How to Plant Tomatoes in 5-Gallon Pails


Many varieties of tomatoes grow well in containers, but buying a large nursery pot for each seedling can be expensive. Using a plastic 5-gallon pail is a budget-friendly solution for container gardeners. Planting tomatoes in 5-gallon pails is a fairly straightforward process. When growing tomatoes in a container, it's important to select determinate varieties because they tend to be smaller than indeterminate varieties, which can quickly grow top-heavy and overturn their 5-gallon pails.

Step 1

Wash and dry the 5-gallon plastic pail. Flip it over and drill eight to 10 small holes into the bottom of the pail. These drainage holes allow excess water to escape after you water the plant.

Step 2

Fill the pail with good-quality potting soil, stopping about 4 inches from the top of the container. Dig a hole that's about twice the width and depth of the seedling's root ball. Slide the tomato plant seedling into the hole and fill it in with dirt.

Step 3

Place the 5-gallon pail on a drainage saucer in a spot that gets direct sunlight at least six to eight hours per day.

Step 4

Add a dose of water-soluble fertilizer to the planted seedling's container. As fertilizers tend to vary, follow the directions on the back of the packaging.

Step 5

Water the plant until water begins to seep out into the saucer.

Things You'll Need

  • 5-gallon plastic pail
  • Drill
  • Good-quality potting soil
  • Spade
  • Tomato seedling
  • Drainage saucer
  • Water-soluble fertilizer


  • "Sun Journal": Your Own Veggie Patch
  • University of Florida Extension: Minigardening
  • ArcaMax Publishing: Vegetables in 5-Gallon Buckets
Keywords: planting tomatoes, growing container tomatoes, five-gallon bucket, tomatoes in pails, tomatoes in buckets

About this Author

Katie Leigh is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. A Loyola University New Orleans graduate with a Bachelor's degree in communications, Leigh has worked as a copy editor, page designer and reporter for several daily newspapers and specialty publications since 2005.