What began as the tomato bucket experiment to grow a few salad tomatoes at the house turned into one of our most successful garden trials of the season!

tomato bucket experiment
The completed Tomato Bucket Planter growing in late June

Growing anything at all at our house is a far cry more difficult from the ease of which we can grow produce at our farm. Not only is our home situated in a heavily wooded residential neighborhood that blocks a tremendous amount of the day’s sunlight – it also serves home to a large population of marauding deer that love to eat anything in sight.

They love to roam the neighborhood and surrounding woods and snack on crab apples, clover and whatever planted treats they can find. Even the front porch is not safe. Just a few weeks back, they came right up on our neighbor’s porch and mowed down their potted plants – and a few years back – helped themselves to some Halloween pumpkins on display on our porch as well.

So that leaves our fenced-in back deck area as our only option for plants  – and wanting to have a near-by supply of salad tomatoes on hand – we decided to grow a plant or two at the house – bucket style.

tomato bucket experiment
The planter has produced buckets of beautiful and delicious chocolate-cherry tomatoes – with no end in sight!

Now we have always grown some smaller plants on the deck each year in pots – but we really wanted a larger tomato plant. The key was to grow it in something that fit on our back porch – and was still pleasing to the eye.

So we decided on growing our tomato plant in a bucket – and then hide it with a wooden cover and a built-in trellis system. We are amazed at how well it has worked!

Using a large potting bucket we had on hand (a 5 gallon bucket would work perfectly) – we potted up one of our heirloom tomato plants this spring.  We then used left-over 1 x 6″ decking boards and cut them to create a simple decorative box that would slip over the bucket. (This is the perfect place to use pallet wood – see : How To Work With Pallets!)

To complete the entire “Bucket Cover Planter” – we then attached a piece of 4′ high x 16″ wide galvanized grid we cut from goat panel fencing to the inside of the box. We slipped the box and trellis over the bucket plant – and voila – we had an attractive outdoor tomato planting box, complete with its own trellis system

Next year - we may just add in a couple more boxes for peppers and create our own salsa back porch garden!
Next year – we may just add in a couple more boxes for peppers and create our own salsa back porch garden!

The little planter has performed beautifully – the bucket allows for easy watering, and of course no weeding! By screwing in the trellis to the box – it’s strong, sturdy and provides perfect support for the tomato. In addition, by using the large bucket – the plant has plenty of room to establish a deep and complete root system for maximum production. In fact – the plant has been by far the most productive plant we have grown this year – period! The Chocolate Cherry heirloom and San Marzano tomato plants are two great choices to grow in the buckets. The San Marzano  are perfect for salsa and sauces.

I think next year we are going to expand the experiment and add a couple more bucket planter boxes to grow our own little salsa garden on the deck. It’s simple, attractive, easy to maintain – and delicious!  It also would make the perfect growing medium for gardeners of all ages!

Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary

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10 thoughts on “The Tomato Bucket Experiment – An Attractive New Twist on Growing Patio Tomatoes

  • April 18, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    My questions have been asked but I cannot see the answers. How do I see them?

  • August 10, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Great idea!

  • August 10, 2015 at 6:20 am

    i use old galvanized containers for my tomatoes. I drilled some holes in the bottom, added some rocks for drainage and then the soil. I put them in front of my garage where they get the heat reflected back on them during the night. quite a high yield from 3 plants this year. works great for peppers too

  • August 9, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Mine never came out as beautiful! I always had problems with little green insects and it takes me every day ages to take them off, they throw eggs everywhere very fast.
    I tried to spray soap and vinegar and it just gradually kills the leaves so I am very curious as to how you grow them in a smoother way.
    If you don’t mind me asking 🙂

  • August 9, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    I am interested in your pallet wood. Every one of your projects looks like sanded wood. Mine with sawn nails included looks worn and ugly soon afterward even if wood looks good when I get the pallet. Do you do anything special to the wood?

    • August 10, 2015 at 6:19 am

      Jim – we usually pressure wash our pallet and old barn wood – it cleans it up beautifully – and also makes it easy to stain or to seal for a natural look.

  • August 9, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    what kind of “dirt” did you use in the pot? I love this idea and want to try it for sure this next spring.
    Sorry if you have already answered this elsewhere ..I’m new to your blog but learning.

  • August 9, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    How do you compensate for the lack of sunlight? We live in a heavily wooded area too& my tomato in 1/2 whiskey barrel right outside our front porch is not doing at all well.

  • August 9, 2015 at 11:13 am

    I experimented with growing my tomatoes in straw bales this year and have had the best tomato crop EVER! My kitchen table is covered in tomatoes to be canned right now and as soon as it’s empty it will be time to pick again and again. ♥

  • August 9, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Jim and Mary….how many and how big of holes did you put into the bucket bottom to allow drainage? did this years rains affect the tomatoes in any negative way? did you also put anything in the bottom of the bucket to keep the soil from leeching out through the drain holes. please keep up the great posts as I am ‘a farmer through you folks’!! God bless ya’ll.

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