How to Grow Tomatoes in 5 Gallon Buckets


Growing vegetables in containers allows you to have a garden in an otherwise unsuitable place. Patios, apartment balconies and other paved areas are a suitable location for a container garden. Tomatoes are a prolific and simple-to-grow vegetable, making them a favored plant in many container gardens. Instead of purchasing expensive planters, grow your tomatoes in readily available 5-gallon buckets. The buckets are durable, readily available and quick to alter into a plant pot.

Step 1

Mix one part bleach with nine parts water. Wash out any dirt in the bucket if necessary, then rinse in the bleach solution to sterilize it.

Step 2

Drill four ¼-inch holes around the bottom edge of the bucket. Space the holes evenly apart. These are for water drainage.

Step 3

Fill the bucket to within 2 inches of the rim with a soilless potting mix. Soilless mixes are lighter and better draining than soil mixes. Mix one part compost, two parts sand and two parts peat moss to create your own mix.

Step 4

Mix ¼ cup garden lime and 8 tablespoons slow-release, balanced fertilizer with the soil in the bucket. Alternately, use a tomato fertilizer following package application instructions.

Step 5

Make a planting hole in the center of the soil that is 2 inches deeper and twice as wide as the nursery pot the tomato seedling is in. Remove the seedling from the pot and set it in the hole. Strip off any leaves that are below soil line then refill the hole with soil.

Step 6

Water the soil until the excess moisture begins draining from the bottom drainage holes. Place the bucket in an area that receives full sunlight.

Step 7

Push a 6-foot-tall stake into the soil behind the plant. Push it in until it touches the bottom of the bucket. As the tomato grows, tie the main stem to the stake every 8 inches with cloth plant ties. Tie loosely to avoid damage to the plant.

Step 8

Check the soil moisture each day and water when the top 1 inch of soil feels dry. Add water until it begins draining from the bottom of the bucket.

Step 9

Fertilize a second time 10 weeks after planting in the bucket. Use a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer, following the application amount on the package. Most soluble fertilizers are applied every one to two weeks until final harvest.

Step 10

Harvest tomatoes as they ripen to encourage further fruit set. Tomatoes are ripe when they reach full color and are firm to the touch.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use buckets that once held pesticides, herbicides or other toxic chemicals. Wear safety glasses and practice caution when using a drill.

Things You'll Need

  • Bleach
  • Bucket
  • Drill
  • Peat moss
  • Garden lime
  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • Stake
  • Plant ties
  • Soluble fertilizer


  • Cornell Cooperative Extension: Growing Vegetables In Containers
  • University of Alaska Extension: Raising Vegetables In Mini-Gardens
Keywords: container gardening, tomatoes in buckets, potted tomato plants

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.