Saturday, August 14, 2010

Another Experiment... Upside Down Peppers!

These days it has gotten very trendy to grow plants upside down- mainly tomatoes, but other things as well such a strawberries and peppers. Theoretically, plants grown this way are less vulnerable to pests and are super healthy. I was only somewhat intrigued by this until I found out that you could make your own upside down planter with just a bottle! Then, obviously, I had to try it.

My bottle of choice was a 3 liter water bottle- partly because it was 3 liters instead of 2 and partly because I didn't want to drink 2 liters of soda before embarking on my project. I painted it, which is important so that any roots don't get burnt by the sun coming through clear plastic. Then I cut off the bottom.
Next, I poked four holes, one on each quadrant of the bottom of the bottle. Through those holes, I ultimately stuck chopsticks, making an X pattern (see below). First, I fed the plant out through the small hole in the top of the bottle. Then, I carefully filled it with dirt around the existing roots. I then tied twine around the end of the chopsticks, to create something to hang the pot from.
One tip, is that I quickly realized that the hole in the top of the bottle (now the bottom) where the plant comes out, was way too big. I wasn't sure what to do so ended up created a little net of twine to keep everything inside. Its not pretty, but it works! I think with a 2 L bottle that has a smaller opening, this would not be an issue. See how cute it is? (the ball in the top is one of those water globe things).
Now for the experiment. Obviously, I couldn't just plant the one crazy upside down plant without a control group, because I'd never find out if that method really is better. So, the other plants that had come in the container went straight up, just like normal (for some reason they only had really long tall plants left, as you can see).
What is the verdict? Well, the right side up plants are producing actual peppers by now, and the upside down one is only just getting blooms. The upside down one is also exceptionally hard to keep watered. So, in terms of productivity, the normal plants have it. In terms of being completely fascinating? Hands down it goes to the upside down one. Check it out....

From the very first day, the leaves started to slowly turn upwards towards the sun (ever wonder why this happens? It is so interesting... basically, the leaves need to maximize the sun exposure, and the way they do it is that the plant cells that are in the shade start to elongate relative to the cells on the sunny side, and having the longer cells concentrated on one side causes the plant to bend. pretty clever, right?)

Not only are the leaves now completely turned upwards, the upside down plant is also grown a much larger percentage of new leaves close to the base of the plant than the right side up plant is (which makes sense). It hasn't managed to produce any fruit, but maybe that makes sense given how much extra work it has to do! Either way, I'm rooting for it!

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