How to Plant Tomato Plants in Five-Gallon Buckets


The tomato plant is a staple of home gardens, but if you have limited space or unsuitable soil, you may not be able to grow tomatoes using conventional methods. Bush-type or dwarf varieties of tomato adapt well to container growing, including the Tiny Tim (a variety of cherry tomato), the Husky Red (a hybrid dwarf plant with large fruit) and the Patio Hybrid (another dwarf plant with large fruit). Start your seeds five to six weeks before the last frost in your area.

Step 1

Fill a shallow plastic dish or baking dish with potting mix and plant your tomato seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep.

Step 2

Place the container in a warm, sunny spot such as a windowsill and keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Step 3

Mix a tomato fertilizer to half strength and water your tomatoes with it after they emerge. When the seedlings have developed two or three sets of leaves, they are ready to be transplanted into larger containers.

Step 4

Drill 1/4-inch holes 4 to 5 inches apart around each 5-gallon bucket, 1 inch above the bottom, for drainage.

Step 5

Fill the tomato bucket with a growing medium. You can mix your own growing medium using one part sand to one part perlite or vermiculite.

Step 6

Add compost or other organic soil amendments to the growing medium to increase its fertility.

Step 7

Plant one tomato seedling in the bucket, water it well and set it in an area that receives full sun.

Step 8

Dissolve 2 cups of a complete fertilizer such as 10-20-10 in a gallon of warm water. Mix 2 tbsp. of this solution in a gallon of water and use this mixture to water your tomatoes.

Step 9

Water your tomatoes daily; during hot, dry weather you may need to water twice a day.

Step 10

Flush the container with plain water once a week until the water runs freely from the drainage holes. This flushing rinses fertilizer buildup out of the soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use garden soil for container-grown tomatoes; it is too dense and may contain weeds, diseases or pests. Water your tomatoes from the bottom; do not use a sprinkler or pour water over the leaves because doing so can encourage fungal infection or spread disease.

Things You'll Need

  • Shallow plastic dish or baking dish
  • Potting mix
  • Tomato seeds
  • Tomato fertilizer
  • 6-inch or larger pots
  • Drill with 1/4 inch bit
  • 5-gallon buckets (one for each plant)
  • Sand
  • Perlite
  • Vermiculite
  • Compost


  • University of Illinois Extension: Tomato
  • Texas A&M University Extension: Vegetable Gardening in Containers

Who Can Help

  • Ohio State University: Growing Cucumbers, Peppers, Squash and Tomatoes in Containers
  • ArborDay: Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: tomato bucket, plant tomato, container grown tomatoes

About this Author

Angie Mansfield is a freelance writer living and working in Minnesota. She began freelancing in 2008. Mansfield's work has appeared in online sites and publications such as theWAHMmagazine, for parents who work at home, and eHow. She is an active member of Absolute Write and Writer's Village University.