Bucket Gardening 101

A great way to get started gardening is to try bucket gardening. There is no weeding and it’s a small space to keep up with while you’re learning.

A great way to get started with gardening is to try bucket gardening. There is no weeding and it’s a small space to keep up with while you’re learning how to grow things yourself.

Bucket gardening 101

Bucket gardening can be a year-round project. We planted radishes and lettuce in early spring. We got a harvest of radishes and several harvests of lettuce (lettuce can be cut and will continue to grow back). Then we put in a tomato plant and some green bean seeds and got some summer harvests. Next, we again planted fall crops and harvested in early winter.

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We had a ton of fun trying bucket gardening and recording what happened so we could show other people how much you can really do in a small space in the garden. There is no maintenance to a bucket and no weeding (which I LOVE). I hope you will give it a try whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a newbie. You might fall in love with container gardening too!

Growing tomatoes in buckets

Tomatoes grow great in buckets as long as you choose one that is large enough. You could grow a smaller tomato variety in a one-gallon bucket, but for most tomatoes, a 5-gallon bucket is perfect. You can grow them in bigger buckets as well.

bucket gardening with lettuce, radishes and tomatoes growing in a metal bucket in front of a raised bed with a garden marker for lettuce made of a wooden spoon and lettuce painted on it.

5 gallon bucket plant pot

I love a 5-gallon bucket for a garden. You can grow quite a bit of food in a bucket. It’s fun to see how much you can grow. This past summer, we grew 5 pounds of tomatoes, about a pound of lettuce, half a pound of radishes and a pound of green beans in one bucket. It was a fun experiment, but we have loved bucket gardening for years.

You can use any kind of bucket for growing. You can even get free plastic buckets at bakeries that have to throw tons of them away throughout the year. Stop by your grocer’s bakery and ask if they would save you some. I liked this metal bucket because it was super cute, but use whatever you can get. I think half whiskey barrels are adorable too.



Once you have your container, the first step is DRAINAGE! You need your bucket to drain so your roots don’t get drowned. We just turn ours over and grab a drill. We use at least a quarter-inch bit and drill a bunch of holes in the bottom. I think 8-10 at minimum.

5 gallon metal bucket with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage.

5-gallon planter

Next, you need planting medium. I would suggest potting soil rather than garden soil for this because a garden in a bucket needs lots of nutrients and needs to hold moisture so it doesn’t dry out too fast. Potting soil is formulated for just that purpose. The kind of potting soil we bought for this bucket gardening project wasn’t the best. Next time, I’ll add compost to the medium to improve growth.

bag of potting soil being poured into a metal bucket garden

Fill your bucket garden with your soil or planting medium all the way to the top and a little heaping over. It will settle pretty quickly so don’t be afraid to really fill it up. Add some water so the soil starts out moist. Bucket gardening is simple, but keeping it watered is the most important part. Once the soil is damp, it’s ready to plant. You can use seedlings or start seeds directly in the soil.

metal bucket of potting soil being watered with metal watering can

Container gardening

Plant seeds according to package instructions and seedlings up to the same soil level they were in their original pots. (Except for tomatoes, you can plant them a little deeper) Water them well once planted to make sure you removed any air pockets around them.

baby seedlings in a garden bucket

When the seedlings are all sprouted, cut all but the strongest ones off at the ground with scissors so the best ones will have room to grow. 

scissors cutting radish seedlings off at the ground to let the best seedlings grow into radishes in the bucket garden

Once your seedlings are about 5 inches tall or so, you can mulch the top of the soil to keep in additional moisture. The bucket will need to be watered once a week until it gets very hot and then watered more than once a week as it dries out. 

five gallon bucket garden with green lettuce and a nice healthy tomato plant growingpacket of provider bush beans in front of bucket garden ready for plantingbucket gardening with green bean seedlings just sprouting from the soilbucket garden with nice tomatoes growing on plant and green bean plants growing well, soil is mulched on top with strawtomato plant with red and green tomatoes on it.

Growing food in a 5-gallon planter is simple if you keep it watered well enough AND remember that since you’re watering more often, you’ll have to add nutrients more often. This means using some type of fertilizer. We like to use diluted fish emulsion about once a week in the heat of the summer. Every other week is fine in spring and fall when it’s not so hot!

Don’t forget to pin for later

A great way to get started gardening is to try bucket gardening. There is no weeding and it’s a small space to keep up with while you’re learning.

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4 comments

  1. Linda Huston says:

    love your emails I repost hoping to get my people to work with their kids.

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