four inches in length and has one large horn on its end. It blends in with the leaves and eats tomato stems, leaves and sometimes eats holes through the tomatoes themselves. They can either be hand-picked or sprayed with Bacillus thuringiensis or Dipel.

     

     There are many diseases that infect the tomato plant, one of which is the Tomato Blossom-end Rot. This disease is when one end of the tomatoes starts to rot because of the poor calcium. This may be because of the inconsistent watering or moisture. To care for this, remove the rotten tomatoes, water consistently and maybe even put down a layer of mulch on the soil.

 

     Another disease is Fusarium and Verticillum Wilting. This disease is caused by a fungus that turns the leaves yellow and makes them wilt. This can be helped by planting other resistant plants like beans or lettuce. 

 

 

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Origin and Distribution

     The tomato was first found in South America 

 

where it grew wild. It was brought into Mexico to the Mesoamericans where it was grown under people’s care. Archeologists discovered some ancient writings that mentioned the Aztecs using tomatoes in their food. The tomato was first thought to be brought to Spain by either Christopher Columbus or Cortés, and it was probably brought to the Philippines during the Spanish occupation. 

 

 

Importance to People

     This fruit is very widely grown and probably one of the most recognized and popular fruits around the world. It has been declared both the state fruit and vegetable of Ohio. Because of the dispute of whether the tomato was a fruit or a vegetable, they decided to put it as both.  The tomato has appeared in many recipes including Mexican and Italian.

     

     The La Tomatina festival, held in the little town of Bunol, Spain, has become increasingly popular to tourists and locals. Every year on the last week of August people flood the streets of the little town. Farmers bring truckloads of tomatoes, and a water cannon signals the start of the festival. People grab for the tomatoes and start throwing them at their friends making the world’s largest food fight.

 

     Not only is the tomato tasty and used in a variety of foods, but it contains many good nutrients. It contains vitamin A, vitamin C, and a chemical called lycopene. This chemical can help fight against prostate, lung, and stomach cancer and also drops the percentage of cell damage in the body caused by molecules that come from the body’s oxidation process. 

 

 

Survivability and Endangered Status

     The tomato plant is grown in many different countries, yet not all of these countries have the best growing conditions. Tomatoes can be grown in the Philippines, but in Manila City many people do not have enough land for gardening. The soil that is left from the construction is not fertile enough for a promising garden. Tomatoes are readily available in local markets all over the Philippines, but few people grow them.

 

 

 

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Potential Solutions

 

Possibility 1

Good Fertilizer

            The environmental challenge for this project is that the soil here is hard and infertile. Finding a good fertilizer that anybody can get at any time would eliminate this problem. Things that are readily available to most of the community must be used. Chicken, cow, pig or goat manure may be good possibilities for the fertilizer. Maybe some legumes could be a used as a source of nitrogen and put in the fertilizer or even grown beside it.

 

Advantages:

  1. Not only will it help the tomatoes grow, but it will enhance the growth of any other kind of plant that they might want to grow. If people are given a fertilizer that works, it might encourage them to plant more and make a whole garden by their home. If they are shown a fertilizer that works very well, it might encourage them to try different kinds of fruits and vegetables and bring more variety to their diet. They might even take the fertilizer and use it to plant a large amount of one vegetable or maybe even a small farm and sell the produce in abundance.  
  2. If the people do not like gardening, they would be able to go into the business of just making the fertilizer and selling it. Then the fertilizer will be available to more people than I would be able to reach and it might keep spreading to more and more people.  

 

Disadvantages:

  1. Preparing the ground takes a long time and requires patience because the results are not seen or noticed until the very end when it is ready for planting. People that have not done this before and do not know what to expect might give up thinking that it is not worth their time.  
  2. There were two factors contributing to this environmental problem. One is that the soil is hard and infertile. The second factor is not having enough space. Fertilizing does not benefit those who do not have land. 

 

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Possibility 2

Potting Plants

            People have seen potted plants but most likely the greater amount of these people would never really think about potting plants themselves. Other people who have grown potted plants probably never thought about planting fruit or vegetable plants in them because the common use of pots are more for flowers and beauty. People should be informed of this possibility that will decrease their grocery bill and give them a variety in their diet.

 

Advantages:

  1. The best thing about having potted plants instead of growing it straight from the ground is that it saves lots of space. A potted plant can grow outside the house or inside. There are many places that the plant may be placed where it is not in the way of anything, for example, along the outside walls of the house or inside in a corner of a room. 
  2. Not only is the place convenient, but the small size of the plant. This way the plant is easier to water and the soil can be fertilized without much work. Fertilizing a small amount of soil is much easier than to fertilize a whole garden. Not only are the potted plants easier to care for than other plants, but they could be used as interior decoration while supplying the owners with food. Many people use plants to liven up their house and give them a more homelike feeling.  
  3. Potted plants can also be moved without much effort if the current place was proven inconvenient. For example if the weather changes it could be moved to a better spot (i.e. typhoon, heavy rain, or flooding). It may be brought inside or outside of the house without entirely disturbing the plant.

 

 

Disadvantages:

  1. One bad thing about potted plants is that it limits the size of the plant from which the person can choose. Many fruit or vegetable plants are larger than what a regular sized pot may grow. Planting larger plants is possible but there is always the chance of the pot blowing over, being knocked over or pushed off a ledge and breaking. There are larger pots that can be purchased, but the larger ones are more expensive and they occupy more space.  
  2. When grown inside, the plant does not get the natural growing conditions that it is used to. For example: it does not get direct sunlight unless placed right by a window. The plants cannot be placed close to a fan, air-conditioner or heater. Another condition that the plants are used to is the plant doesn’t get the natural pollination. This is especially critical when the point of the plant is to bear fruits or vegetables. 

 

 

 

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Possibility 3

Hanging Plants Upside-down

            Growing a plant from an upside-down planter is almost the same as growing it in a pot except the plant is upside-down. The plant has to be started normally; when it begins to mature, it can be planted into the upside-down planter. The planter can merely be a bucket with a hole in the bottom. This hole is where the plant is inserted while dirt is gently packed around the roots. Once the bucket is filled, it is then hung on a sturdy support with a thick wire.

 

 

Advantages:

  1. The upside-down planter has all the advantages of a potted plant and more. One thing that makes it better, is that it can be hung anywhere out of the way with no chance of it being knocked over. Also, unlike potted plants, the structure of this planter makes it so that gravity works with the plant, this is especially good for tomato plants. With growing tomato plants upside-down, there is no need for a cage to keep the plant from drooping and touching the ground. There is no worry that the plant will grow too big for the pot, making it tip over. It can grow bigger than the planter and still be healthy. 
  2. Another thing that makes it more effective is that most of the pests, like caterpillars, spider mites and many different diseases come from the ground. Having the plant hang keeps most of the pests away. The wires that it hangs on can be greased or sprayed to keep any pests off the plant. 

 

Disadvantages:

  1. Because of the total weight of the soil, water and the plant itself, some upside-down planters may fall. This could be very dangerous, especially when watering because the added water is added weight. If it breaks when watering it may cause injury form hitting the person on the way down or from landing on their feet. Once the plant falls, it might be almost impossible to recover because it would smash the plant and may even crack the planter. 
  2. Making the planter can prove to be very challenging for most people. If not done right, it will not work and can only be fixed by starting over. Even the slightest error could ruin the effectiveness of the planter. There is always the danger of killing the plant when transplanting it. This step must be done very carefully and quickly. The roots are very fragile and can break easily. The plant will die if exposed to the air too long which makes this step one of the most crucial steps because if there is only one plant, there is only one opportunity. 

 

Action Step

            Before actually doing anything I researched how to make a homemade upside-down tomato planter. I found that all the materials could be bought at a low price at the local hardware stores in the Philippines. Then I set out to make my own. First, I went to the store and bought a sturdy bucket, soil and tomato seeds. I planted some tomato seeds in a box and set it in the window. Once the seedlings were mature enough I built the planter and used the following steps:

 

  1. Cutting the hole. Cut a two-inch hole in the bottom of the bucket. This can be done by drilling a hole with an electric drill to start, then using a keyhole saw, finishing the hole. 
  2. Fill the bottom.  Use large objects such as rocks, small chunks of styrofoam or bars of coconut fibers to cover the bottom. This will help drain excess water from the planter 
  3. Take the plant out. This is the most important step in this procedure. If the plant dies, the project is worthless. To take the plant out of its current place, it is important to know about where the roots are. If the plant is in a single container, this step will be easy. All that is needed to be done is to loosen the dirt from the container and let the chunk of dirt slide out. However, if the plant is with other plants it may be a little more difficult. With a small gardening shovel or knife, cut out a large circle around the plant and lift the dirt up without pulling the plant. The dirt must stay as a firm root ball (the ball of dirt held together by the roots); otherwise the slightest movement of dirt may tear the fragile root hairs. 
  4. Putting the plant in the hole. Place the bucket between two chairs and gently thread the plant through the hole in the bottom. This is where another pair of hands may be needed. Then, while still holding the plant, arrange the objects at the bottom so that the root ball is fully supported. The plant should be planted 1/3 deeper than before. This is so that the plant can grow more roots along the stem of the plant. 
  5. Fill the bucket. Gently pack dirt around the root ball so that there will be no air pockets. Then fill the rest of the bucket with dirt until the dirt line is two inches from the top of the bucket. During this step you may fertilize the plant. If some fertilized soil is being used, keep the fertilized soil near the bottom of the bucket, closest to the plant. If chemical fertilizer is being used, do not put it directly on the roots of the plant; instead, add a three or four inch layer of soil before adding the fertilizer. 
  6. Hang it. Find a sturdy place to hang the planter that is out of the way and in the sun. First wrap a thick piece of wire around this place and firmly twist it together multiple times. Then either tie the bucket to this wire or use a heavy-duty clip to hang the bucket. If the issue of breaking or falling comes up, more wires may be used to further support the planter.

 

Surveys

            I sent out ten surveys to ten different Filipinos to find out if this project would benefit people. I gave five of these surveys to passers by in the mall; they were all teenagers of an upper class in the Philippines. Another five went to some friends of our house-helper who were adult women of a lower class in the Philippines. I asked the following questions: “Do you like tomatoes?”, “How often do you eat tomatoes?”, “Have you ever grown tomatoes?”, and, “If you knew how, would you ever grow your own tomatoes?”

When I received the surveys from the people in the mall, the results were somewhat negative. Most of them only liked tomatoes in some foods and only one of the five said that she was interested in planting tomatoes and then added that her Grandfather had a farm where she sometimes helps to grow things. Two of the people in the mall said that they might be interested in growing tomatoes, but they might have said this just to be polite.

The other five that went to the adult women, however, showed some very positive results. Most of them have eaten tomatoes; when asked why they ate them, all but one said that it was because of its nutritional value. Most of them new that it had vitamin C, lycopene, and that it was good for the skin. They listed some dishes that have tomatoes in them including sinigang or sinigang na Baboy, itlog maalam, and they even ate raw tomatoes. Some of the women said that they have tried growing tomatoes before, but something always prevented it like stray animals, children messing around in their garden, and not having enough space. Overall, four out of the five from the lower class said that they would like to learn a better way to grow tomatoes. If this project is to get the best result, it should be done with people from a lower class so they can save money, and preferably the women because they are the ones preparing the food.

 

Here are the questions that I asked them. 

 

 

  1. Do you like tomatoes? (circle one)

Yes                  No                   I’ve never tried them               In some foods

 

  1. How often do you eat tomatoes? (Put an ‘X’ on the line)

Never-----------------------sometimes---------------------frequently

            Why?

  1. How do you eat tomatoes? (In what kind of foods? Raw?)

 

 

  1. Have you ever grown tomatoes? Did you like it?

 

 

 

  1. If you knew how, would you ever grow your own tomatoes? (circle one)

 

Yes                  No                   Maybe

Why?

 

 

 

Biblical Rationale:

            As Christians, we are called to be righteous. One act of righteousness is doing a selfless act to another person who is in need. In Matthew 25:40 it says, “The king will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” The “least of these brothers” is referring to people who are in need and that cannot pay you back. If you show kindness to these people, God will repay you in heaven at the resurrection of the righteous. I never really thought about the needs of the Filipinos around me, but this project opened my eyes to one of the many needs that are here. This project is designed to help local Filipinos learn a more effective way of planting their own nutritional food. 

 

 

Interview:

Hi! My name is Juliana Spicer. I am a high school student at Faith Academy, Philippines. My parents are missionaries to the Philippines and work with a mission organization called New Tribes Missions (NTM).

 

            My Biology teacher gave us a project called the Environmental Challenge of the Philippines (ECOP) where each student finds an environmental issue in the Philippines that can be connected with plants, invertebrate, or vertebrate animals. We are expected to research, investigate, interview experts (this is where I need your help), and conduct surveys or experiments to better understand the environmental challenge and to find a solution that can be shown to our community.

 

              We live in the city, and unlike any other city in the U.S. it is very crowded. Most of the houses do not have any yard at all. The climate here is very hot and humid; the weather changes from rainy season to hot/dry season. So whatever soil there is, it is clay-like and very unpromising. I chose to do my project on growing tomatoes upside-down. This way it would be easier to control and fertilize the soil when it is in a pot and having it hang makes it so that it doesn’t take up too much room, and it will not be in the way of the people’s busy lives. I have already planted my tomatoes upside-down, but I still have a few questions that I would love to have you answer.

 

1. Is there a way that I could do things differently to keep it cool in the hot/dry season?

 

2. Do I need to rotate the pot?

 

3. Is it fine if the plant curves when it is upside-down?

 

4. Is taking care of this plant any different than any other plant?

 

5. How do I know if the tomatoes are ripe?

 

6. What home-made fertilizer works best for tomatoes?

 

            Thank you for your time. If there are any other tips or special tricks that you know, feel free to add anything. Also, if you know any information about tomatoes that you think I should know I would love to hear that too.

            If you are interested, my teacher has collected all the projects done by his students in the past years at http://ecop.pbworks.com/w/page/18520584/FrontPage. Thank you again, have a good day!

 

warmly,

Juliana Spicer

 

 

 

~No Reply~

 

 

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