How to Grow Tomatoes in a Bucket


Tomato plants grow well in containers, which can be a suitable solution if space for a traditional garden bed isn't available. The plants need at least 10 inches of root space, so a bucket is an alternative to purchasing an expensive planter. A 5-gallon bucket or a large mop bucket are ideal as tomato planters because they have the depth and strength to last through several gardening seasons. Large laundry detergent or cat litter buckets are other inexpensive options.

Step 1

Rinse out any residue from the bucket with clean water. Sterilize the bucket in a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water, and rinse a second time.

Step 2

Drill four holes that are ¼ of an inch each and space them equally apart around the sides of the bucket. Place the holes ½ inch up from the bottom edge of the bucket to allow excess moisture to drain from the soil. Set the bucket on top of its upturned lid or place a drip tray under the bucket to catch the draining water.

Step 3

Mix one bushel of peat moss and one bushel of vermiculite in a large, heavy duty garbage bag. Add 1-¼ cups limestone, ½ cup superphosphate and 1 cup of slow-release 5-10-5 analysis fertilizer to the peat moss mixture. Moisten it thoroughly.

Step 4

Fill the bucket to within 1 inch of the rim with the peat moss mixture. This potting mixture is well-draining and light, making it suitable for tomato growing.

Step 5

Dig a hole in the center of the potting mix that is 2 inches deeper than the tomato plant's seedling pot and twice as wide. Set the seedling into the mix so that it sits 2 inches deeper than it did in the seedling pot. Refill the hole with soil and lightly firm it around the plant.

Step 6

Set the bucket and drip tray in an area that receives eight or more hours of direct sun. Turn the bucket every other day if one side of the plant is in shade, ensuring that all sides of the tomato receive equal sunlight.

Step 7

Push a stake into the soil behind the tomato plant, pushing the stake down until it hits the bottom of the bucket. Tie the main stem of the plant to the stake loosely as it grows, spacing the ties every 8 inches along the stem.

Step 8

Check the moisture in the bucket every day by sticking your finger into the soil. Water when the top 1 inch of soil begins to feel dry. Add water until the excess begins draining from the bottom drainage holes.

Step 9

Begin weekly fertilization one month after planting. Water once a week with a soluble 15-30-15 analysis fertilizer, following label instructions for exact application amount and method.

Things You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • Bleach
  • Drill
  • Peat moss
  • Vermiculite
  • Super-phosphate
  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • Garbage bag
  • Soluble fertilizer


  • Iowa State University Extension: Container Gardening
  • University of Illinois Extension: Tomato
Keywords: growing in buckets, planting tomatoes, container gardening

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.