Advice on growing produce in buckets


11 Years
Apr 11, 2011
New York
I have rescued some 5-6 gallon buckets from the recycle bins and my husband says I have to do something with them, thinking of growing some tomatoes (okay a lot of tomatoes ^_^) and some peppers.

Any advice on ways to get the best results?
You can grow a lot of veggies in 5 gallon buckets. Have enough holes for drainage and keep close track of soil moisture.

Also, it you have room for a few buckets indoors, you an grow herbs in them and have fresh herbs over the winter by bringing them indoors before the first freeze.
You could plant a few bush bean plants in each bucket, cucumbers (either bush or the regular kind, they'll cascade down the sides) You'll want to stick with smaller tomato bushes, else they can get too top heavy and fall over in a strong wind.
You could plant one potato and one bush bean together in each bucket. Supposedly these two repel the bugs that would attack the other (don't know this from experience--read it in a book). Anyway,it's always nice to grow potatoes in buckets since it makes the harvest so much easier.
I had gotten some big plastic totes on sale and set them up as Earth boxes. There are a lot of videos and an instructable on how to do it, but it is essentially just creating a drain hole about 1/3 of the way up the side of the container and creating a water resevoir in the bottom with an upsidedown smaller container that has a lot of holes. It also has one big hole for a pipe. The pipe extends from the bottom, up out of the top and you use it to fill the resevoir, the excess water escapes from the seep hole in the side, and you can see the resevoir is full when the pipe fills up. I did the same thing in a five gallon bucket. You are supposed to cover the top and cut holes for each plant to conserve water (slow evaporation) but as I started with direct sown seeds, I never got around to that part. Not watering the top is supposed keep bugs, fungus, and disease down, too, I think.

I did lettuce and mustard greens in the totes, and they did well, but I found direct sow was not ideal...I did still need to water the top and the lettuce did not get enough water once it did grow so it was bitter until I started watering from the top. My mustard greens in regular pots did just as well. I would not use such a deep container for lettuce again...a shallow tote would have worked out better since lettuce has shallow roots. I would try a tote like the one intended for under the bed, and set it up to hold half water half soil for lettuce.

My five gallon bucket became a home for three sunflowers I reserved from the regular garden. One would have been better. It is an experiment because I'm becoming very frustrated with my results out there: pests, mole, prone to drying out quickly... Mulch just serves as a breeding ground for bugs here.

So far the garden sunflowers have better size, but they are now being eaten by something and I have no idea what. It looks more like a bird just taking chunks of leaf than a bug. It ate the entire tip off with bud. I am so ticked! But that is why I tried some in the container...

I did a bean vine in a pot and it did really well with the pot just sitting next to a trellis. I will try them in the earth boxes when I finish the lettuce for a fall crop...

The water resevoir in the earth box containers do help the plants maintain more even moisture. My regular pots dry out daily, and the five gallon bucket can go four to five days. The big totes can go a week or more, but it does need plants that have deeper roots than lettuce. It would probably work really well for tubers growering in that top three inches: you do not want them soaking in water, but have nice even moisture available.

I have to tell you, I have a geranium in a pot in the front yard. It was just about dead and I dumped worm castings in it, watered it once and forgot about it! It has bloomed all year, through the winter, through drought, and I watered it a total of three times in the year! If you are going to container garden, I really recommend using regular dirt mixed with worm castings.i used organic potting soil in my garden containers and it does not compare...even the miraculous grow brand is not as good, IMO.

Full disclosure here... I am going to be starting a worm business, but I am doing it because of how well my geranium did with castings I had purchased at a farmers market. I am not selling anything as yet, so I am not saying this to promote my own business. (i didnt even have enough castings to put in my own containers!) I am just a convert to the benefits of castings over any other product, and the scientific research backs up what I observed with the geranium.
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I encourage you to give it a go! I'm doing part of my garden this year in chicken feed bags. So far they are doing very well.

Here's a video to see the bags in action:
Awesome, thanks so much guys. Guess I'll have to start buying feed in non paper bags :)
just a little update... The garden I have have planted in bags is not doing as well as the garden in the raised bed. They are still performing ok, but suffering more in the heat.

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