How to Set Up a DIY Bucket Container Garden

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Let’s make a portable DIY 5-gallon bucket container garden!

When I was going through my divorce, I had to live in my parents’ home for a little while until my home loan closed. I had to temporarily give up most aspects of homesteading, but I wanted to at least keep gardening. Growing food is a skill that I have been honing for years and skipping a season just didn’t feel right… plus it brings me joy and I definitely needed joy during that period of my life. 

The issue I was facing is that I couldn’t plant a garden straight in the ground at my parent’s home and I wanted to be able to take mature plants with me to my new home. How in the world could I make a vegetable and herb garden work in a situation like that?

The answer→ a portable DIY bucket container garden! I thought about buying a bunch of large plant containers from the garden store, but I didn’t really have the money to spend on that. Then I remembered that I already had a bunch of 5-gallon buckets and I could manage to buy some more for just a few bucks each. So I got to work.

I grew tomatoes, herbs, and even persimmon trees in my bucket garden that year. It worked out so well and I just can’t wait for you to try it as well!

bucket container garden | red and white buckets with soil and trees

What Can You Grow in a 5-Gallon Bucket?

Pretty much anything.

5-gallon buckets are honestly the perfect containers for any container garden. They are deep enough for root veggies like carrots, wide enough for heads of lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower, and can even be used for vining plants if you add a stake or trellis. 

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Root Vegetable (not super deep)
  • Herbs
  • Young Trees
  • Compact/Bush Varieties
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Brocolli
  • Strawberries

Why Should You Make a Bucket Garden?

Container gardening is a great way to become more sustainable when you have limited space or if you are in an “in-between” phase of life. And then when the garden season is over, the buckets can be repurposed into many other homestead bucket projects!

Planting in 5-gallon buckets is great if you:

  • Need to save space
  • Don’t have land
  • Have a need to move your garden
  • Want to expand outside of your normal garden space

You can plant straight in the buckets or you can get a little handy and make a vertical garden tower! If you want to make the buckets look a little more aesthetically pleasing, you can spray paint them any color you like. 

DIY Container garden in 5-gallon buckets

How to Garden in 5-Gallon Buckets

Making a DIY bucket container garden is a pretty straightforward process, but let’s walk through the steps to make sure your plants start out with the best foundation possible. 

Materials needed:

  • Five-Gallon Buckets
  • Power Drill
  • Drill bit
  • Sticks or Rocks
  • Soil- Seed Starting Mix or Potting Mix
  • Water
  • Seeds or Plant Starts
  • Mulch

Instructions for a Bucket Container Garden:

1. Source Buckets

It is very important that you pay attention to where your buckets come from. If you purchase new food-grade buckets, no worries; however, if you find old buckets you will need to know what they were used for previously. Make sure that they did not hold chemicals or other materials that may be held in the plastic and leach into your soil. 

Buckets upside down with drainage holes

Buckets for a bucket garden can be purchased at your local feed store (I got mine at Tractor Supply), from online marketplaces like Amazon, or from local farms & businesses that may be tossing some out. 

2. Drill Drainage Holes

Use a drill with a bit to drill ½” to 1” drainage holes in the bottom of each bucket. I like to go around the bottom of the bucket drilling a hole every 3-4 inches.

Boy drilling drainage holes in 5-gallon bucket

3. Add Bulk to the Bottom

Toss some sticks or rocks into the bucket. You won’t need a lot here, just enough to displace the soil in the bottom to allow for better drainage.

4. Add the Growing Medium

Add your potting mix to the buckets. You can use a seed starting mix at the top if you are planting seeds directly into the buckets instead of using seed starting trays. If you are planting starts, use a store-bought or DIY potting mix. 

Boy filling a bucket with soil

It is a good idea to wet the soil first or you can add water and mix the soil directly in the buckets. If you don’t pre-moisten the potting mix or seed starting mix, it is likely to repel water and cause your plants to dehydrate. 

5. Place Plants

Now you can add your seeds or starts to the soil in your DIY bucket garden. Be sure to cover the plant’s roots well.

6. Add Mulch

This step is optional, but I highly recommend not skipping it. Placing a thin layer of mulch (like straw or wood chips) on top can help retain soil moisture by reducing the evaporation rate of the water. It can also keep the soil temperature a little bit cooler. 

6. Water the Plants

Water the soil all the way through the first time. If you pre-moistened the soil, then you are good to go! Just add more water when the top of the soil begins to look dry. Avoid watering the leaves of plants as this can cause scorching. 

Boy watering seeds in DIY container garden

7. Enjoy Your DIY Bucket Garden

Now you can enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labor! Let me know how your bucket container garden turns out!

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