How to Grow Bucket Tomatoes


In areas where garden space is at a premium, growing tomatoes in buckets is a good solution. Smaller and dwarf varieties such as Patio, Small Fry, Pixie and Tiny Tim are best for bucket growing. Tomatoes can be started early in the spring without worry about night temperatures, since the bucket they're growing in can be moved indoors if the temperature drops too low.

Step 1

Obtain a clean 5-gallon bucket that has never held toxic chemicals. Buckets are available for sale new and often are used to contain cat litter, laundry detergent, pickles and other consumer items in large quantities. Local restaurants often have a surplus of empty 5-gallon buckets available.

Step 2

Drill four 1/4-inch holes equally spaced around the sides of the bucket about 1/2 inch from the bottom. Add an inch of gravel or small rocks to the bottom of the bucket to improve drainage.

Step 3

Mix together equal parts of potting soil, perlite, peat moss and organic compost. Fill the bucket to within 2 inches of the top with this mixture.

Step 4

Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and 2 inches deeper. Place the tomato plant into the hole and firm up the soil, burying the plant 2 inches deeper than it was originally grown.

Step 5

Push a stake into the bucket if you're growing vine-type tomatoes. Small bush-type tomatoes usually do not need staking.

Step 6

Water the new plant thoroughly, until water drains out the bottom holes.

Step 7

Place the bucket tomato in full sun for at least 8 hours a day. Wheels are available to fit to the bottom of the bucket, if needed, for frequent moving. In areas with sun from only one direction, turn the bucket every second day to prevent the tomato from leaning.

Step 8

Add a layer of organic mulch to the top of the bucket. Mulch will help reduce water loss and prevent weeds.

Step 9

Check the soil moisture daily and water to prevent the soil from drying out. Apply a water-soluble tomato fertilizer once a week or as recommended on the package.

Step 10

Tie vine-type tomatoes to the stake. Use cotton twine to tie a loose figure eight around the plant and stake every 8 inches up the vine.

Things You'll Need

  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Drill
  • Gravel
  • Potting soil
  • Perlite
  • Peat moss
  • Organic compost
  • Stake (optional)
  • Trowel
  • Organic mulch
  • Tomato fertilizer


  • Ohio State University: Growing Cucumbers, Peppers, Squash and Tomatoes in Containers
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: Vegetable Gardening in Containers
  • University of Nebraska: Tomatoes in the Home Garden
Keywords: grow bucket tomatoes, container tomatoes, plant bucket tomatoes

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.