How to Grow Perfect Peppers & Tomatoes in a 5 Gallon Bucket

Posted on Apr 8 2015 - 11:26am by UOG
Short on growing space but still yearn for homegrown tomatoes and peppers? Is your garden located on a balcony or terrace and you’re afraid you can’t savor the taste of vine ripened tomatoes or experience the heat of your favorite variety of pepper? Well you can, and all you need is a 5 gallon bucket, nutrient rich soil, a few amendments, water and your favorite variety of heirloom seeds.

Digital Albums-1-3


Start by finding a 5 gallon bucket. Make sure it is clean and food grade, meaning there’s never been any nasty chemicals stored or shipped in your container.   Usually you can acquire these by visiting your local bakery or even a trip to the hardware store will lead you to a simple 5-gallon bucket. Generally they can be purchased at your big-box hardware stores for around $2.50.

Once your bucket is clean,  fill it with nutrient rich soil.  If you have your own compost, add some of that. Always use rich organic soil.

DSC_1905 For best results, especially in climates that are a little cooler, try starting your tomato and pepper plants indoors 6-8 weeks before your last average frost date.  Tomatoes and peppers do well with transplanting and rarely experience “shock” once they are moved from their indoor locations out into their permanent home in the garden.

Add your nutrient dense soil into your 5 gallon bucket. Dig a hole deep enough for you to plant your seedlings and then add a small amount of vegetable or tomato plant food at the bottom of each hole.  Give the soil a light water with a watering can.

DSC_1906Place your tomato plant inside the hole and then fill the surrounding area with soil.  Remember that you can bury your tomato plants extra deep, up to their first set of true leaves. This long “stem” that you’re burying into the soil will actually help the tomato plant develop a strong root system. So bury those tomatoes deep! They love it.

Once your tomato and pepper plants have been put into the soil, give the entire bucket a good water.

DSC_1904To help keep weeds down in your container, spread a thin layer of mulch on top of the soil. This will also help keep the soil moist and from drying out too quickly. Because you’re growing in containers, the soil will dry out sooner than if it had been planted directly into the ground, so keep an eye on it. Peppers don’t mind soil that is slightly dryer, once the plant is established but your tomatoes will need regular watering. Too much, or too little watering will result in cracked tomatoes, or blossom end rot, once they have reached maturity.

Tomatoes and peppers both love the sun and the heat.  Keep your buckets in a sunny location.

Try planting companion plants near your buckets such as: marigolds, basil, borage, chives, calendula, and carrots.  Avoid fertilizing with too much nitrogen. This encourages leafy growth instead of flowering…and the flowers are what will produce the fruit. Try time-released fertilizers so that the nutrients wont all be washed away with frequent watering.



19 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. holisticliving April 9, 2015 at 12:03 pm -

    post – and lovely pictures! I grew tomatoes in containers for several years
    when I lived in an apartment without any garden space. Quick tip: Be
    sure to drill some drainage holes in the bottom of your bucket before
    adding soil so your plants don’t drown!

  2. Ed gross April 10, 2015 at 11:16 am -

    Do you need to punch holes in bottom of bucket for exess water ?

  3. Jordyn Rodden April 10, 2015 at 2:31 pm -

    I only found 3.5 gallon buckets at my bakery. Will that be to small for the root structure?

  4. Montanabear April 17, 2015 at 11:26 am -

    I wonder whether these buckets do not contain some sort of bad chemicals that the plants could absorb and pass on to us. Anybody know ?

  5. Nancy April 18, 2015 at 11:13 am -

    I used 3.5 gallon buckets last year with no problem.

  6. Nancy April 18, 2015 at 11:15 am -

    Yes, you need to put holes in the bottom of your buckets for drainage; a drill works really well for this if you have one.

  7. Nadia April 19, 2015 at 9:18 am -

    I faced a lot of problems planting tomatoes..

  8. Sac Rc April 19, 2015 at 9:21 am -

    This reminds me of my granny’s place. She used to plant all kind of vegetables.

  9. Joe Joe June 2, 2015 at 7:32 pm -

    Anyone use Mr. Earth Fertilizer? Recommended?

  10. webflunky June 12, 2015 at 5:46 am -

    That’s why you would want to get food grade buckets from restaurants, delis, bakeries, etc. You definitely would not want to get buckets that, for example, had held pool tabs or shock, or paint, things like that.

  11. Kelly Priest August 13, 2015 at 4:20 am -

    Straight out of the garden – fresh and yummy. I envy you. My garden is small and can’t produce much veggies. Cool pictures, by the way.

  12. SongeSinger March 19, 2016 at 5:32 pm -

    if I was your dad I would have named you ‘Judas”.

  13. alien March 29, 2016 at 12:43 pm -

    thats her dads name

  14. Emily Ariizumi May 16, 2017 at 7:37 am -

    This might be a stupid questions but is it safe to use a bucket that has been used to store liquid tide “laundry detergent” for growing veggies? I ask because I can get them for free at a local hotel and it would save me so much time and money to just do that but I want to make sure its safe too.

  15. Jerry Noneofyourbizz May 20, 2017 at 10:19 am -

    A former housekeeping/laundry manager here: rinse, rinse, rinse. If you are still seeing suds you still have residue. Industrial detergents are extremely concentrated and very, very base. Think pure lye. It will literally eat right through your shoes. Something acidic like vinegar might be worth a try. Although, I question the hotel giving them to you as they are hazardous chemical containers. Walmart sells 5 gal buckets for less than $5.

  16. Michael Silverman January 25, 2018 at 9:40 pm -

    what kind of dirt mix should we use in a 5 gallon bucket . and what size holes do i need to drill in the bottom of each bucket

  17. Mindy Wells May 28, 2018 at 10:27 am -

    Do the buckets need drain holes

  18. Brittany June 10, 2018 at 5:19 am -

    if there is a Firehouse Subs near you, they sell their 5 gal pickle containers for $2. So they are food grade

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.