You might be surprised just how easy it is to plant and grow a delicious crop of tomatoes in ordinary 5 gallon buckets. And even better, how successful you can grow doing it!
More and more gardeners are trying their hand at growing tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets. Not only can you grow and enjoy nearly any tomato variety (large or small) you wish, you can do it almost anywhere. Even if you have the tiniest of yards – or no yard at all!
Sunny patios, decks, driveways and rooftops all work well. As will any outdoor space that gets at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day. And is it ever simple and easy to do. Even better, as you will see below, it has a lot of advantages over traditional gardening when it comes to maintaining and harvesting your crop.
In addition to our main garden, we love growing tomatoes and a wide variety of other vegetables in 5 gallon buckets. We grow quite a few on our back patio in buckets using our DIY bucket planter boxes. They are perfect for keeping tomatoes growing close by for the grill or for using in the kitchen.
The Advantages Of Growing Tomatoes In 5 Gallon Buckets
Beyond letting gardeners be able to garden in small spaces, growing in 5 gallon buckets can make it far easier to keep plants healthy and productive. Because fresh, fertile soil can be used in the buckets each year, it keeps plants powered up. It also reduces the chance for blossom end rot and tomato blight to hit your plants.
Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil. And tomato blight is a soil born disease that can infect the soil and your plants for five years or more. But by using new, nutrient-filled soil each season, both have little chance of ever becoming an issue.
Pests and pest problems are also minimized when growing in buckets. Since plants are above the surface, it becomes harder for ground dwelling insects to climb up plants. Even better, the raised plant level makes it easier than ever to water, fertilize, prune and harvest.
But perhaps more than anything else, growing in 5 gallon buckets eliminates one of the most dreadful chores of all – weeding! Again, because the plants grow above the surface of the soil, weeds rarely if ever appear. And if they do, they are quick and easy to take care of.
Now that we know the amazing benefits of growing tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets, let’s take an in-depth look at how to plant and grow your tomatoes in buckets like a pro!
How To Plant & Grow Tomatoes In 5 Gallon Buckets
Why 5 Gallon Buckets Work Like A Charm
As it turns out, 5 gallon buckets really are the perfect vessel for growing tomatoes. Most pots and containers simply don’t allow enough growing room for true slicing or canning tomatoes.
Although you can grow smaller plum and cherry style tomatoes in less sizable containers, you need the depth and size of a 5 gallon bucket to grow larger varieties. 5 gallon buckets, with over 14 inches of depth and 11+ inches of circumference, have plenty of space for strong root growth.
When it comes to growing larger varieties of tomatoes (or any vegetable for that matter), success is all about developing healthy, strong roots. An extensive root system is critical for supplying plants with the moisture and energy they need. Without it, they are unable to produce larger fruit and harvests.
Listen To Our Podcast Below On Growing Vegetables In 5 Gallon Buckets!
In our five gallon bucket planters, we have been able to successfully grow all of our favorite tomatoes. That includes San Marzano and Roma paste tomatoes, and large heirlooms such as Brandywine, Black Krim, and Celebrity too.
Planting & Maintaining Tomatoes In A 5 Gallon Bucket
For starters, always select clean, BPA free buckets for growing. Do not grow in old or recycled buckets that contained chemicals or harsh ingredients. Drill five to six 3/4″ holes around the bottom of your bucket, and a few more on the side about an inch from the bottom.
This holes on the bottom will help drain away excess water. The extra holes on the side will allow it to drain if the bottom holes happen to plug. Once you have your buckets drilled out, you are ready for soil!
One of the biggest secrets to success when growing in a bucket is to start with a high quality potting soil mix. One that is filled with a heavy dose of nutrients but is also light and loose.
Homemade Potting Soil / Purchased Potting Soil
We actually create our own potting soil from a mix of soil, compost, worm castings, perlite and spent coffee grounds. This rich, light, well-draining mix allows the roots of the tomato plants to absorb nutrients with ease. See : Our Homemade Potting Soil Recipe
In addition, the lightweight and loose soil allows the roots to grow with little effort. Even more importantly, it allows them to take up added nutrients in the form of organic fertilizers quickly.
If purchasing ready made potting soil, be sure to select varieties that are lightweight. Look for ingredients such as perlite or vermiculite that help keep the soil from compacting. And if you really want to make that potting soil great, add worm castings to it!
Adding worm castings to any commercial potting mix will really power up the soil. For us, worm castings are an amazing amendment to any planting hole or potting soil mix. In fact, adding a cup of worm castings for every 6 cups of potting mix will work wonders for your tomatoes! Affiliate Product Link : Pure Worm Castings
Before adding your soil, put an inch or so of mulch or stones in the bottom of your bucket. This will help keep the bottom holes from becoming plugged and allow water to pass through.
Planting & Watering – How To Grow Tomatoes In Five Gallon Buckets
When planting, the tomato roots need to go deep in the bucket. Put the root ball of your transplant at least six inches down in the soil. This will help keep moisture in and promote a strong root system in the soil. Don’t plant the roots just an inch or so below the surface, they need to be deeper.
When planting, water the plant in well to provide plenty of moisture and help with transplant stress. Adding a few inches of compost or straw on top as a mulch will also help to keep the tomato plant’s roots moist.
The key to keep your tomatoes growing well in buckets is to supply consistent watering. Tomatoes planted in 5 gallon buckets will need frequent watering to keep plants hydrated. The good news is that it only takes minutes a day. We supply our tomato plants in buckets with about 1/4 of a gallon of water each morning.
Fertilizing – How To Grow Tomatoes In Five Gallon Buckets
Fertilizing is a must when growing in buckets. Just as when growing in a traditional garden setting, tomatoes will eventually absorb most of the nutrients from even the richest of soils. Without adding a supplement source of power, your tomato plants will suffer in buckets.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders from the soil. But a light, steady dose of added nutrients can fill that void as the soil loses its vitality. For great results though, it is vital to keep the nutrients light and consistent. Too much fertilizer will create plants with a lot of foliage and growth, but little to no tomatoes.
To keep it light and steady, we fertilize with compost tea every few weeks. We also add a quarter cup of worm castings added to the top of our buckets every month. In place of this, you can also use an organic commercial liquid fertilizer on your plants ever two weeks.
To keep the dose light, mix commercial liquid fertilizers at half strength before applying. Product Affiliate Link: Espoma Organic Tomato Fertilizer
Support Your Tomato Plants – How To Grow Tomatoes In Five Gallon Buckets
Last but not least, you need to provide good support for your tomato plants. Just like in a traditional garden setting, staking or caging your tomatoes is important. Without it, they will easily topple and break, especially when loaded down with fruit.
For buckets on the ground, locate them up against a wall or fence where you can attach a support. If growing out in the open, you can also secure a stake to the edge of the buckets to provide a place to tie off branches to.
As a great alternative, our DIY bucket planters make supporting tomato plants a breeze. With their wooden frame, it is easy to attach stakes or metal fencing to provide quick, simple support. Here is to making this the year you try growing a few of your favorite tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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