line of buckets with plants in them

How to Grow Tomatoes in a Bucket

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You can use a variety of containers, including upside-down planters, pots, 5-gallon buckets, and a raised garden bed to grow tomatoes. You can also grow them in the ground. There are pros and cons to each of these different styles of growing. There are a few keys to how to grow tomatoes in a bucket!

tomato plant growing in a white 5 gallon bucket

If you are a beginning gardener, start here:

Tomatoes are one of the most popular plants both to grow and eat. Most gardeners have at least some tomatoes. Fortunately, there are some little-known secrets that most backyard gardeners do not know that can greatly improve their tomato harvest.

Grow tomatoes in a bucket

Growing tomatoes in containers can be a challenge for some gardeners. I have been successfully growing tomatoes in containers for quite a few years. Many aspects of container gardening remain the same no matter what container is used.

A large container is necessary for successfully growing tomatoes. A small container will not hold as much soil, and will not give the roots ample room for spreading out. A large container will hold more soil which will help hold in the moisture that your tomato plants need. I recommend one tomato plant per container depending on size.

If you are planting in a raised bed, more than one can be used. I have one tomato plant in each 5-gallon bucket. An upside-down planter has instructions that tell you to put one tomato plant in each opening, but one tomato plant in each upside-down planter is more effective. You will have a healthier plant, and larger, more abundant tomatoes.

metal bucket growing tomato and lettuce

For more bucket gardening 101, check this out.

Once you get your large bucket, fill it with a good planting mix. Remove your tomato seedlings from their containers by turning it over in your hand and squeezing the bottom of the pot. Then use your fingers to tease the roots loose gently. The more teasing the better.

Then dig a hole twice as deep as your root ball and plant the tomato plant at least 2-5 inches under the soil line on the original container. This will cause more roots to grow from the tomato stem and make your plant grow much stronger. When you grow tomatoes in a bucket, the soil is nice and lose and it’s easy to get them in there nice and deep, so it’s a big benefit.

Pinch off the suckers and blooms from the plant for the first 2 weeks to a month to let the plant produce energy before it starts making fruit. Then you will get bigger, more flavorful, and more tomatoes over the season. Patience is the winner on tomatoes. Don’t plant too early, don’t let them set fruit too early. The longer you wait, the better the outcome will be.

Adjust your watering to your climate by observing the reaction of your tomato plants, and also by testing the soil with your finger. Soil should be kept evenly moist, not soaked, and not allowed to get dry. If the leaves on your plant appear to droop a bit and lean toward the ground, then your plant needs more water.

If you find your plant turning yellow, it may be getting too much water. Or there could be a deficiency causing that. Make sure not to water too much first. And make sure your bucket has proper drainage.

Once you determine how frequently you need to water, make every attempt to keep your plants from drooping, or being too wet. Uneven watering will result in blossom rot, and split tomatoes.

Tomato plants need fertilizer. When you grow in containers, your fertilizer is lost more quickly through the bottom drainage. When the water drips out of your container, so do the nutrients in the soil and you must add more food for your plants.

You can amend the soil with compost before you plant and use a top dressing of compost for a slow release fertilizer as well as diluted fish emulsion or compost tea to keep nutrients in your plant.

Tomato plants require abundant sunlight to allow them to produce fruit and remain healthy. Place your container in an area that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. In a hotter climate, providing shade for your tomatoes during the hottest part of the day is also a good idea.

We have to do that here in Oklahoma. It gets so hot in the summer it makes the tomato pollen sticky and they stop producing until the temperatures go back down a little. So we have to provide afternoon and evening shade.

Placing your containers under a metal awning is not advised. The metal will provide shade, but it will also raise the temperature underneath significantly. Your plants will suffer from the heat on hotter days.

tomatoes growing on a plant in a bucket

Use a tomato cage to hold your plant up off of the ground and provide support for the vines when the tomatoes are growing. Heavy tomatoes will break the vine if it is not supported. For the best trellis and tomato cage, check this out.

Everyone wants to get their plants to grow and mature as fast as possible and tomato growers are no exception. Fortunately, there is a way to speed up mother nature and get a tomato crop sooner than normal. Add one teaspoon of borax into the soil you are going to plant your tomato in before you start to plant. The borax will get the tomato to blossom sooner and this gets you a tomato sooner. In addition, I like to add a teaspoon of epsom salts to prevent blossom end rot and some crushed up egg shells as well.

You can easily grow tomatoes in a bucket and get a bountiful crop if you follow these tips.

Companion plants for tomatoes

There are many great plants that will grow well with tomatoes and help them battle pests and diseases as well as produce more. Check out companion plants for tomatoes here.

For more ideas on growing food in containers, check out these posts:

What to do with garden tomatoes

Once you get a bumper crop of tomatoes, you can use them to make these things and more:

For more ideas to use tomatoes, check out What to do with excess tomatoes from the garden.

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