I love to grow vegetables, but over the years I’ve encountered plenty of problems. My dogs have trampled the tender plants. Rabbits have eaten the plants. Clay soil has made gardening difficult. Torrential rains have washed the garden away. And Bermuda grass has persistently crept in to take over the garden beds. One solution I’ve found is to use raised beds. Another is to garden in 5-gallon buckets.
Five-gallon buckets are cheap and plentiful. Often, you can find buckets at garage sales or offered for free at restaurants. You can also buy new 5-gallon buckets at home improvement stores for between $3 and $5. I’ll admit a bucket is not the most attractive gardening container, but compared to prices of $10 and up for decorative 5-gallon planters, a bucket is an excellent alternative.
Another benefit of using buckets is that the garden can be located, moved and arranged in any fashion you want. At the end of the growing season, you can compost all the soil and store the buckets and gravel until the next spring. In addition, if you only have a small plot, patio or deck, buckets allow you to grow some veggies in a small space.
You’ll need to drill ¼ to ½ inch holes in the bottom of the buckets to promote good drainage. Next, put an inch to 2 inches of gravel in the bottom of the buckets. Fill the buckets to within 1 or 2 inches of the top with a good garden soil mix. You can include perlite and/or a product like SoilMoist to help retain moisture in the soil. Your 5-gallon bucket garden is now ready for planting.
In order to decide how many buckets to prepare, decide what types and how many vegetables you want to grow. There really is no limitation on what can be grown in a 5-gallon bucket. Here is a rough guide to how many plants can go in each 5-gallon bucket:
- 1 Tomato
- 1 Squash
- 1 Eggplant
- 2 Bell Peppers
- 1 Cucumber
- 3 Bush Beans
- 4 Onions
- 4 Lettuce
- 4 Beets
- 10 Radishes
- 10 Carrots
You can start the plants from seed or buy seedlings at the garden center. Buckets containing small plants can go close together. Larger plants such as squash or cucumbers need more room. Tomatoes will need to be staked or caged. Vegetables will grow best if the buckets are located in full sun. I check the soil in my buckets every other day and water if necessary. Once the heat of summer gets here, I’ll have to start checking daily since buckets can dry out fast. You can improve water retention by mulching around the plants in the buckets.
A 5-gallon bucket garden is an easy and cost effective way to grow your own vegetables. Including the cost of a bucket, soil mix, gravel and the vegetable plant, I can plant a single new bucket for around $7. Of course, the next year there is no cost for the bucket or the soil so your only expense is the plant.