Nowadays container planting is not a new thing. You don’t need a large backyard or garden to grow tomatoes for your family. If you have a patio, porch, balcony, driveway, or deck, you can grow tomatoes in buckets from the comfort of your home.
Yes, buckets. You can use buckets to grow tomatoes. But you need to grow the right number of plants in a bucket to ensure healthy growth and prevent crowding.
In this article, I will answer the question of how many tomato plants should you plant per 5-gallon bucket.
How Many Tomato Plants Per 5 Gallon Bucket?
The number of tomato plants you can grow in a 5-gallon bucket depends on the tomato variety.
To ensure the plant will grow healthy and strong, you should plant only one tomato plant per 5-gallon bucket.
A few years ago, when I started planting tomatoes in growing bags, I have made the mistake to put 2 tomato plants in a 5-gallon bag and 3 tomato plants in a 10-gallon bag.
It was madness. It was crowded, and my tomato plants were suffering. I had to water them 2-3 times per day and I learned the hard way that tomatoes are heavy feeders.
Tomatoes need to be fertilized regularly, especially if they are grown in growing bags, containers, buckets, or pots.
Best Size of Bucket for Tomato Plant
For small cultivars, you can use a 1- to 2-gallon bucket, but if you want to have the best results, then I suggest using a 5-gallon bucket whichever variety you are growing.
5-gallon buckets can also be used as a self-watering system by using two buckets. Make some draining holes in the bottom of the bucket where the tomato is planted, and place the bucket in another bucket, which has no holes.
How to Grow Tomato Plants in 5 Gallon Buckets?
- You can buy 5-gallon (19 L) buckets at your local home improvement store. But if you don’t want to spend money on buckets, you can check at the local restaurants. Many restaurants receive food supplies in 5-gallon buckets. I am sure they will be more than happy to give you a few empty buckets instead of disposing of them. Make sure you are not using buckets that have been used for toxic materials or chemicals.
- After you have the needed buckets, make some holes on the bottom for drainage. Make sure the buckets have enough holes (1 hole/3 inch) as the water can accumulate easily.
- If you want your patio or garden area to look fancy, you can paint the buckets, but it is not a must. However, if you ask me, I would paint them black, as this color attracts sunlight more than other colors; therefore, the bucket will heat up for the tomato plants’ roots.
- Place about 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) of small rocks on the bottom of the bucket to ensure drainage.
- Then fill up the rest of the bucket with a mixture of peat moss, planting soil, and compost, but remember to leave some room for the tomato plants.
- Plant the tomato seedling or plant deeply. Removing the lower leaves, plant the tomato deep enough so that most of the plant is buried in the planting hole.
- Add more soil, if needed to ensure the plant is sitting securely upright. Using your hand, press the soil and keep it firm but be gentle. At this point, you can use topsoil which will stop the bucket from drying out too quickly.
How to Care for Tomato Plants in 5 Gallon Buckets?
Growing tomato plant in buckets isn’t new anymore. People often use this technique to grow different vegetables, even if they don’t have a garden.
To ensure healthy growth for your tomato plants, use a 5-gallon bucket per tomato plant.
But even with only one plant in the bucket, growing them in containers, buckets, pots, or growing bags, can be challenging as these tomato plants need a bit more attention.
Use Good Quality Soil
When planting the tomato seedlings into the buckets, try using the best quality soil.
Whether is multi-purpose compost, or soil that is created especially for tomato plants, make sure it has a good quality and contains the needed nutrients for the plant.
Water Your Tomato Plants Frequently
Do not leave the soil dry out completely, as this can cause the wilting of your tomato plants.
Tomatoes need soil that is constantly wet, but not soggy.
So, water your tomatoes frequently, many times, but little. Water them whenever the top inch of the soil had dried out.
By sticking your finger into the soil, you can decide whether it needs water or not. If the soil sticks to your finger, then it is still wet.
During hot weather and dry spells, tomato plants that are grown in containers, need daily watering.
Fertilize Your Tomato Plants Regularly
In the beginning, when you freshly plant the tomato seedling, the soil still contains the needed nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), so you need to fertilize only once a month.
But later, when the tomato plants are grown and matured, I suggest weekly fertilizing to ensure fruit growth and prevent the flowers from falling off.
Ensure Enough Sunlight
Growing your tomato plants in buckets is very beneficial when the place where you want them to be doesn’t get enough sunlight.
Tomato plants love full sun and they need at least 6 hours of full sun. Moving the buckets around to get enough sunlight will lead to healthy tomato plants and a large yield.
To make sure your tomato plant has enough space and nutrients to grow and produce fruits, plant one tomato per 5-gallon bucket.
Smaller cultivars could make it in a 1- to 2-gallon bucket as well; however, for the best result, use 5-gallon buckets for your tomato plants.
Make sure you water them frequently, as the soil from the buckets can dry out quicker. Also, regular fertilizing is a must because the nutrients from the soil can feed your plants only for a few weeks.
If the place where your tomatoes are growing is shady, then you can move the buckets around together with the sunlight to make sure the plant gets at least 6 hours of full sun.