5 Gallon Bucket Garden DIY [+ 30 Most Productive Vegetables to Grow In Buckets!] (2024)

The 5 gallon bucket garden offers a uniquely flexible and transportable take on gardening. You don’t actually have to use a 5 gallon bucket – any bucket will do! Bucket gardening is an affordable, easy way for people in any living situation to incorporate some homegrown veggies into their lifestyle.

Let’s explore some of the different edible plants that can be grown in 5-gallon buckets and how best to care for them.

The Benefits of Bucket Gardening

Bucket gardening is a type of container gardening, and container gardening has long been popular for a multitude of reasons.

Let’s take a look!

#1 – Soil Quality

In my garden, I prefer to do most of my work in raised beds because the soil in our yard is so sandy and rock-filled that water retention presents a big problem.

For me, bucket gardening is a way of controlling soil quality and growing conditions.

#2 – Space

Like all overzealous gardeners, sometimes my dreams get too big for my space. What seems like a large space is suddenly too small to fit all of my veggie starters, seed packets, and bushes snagged from the discount bin at my local farm store.

Pots seem like the obvious solution, yet they can be pricey. A particularly in-vogue planter can cost upwards of a hundred dollars, while a 5 gallon bucket can be bought with your pocket change.

Here are some great-value 5-gallon buckets on Amazon – we researched those for our Composting in a 5-Gallon Bucket article!

If you purchase a can of spray paint (the type that bonds to plastic), you can even spruce up your bucket into a bonafide work of art.

#3 – Small-Space Friendly

5 Gallon Bucket Garden DIY [+ 30 Most Productive Vegetables to Grow In Buckets!] (1)

Even an apartment balcony can accommodate a couple of 5 gallon buckets.

Additionally, if you are a renter, you can take your garden with you from one rental home to another.

#4 – Pest Control

Non-climbing rodents like rabbits will have difficulty accessing plants in your 5 gallon bucket garden, giving your plants an advantage.

#5 – Portability

If you live in a cold climate where early frosts can compromise your harvest, you can pick up your plants and put them in the garage for the night.

As someone who has eaten a lot of fried green tomatoes because I had to harvest early because of impending frosts, I must say, there’s definitely some appeal to this method.

So, now that I’ve convinced you to start bucket gardening: How do you grow food in a 5 gallon bucket garden?

How to Prepare Your 5 Gallon Bucket Garden

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One of the reasons that bucket gardening is so appealing is its simplicity.

You’ll need just a few things:

Step 1 – Choose a Bucket

Buckets can be purchased for a few dollars at your local hardware store, or they can often be collected for free from delis or bakeries.

Often, these kinds of buckets are used to store bulk pickles, icing, and other food items. I’ve scored some gently used ones at a local ice cream parlor before.

If possible, aim to use buckets that are food-grade plastic.

The recycling number on the bottom will indicate the type of plastic. Number two is ideal for long-term food storage, but numbers one, four, and five would also be acceptable.

You should always avoid using buckets that you know have contained harmful substances. Paint buckets would be one example of something to avoid.

Step 2 – Make Drainage Holes

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Once you’ve selected your bucket, you will need to create drainage holes in the bottom.

If you do not have a drill, a hammer and nail can also be used to punch holes in the bottom.

Step 3 – Install a Watering System for Your 5 Gallon Bucket Garden

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At this point, your bucket could be ready for soil, but if an in-bucket watering system appeals to you, this would be the time to do it.

One of the simplest methods involves drilling holes in a length of PVC pipe, placing a cap on the end, and partially burying it under the soil. Water is poured into the top and seeps through the holes in the sides of the pipe.

In an effort to make use of the odds and ends floating around my shed, I have also tried this method with PEX tubing, and it works just as well.

The benefits of a water system like this include:

  • Less water is lost to surface evaporation
  • Reduces the likelihood of wetting leaves while watering, which means plants are less likely to suffer from fungal diseases
  • Encourages plants to send roots deeper down, which makes for more stable and resilient plants

Bucket Gardening Tips

Let’s look at some bucket gardening tips, including what soil you should use in your bucket, and which vegetables are the best for growing in a bucket!

What Kind of Soil Should You Use for 5 Gallon Bucket Gardening?

Not all dirt is equal.

Perhaps the greatest challenges gardeners will have with bucket gardening are soil-related.

When your plant is restricted to such a finite amount of soil, you want to be sure that you are giving your plants high-quality material to work with!

In particular, you’ll want to think about drainage and nutrition. Some people prefer to use potting soil for this reason, but it is also possible to work with the soil you already have.

Your soil should retain enough moisture so that you don’t have to water your plants too often, yet it should drain well enough that your plants aren’t constantly standing in water.

To give nutrition a boost, incorporate a high-quality compost mix (like Charlie’s Compost) into your soil. My favorite is fish compost (like Bio Earth’s Bio-Fish), but there are many excellent options.

The Best Vegetables for Bucket Gardening

5 Gallon Bucket Garden DIY [+ 30 Most Productive Vegetables to Grow In Buckets!] (5)

When planting vegetables in 5-gallon buckets, you’ll need to think carefully about the space requirements of the plants. To ensure healthy plant growth, you’ll need to provide ample space for each.

In this regard, plants are a bit like goldfish; the larger the container, the bigger it grows.

The Following Plants Should Be Sown Individually in a Bucket

  1. Blueberries
  2. Broccoli
  3. Brussels Sprouts
  4. Cabbage
  5. Cauliflower
  6. Cucumbers
  7. Eggplant
  8. Lemons (Dwarf varieties)
  9. Okra
  10. Squash (If you must plant squash—I get it. Zucchini fritters are my love language—plant a bush variety rather than a vining variety. )
  11. Tomato (Determinate varieties are best for small-space growing. We explain a ton of different varieties in our Tomato Growing Guide!)

You Can Plant Multiples of These Vegetables and Fruits in One Bucket







Bush beans










Lettuce (Leaf)


Lettuce (Head)


Mustard Greens




Pak Choi
















Swiss Chard




Top 3 Best Plants to Grow in a 5 Gallon Bucket Garden

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Some plants don’t just grow well in buckets; they grow better in buckets.

My top three choices for bucket gardening would be:

#1 – Potatoes

If you’ve ever grown potatoes before, you know that in order to maximize your harvest of tubers, you need to continually mound soil around the base of your potato plants.

As the level of the soil climb higher, more and more potatoes are produced just below the surface. This practice is called hilling.

A bucket’s high sides are ideal for hilling potatoes!

  1. To start, put four inches of soil in a bucket, add two potatoes and cover them up with six inches of soil.
  2. Once you have six inches of growth, add soil until only the top leaves are exposed.
  3. Hill the potatoes again when they produce another six inches of growth.

Another convenience of growing potatoes in buckets is that there’s no digging required.

Simply tip your bucket over!

Read more about potatoes in our Potato Growing Guide!

#2 – Strawberries

You may have noticed special strawberry planters at the garden center.

These planters usually have a series of holes down the sides where small strawberry plants can nestle and drape down the sides of the pot.

A strawberry planter can easily be made out of a 5-gallon bucket.

  1. Simply drill a series of 3-inch holes in the sides.
  2. To prevent some soil from spilling out and to better support the plants, you can insert short lengths of PVC pipe into the holes to form “baskets” for your plants.
  3. Fill the holes and top of the bucket with small strawberry plants.
  4. One bucket should be able to accommodate around ten plants when filled like this.

Leaf lettuce can also be grown in a tower like this because it has a relatively small root system.

This is a very similar system to a Garden Tower, and you could add a PVC pipe in the middle of the bucket as a feeding system! Have a look here at how Garden Tower does it.

#3 – Herbs

Herbs thrive in small spaces!

I struggle to think of a herb that wouldn’t perform well in a 5-gallon bucket. Examples of herbs you can grow in a bucket include:

5 Gallon Bucket Garden FAQs

Is it safe to grow vegetables in 5 gallon buckets?

Yes, it is safe to grow vegetables in 5 gallon buckets! As long as you make sure you use food-grade buckets, you can grow wonderful vegetables that are safe to eat. Look for numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5 at the base of the bucket to make sure they’re food-grade.5 Gallon Bucket Garden DIY [+ 30 Most Productive Vegetables to Grow In Buckets!] (7)

How many plants can you grow in a 5 gallon bucket?

The number of plants you can grow in your 5 gallon bucket garden depends on the variety. As an example, blueberries, broccoli, or fruit trees should be grown individually. You could grow 8 spinach plants in one bucket, 2 potato plants in one bucket, or 15 radish plants per bucket. Check out our full list for quantities!

How many tomato plants can I put in a 5 gallon bucket?

We recommend planting tomato plants by themselves in a 5 gallon bucket. Tomato plants love plenty of sun! Planting them individually ensure they get lots of light and space to grow juicy tomatoes.

Can you grow potatoes in a 5 gallon bucket?

Yes! Potatoes are one of the best vegetables to grow in a 5 gallon bucket! You can plant 2 potato plants per bucket. To harvest, you simply tip the bucket and reap the benefits of homegrown potatoes.

The thing that I love the most about bucket gardening is that it’s so easy to begin. You don’t need a yard, lots of materials, or a multitude of gardening tools to start a 5 gallon bucket garden!

All you need is a container, some soil, and the seeds you want to plant. As you build your knowledge of gardening, you can grow as you go.

5 Gallon Bucket Garden DIY [+ 30 Most Productive Vegetables to Grow In Buckets!] (2024)


What vegetables grow well in 5 gallon buckets? ›

For 5 gallon bucket gardening, seek out smaller-saturated vegetable varieties. Growing tomatoes in buckets can be a great place to start—such as small patio tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. You can also grow a variety of herbs in a 5 gallon bucket, such as basil or dill.

How many tomato plants can you plant in a 5 gallon bucket? ›

The Benefits of Using 5-Gallon Buckets

The standard size of these buckets allows for at least two tomato plants per bucket. This makes them an efficient use of space in small gardens or balcony spaces.

How do you prepare a 5 gallon bucket for planting? ›

Drill a large hole that will fit PVC piping in one bucket. The upper bucket will contain soil and plants. The lower bucket will contain water, the PVC end and a wicking item such as cloth. This will slowly deliver water up to the plant's roots.

How many beets can you plant in a 5 gallon bucket? ›

In a 5-gallon bucket you can grow: • 1 tomato, pepper or zucchini, or • 3-4 lettuce, or • 1 cabbage or broccoli (with 15 radishes or 8 spinach), or • 15 carrots or beets, or • 6 bulbing onions, garlic or leeks, or • 8 mustards or turnips for greens.

What vegetables do good in buckets? ›

Vegetables which are ideally suited for growing in containers include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes and parsley.

How many cucumber plants per 5 gallon bucket? ›

Two or three plants will fit in a five-gallon bucket or grow one cucumber in a 10-inch-wide container. Mix soil with equal parts of compost, potting soil, perlite and peat moss. The compost or rotted manure will get plants off to a good start, or blend in granules of a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10.

Will tomatoes grow in a 5 gallon bucket? ›

Tomatoes grow nicely in 5-gallon buckets (both Determinate and semi-Determinate tomato cultivars.) This way of growing tomatoes is ideal for DIY garden containers and small spaces. Fill your drilled bucket with potting soil, add your fertilizer, and plant the tomato half the height of their main stem.

Do tomatoes grow better in pots or in the ground? ›

In general, determinate tomatoes tend to do better in pots, so look for those. It's also possible to grow indeterminate tomatoes in containers, of course, as long as you provide enough support and soil volume.

Can you grow cucumbers in a 5 gallon bucket? ›

Yes, works fine. Just drill holes in the bottom and side for drainage and throw a stake and a tomato cage in there so they can climb.

How many bags of potting soil do I need for a 5 gallon bucket? ›

1.6 Pots

How many broccoli plants in a 5 gallon bucket? ›

Vegetable Container Size Chart
PlantMinimum SizeNumber of Plants Per Pot
Broccoli5 gallon; 12 inch diameter1
Cabbage5 gallon; 12 inch diameter1
Carrots1 gallon; 6-7 inch diameter3-4
30 more rows

How many bush beans per 5 gallon bucket? ›

A 5 gallon bucket is the perfect size for 3 bush bean plants or for 2 pole bean plants. Follow these must know tips to grow a bumper harvest of tasty beans.

Is a 5 gallon bucket big enough for a tomato plant? ›

For each plant, you need a container that is at least 1 square foot or around two gallons. A larger container of around 2 square feet is better. A 5-gallon bucket, easily found at hardware stores, is the perfect size for healthy tomato plant growth.

Is a 5 gallon bucket too small for tomatoes? ›

Tomatoes grow nicely in 5-gallon buckets (both Determinate and semi-Determinate tomato cultivars.) This way of growing tomatoes is ideal for DIY garden containers and small spaces. Fill your drilled bucket with potting soil, add your fertilizer, and plant the tomato half the height of their main stem.

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