Growing Tomatoes in Buckets

Growing tomatoes in buckets can provide a solution if you want to grow tomatoes and don't have garden space or good soil. Growing bucket tomatoes gives all the advantages of container gardening. And because the standard 5-gallon bucket holds plenty of soil, you don't have as many problems keeping your plants watered as you do in too-small containers.

Another advantage is that the significant weight of the container will provide a stable base to help support the tall-growing indeterminate varieties (though you will still need to provide support for tall vines).

Some gardeners use buckets for growing tomatoes upside down, but this article discusses only the right-side-up technique.

Growing tomatoes in buckets is pretty easy to set up.  Here's a list of what you'll need:

  • 5-gallon bucket
  • 1 or 2 inches of rocks, gravel, or other material for the bottom of the bucket
  • An electric drill or punch for creating drainage holes
  • 20 quarts of soil for tomatoes
  • A tomato plant (some gardeners prefer bush-type determinate varieties that don't need staking)
  • Tomato fertilizer

Steps to planting your bucket tomato

  1. Pick a location with at least 6-hours of direct sunlight
  2. Make a level place where the bucket will be set.  (You'll be glad you did when the plant becomes more top heavy.)
  3. Drill a dozen or so quarter-inch holes in the bottom of the bucket.
  4. Place 2-inches of gravel, corn-cobs, etc. in the bottom of the bucket to aid in drainage.
  5. Fill the bucket nearly to the top with good soil for tomatoes. (Most potting soils should work great. However, most garden soil does not contain enough organic matter.)
  6. Plant one tomato per bucket. See Planting Tomatoes for more helpful information.
  7. After the bucket is placed in it's final location, water thoroughly.

Caring for your Tomato Plant

After a few days start a regular tomato watering and feeding program. You should never allow the soil to dry out completely. The nice thing about growing tomatoes in buckets is that it's almost impossible to overwater since you've used good soil and the drainage holes allow excess water to drain out.

If your tomato plant is a vigorous grower you may have to be innovative in setting up your vine support. If the plant remains under four feet you can probably get by with stakes or cages held in place by the bucket soil.  For really tall plants, though, you will probably need to rig up some external supports.

If you want to move your bucket to a new location, it may be possible for awhile, until the vines have become entangled with other plants or structures. If you plan to move the buckets around it may be best to keep a bit of space between them to avoid this.

Many gardeners have had great success with growing tomatoes in buckets. And if you've got a good strong overhead support structure for it--you can next try growing them in a bucket upside-down!


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