How to Grow Juicy Tomatoes in 5-Gallon Buckets


I’m no good with tomatoes. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I love tomatoes but have had almost no luck growing them. There was the year all my plants got smashed by an intense hailstorm. The year squirrels ate everything in sight. The year the plants caught some sort of blight.

My paternal grandmother was a gardening superstar, and her perfect, sun-drenched tomatoes were a highlight of my childhood summers. So my bad tomato luck stings a bit.

I thought I’d given up, but this idea grabbed me: growing tomatoes in 5-gallon buckets — upside down.

As described by blogger Alison McFadden on Everyday Shortcuts, it’s a simple DIY project. All you need is a bucket, a tomato seedling, dirt and a few household tools.

First, cut a 1-inch hole in the bottom of a clean 5-gallon bucket — McFadden recommends using a cordless drill to make the initial cut, then a hole saw to open that cut to 1 inch.

Next, take a seedling and gently poke its little leaves through the hole. The hole should be small enough that the seedling’s roots and soil stay inside the bucket, while the plant pokes out, like so:

Everyday Shortcuts

Then: Dirt! Fill the bucket with the potting soil of your choice. (McFadden uses Miracle-Gro.)

Finally, mount your bucket. McFadden suggests picking a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day — and is sturdy enough to hold a big bucket of wet dirt and, eventually, tomatoes. She secured a couple of brackets to her sunny backyard shed and hung the bucket from there.

Check out McFadden’s full post, including some watering tips, here.

If you’re pressed for time or don’t have the equipment, you can buy a pre-made upside-down planter. Amazon offers a few different selections, including the “As Seen On TV” Topsy-Turvy.

I just might have to try this technique. When I find a spot that the squirrels can’t reach, and that’s protected from summer storms, it could actually work. Fresh tomatoes, here I come!

Food, Gardening, Home

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About the Author
Kathleen St. John
Kathleen St. John is a freelance journalist. She lives in Denver with her husband, two kids and a fiercely protective Chihuahua.

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