July 27, 2010

The Topsy Turvy Garden Experiment

This weekend my wife and I bought a Topsy Turvy tomato planter.   The purchase was pretty much a whim.   My sister had introduced us to the product over July 4th when we were visiting her.  My wife has been interested in doing some gardening at home.   Then we ran across a display of Topsy Turvy planters at our local grocery store for 50% off.  Buying a Topsy Turvy planter seemed like a good idea.    I'm not sure if it really was a good idea or not.   The only way to know first hand if it was a good purchase will be to try it.   I figured I'd make it an experiment and document our experiences and results in a series of posts.

Couple Questions to Address in the Experiment:

Is the Topsy Turvy a worthwhile product??

Is growing tomatoes with a Topsy Turvy a good investment in time and money?

To determine if the Topsy Turvy is a good product I'll make a personal judgment based on my experiences with it.  The answer to this question will be my personal opinion and based on my sum of experiences with the product at the end of summer.   To answer the second question I'll figure out how much money we saved versus buying tomatoes and  evaluate if that savings is worth the cost of the Topsy Turvy and other materials and our time investment.  Organic tomatoes cost $2.50 to $5.00 per pound depending on the variety.  

Note: This is not a scientific experiment at all.  To do a better experiment I should really also have a tomato planted traditionally in the ground.  My wife and I are novice gardeners so we may kill the plant due to our own mistakes.
Day One: Purchase and Planting

We bought the Topsy Turvy at the store.  When we got home we opened it up and read the instructions and quickly realized we needed to make another trip to the store for potting soil, fertilizer and tomato seedling.   Needing to buy the soil and seedling seems obvious in hindsight but I guess we weren't thinking about it when we bought the Topsy Turvy initially.   I didn't know exactly how it worked and didn't read the package too well.   (obviously this purchase was not well planned... it was definitely bought on a whim).   So anyway we ran back to the store and bought some soil, fertilizer and a tomato plant.   The Topsy Turvy itself was on sale for $7.  I think we spent around $8 on the bag of soil, about $3 on the plant and another $5 on the soil.  Our total cost is about $23.   The $8 on the bag of soil and $5 on fertilizer was for a lot more product than we need for one tomato plant.  A small bag of potting soil wouldn't have been enough soil and we bought the smallest quantity of fertilizer they had.  

The labor put into the Topsy Turvy so far was mostly at the store and a few minutes to actually plant the tomato plant into the planter.   I would estimate that we've put about 1 hour of effort into it so far.   The end result is one young tomato plant hanging in our back yard (pictured at left).

Initial investment : About $23 and 1 hour labor

If you're interested in a longer more detailed experiment that assessed the savings of planting a garden then check out The Year-Long GRS Project: How Much Does a Garden Really Save? from Get Rich Slowly.  I borrowed the idea for my experiment from GRS, but my own experiment is on a much smaller scale. 

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