How to Grow in a 5 Gallon Bucket


A slightly modified 5-gallon bucket makes an ideal container for home and urban gardening. All but the most picky of plants or tallest of trees will grow in the bucket, given the right nurturing. Whether you're looking to grow vegetables, or create a flowering centerpiece for your porch, using a 5-gallon bucket is a straightforward and cheap alternative to shop-bought pots. Make sure you don't pick a bucket previously used for storing chemicals or toxic materials as it can contaminate your soil.

Step 1

Find or buy an old food-grade plastic 5-gallon bucket. Turn it upside down and drill several holes in the bottom with a 1/2-inch drill bit.

Step 2

Drop some large pottery shards at the bottom of the bucket to improve water drainage. Fill the bucket with a soil-less potting mix, available from many garden supply stores. These mixes contain sphagnum peat moss and are light, weed-free, fast draining and hold soil nutrients, according to master gardeners at the University of Maryland.

Step 3

Choose the type of plants for your bucket. Select varieties that don't grow to large sizes. Small trees such as citrus will grow in 5-gallon buckets. Herbs such as basil, parsley and cilantro can be added to the bucket to create a small herb garden. Many vegetables suit container growing, including carrot, potato, cabbage, tomato, bean and salad greens.

Step 4

Sow seeds directly into the bucket soil if storing indoors. Otherwise, use a seedling tray filled with potting mix to propagate the seeds several weeks before the last frosts of the year. If using the bucket, place it on a tray, raised on four small blocks of wood to allow water to drain out. Sow seeds according to pack instructions.

Step 5

Check seed packets for spacing in the bucket. Some plants, such as cabbages or zucchini, will need a whole bucket to themselves. However, salad greens and herb seeds may be planted together. Water plants daily. Container soil dries out faster than ground soil, according to the University of Maine.

Step 6

Move the container outdoors to a sunny location when the weather warms up, usually around late May for much of the U.S.

Step 7

Add water-soluble fertilizer such as 20-20-20 every two weeks during the summer months to improve plant growth.

Step 8

Take your pot indoors as the weather cools in late fall. Some plants may prefer to stay outside, but most will require overwintering in a light, sheltered location. Check the individual seed packets for information.

Tips and Warnings

  • Full 5-gallon buckets can be very heavy to lift. Get help carrying the bucket when moving or site the container in a permanent location.

Things You'll Need

  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Drill
  • 1/2 inch drill bit
  • Potting soil
  • Seed trays
  • Pottery shards
  • Tray
  • 4 small blocks of wood
  • Plant seeds
  • Water-soluble fertilizer


  • University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Growing Vegetable sin Containers
  • Maryland University Extension: Container Vegetable Gardening
Keywords: 5-gallon bucket growing, growing in buckets, container growing tips

About this Author

Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.

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