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Do you live in an apartment or a house with a small backyard? Have you always wanted a garden but don’t have enough space? There’s a solution: Bucket gardening. All you need are some 5-gallon buckets, rocks, peat moss, planting soil, and compost. That might sound like a lot, but it’s actually very simple.
Not only is bucket gardening a great solution for people with limited space, it also has many advantages over traditional gardening. You can have a greater variety of plants, you won’t have to do any weeding, and you’ll have fewer pests to deal with. Here are some other benefits of container gardening.
If you decide to give it a try, the first thing you need to ask yourself what you’re going to grow. Beginners should always start with very easy plants. It will boost their confidence and give them valuable practice before they move on to more difficult plants.
Here’s a list of 25 fruits and veggies you can grow in buckets, grouped by difficulty.
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- Moderately Easy
- Moderately Difficult
Arugula isn’t a particularly well-known plant, but its sweet and spicy flowers along with its spicy leaves have made it a favorite among many gardeners. Best of all, arugula is quite easy to grow in a bucket, as it doesn’t require any more space than the average herb plant.
If you would like to learn more about growing arugula in a bucket, check out this article.
Chard is a leafy green from the same family as beets. It grows similar to lettuce, but it has a slightly longer growing season. It is cold hardy and can bolt if your summer is too hot. It is also a good double season crop for spring and fall. If you decide to grow beets, you could skip the chard since beet greens are nearly identical to chard.
If you would like to learn more about growing chard in a bucket, check out this video:
3. Chinese Greens
Bok choi or sui choi are two fun cold-weather greens, perfect for an early spring start or a late fall and winter garden. These two greens are awesome in stir fry and are easy to grow. Once the weather warms up, these greens will bolt but the flower heads still taste good and can add a powerful spice punch to salads.
If you would like to learn more about growing Chinese greens in a bucket, check out this video:
Any brassica can be grown in pots, but kale is the easiest since it doesn’t have to form anything other than nice fresh leaves. Kale can be grown throughout the year, but it tastes best after it has had a touch of frost.
All the above greens can be used for cut-and-come-again salads when they are 2 inches or so high. If you would like to learn more about growing kale in a bucket, check out this article.
Lettuce is a prime choice for container gardening with plenty of varieties to choose from. Lettuce works well in shallow containers, and if you want you can inter-plant it with slower growing veggies.
Lettuce is great for early spring and late fall harvesting. You can plant lettuce while there is still danger of frost, and plant again in the fall after it starts getting cool. You can even bring your lettuce pots indoors to extend the growing season into early winter.
If you would like to learn more about growing lettuce in a bucket, check out this article.
Peppers come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors, giving you plenty of choices to choose from. As a shallow-rooted plant, peppers typically do quite well when grown in containers.
Ultimately, the variety of pepper that you choose depends on how much space you are looking for. Whichever variety you go with, though, you shouldn’t have many issues growing a healthy pepper plant in a 5-gallon bucket.
If you would like to learn more about growing peppers in a bucket, check out this article.
Beets are similar to chard, but they need deeper soil and more watering. Beets are an awesome root vegetable for containers. Choose smaller beet varieties, or heritage varieties to have the most fun in your container garden. If you’d rather not eat beets because of their overpowering red effects, you could try yellow or albino beets.
If you would like to learn more about growing beets in a bucket, check out this article.
Broccoli feeds more heavily than many plants, meaning that it needs a little more space to grow than you might realize. However, a five-gallon bucket offers plenty of space for growing a single broccoli plant. The two broccoli varieties that do the best when grown in containers are DeCicco and green comet broccoli.
If you would like to learn more about growing broccoli in a bucket, check out this article.
Easy to grow, and in a container they are very easy to space out or even transplant to make sure they grow well. Choose smaller varieties that do not grow a super long taproot and try to match the variety to the depth of container you are using. Heritage varieties are often sweeter, and smaller than standard varieties. Try Dragon for a fun purple and brilliant orange carrot.
If you would like to learn more about growing carrots in a bucket, check out this video:
Figs are one of the few plants that actually grow better in a container since fig plants grow larger, better fruit when their root systems are restricted. Figs are also known for being quite hardy plants that are fairly simple to grow.
If you would like to learn more about growing figs in a bucket, check out this article.
Onions are simple to grow and make a great addition to many recipes and salads. The only real difficulty that you may encounter with growing onions in a bucket is having enough space to grow a worthwhile amount of onions.
With enough buckets, though, it’s fairly easy to grow a good amount of onions. Try out one of the candy hybrid varieties if you are looking for a sweeter, more flavorful onion to grow.
If you would like to learn more about growing onions in a bucket, check out this article.
Quick to grow and a perfect spring crop to round out your green salads. Choose small short-season radishes so that they come to maturity before the heat hits. French Breakfast and Easter Egg are two brilliant colored small radish varieties that are awesome to grow if you have kids.
If you would like to learn more about growing radishes in a bucket, check out this article.
For container gardening, choose bush been varieties. They have a shorter grow time than pole beans, and are compact enough for any yard. Most bush bean plants max out size at a foot square, and produce well throughout the season. If you have a porch railing and narrow containers at its foot, you could try some pole bean varieties as well.
Related: 17 Best Vegetables for Bucket Gardening
Most cucumbers are vining plants, so either choose bush varieties for your container garden or practice vertical gardening and train them up the side of the house, porch, or deck. Lemon Cucumber is an awesome little bush cucumber and works well if you have a short season.
If you would like to learn more about growing cucumbers in a bucket, check out this article.
Eggplant plants share a lot of similarities with squash in regards to both the plant’s root system and the size of the fruit that it produces, making eggplant another great choice for bucket gardening. A couple great eggplant varieties to consider include little finger and fairy tale eggplants.
If you would like to learn more about growing eggplants in a bucket, check out this article.
Another lovely spring plant, peas grow best during the cool of spring or during the cool lightly frosted days of fall. Choose edible pod varieties to get the most food from your plants.
If it is too warm for peas to come to full fruition, you can try using pea plants as a green. Pea plants are awesome fresh when the plant is just two inches high, and it’s a perfect way to enjoy peas if your spring gets too warm for them to fruit.
If you would like to learn more about growing peas in a bucket, check out this article.
Summer squash, bush zucchini, and other small squashes can work in container gardens. Bush zucchini and summer squash require fairly deep, nutrient-rich soil, but only take up about 4 square feet.
Just having two zucchini plants can give you more than enough zucchini for a summer. Vining squash are not recommended for container gardens, unless you have a large patio or outdoor area for them to cover.
If you would like to learn more about growing squash in a bucket, check out this video:
Probably the container planting go-to crop, tomatoes are ubiquitous in containers. Choose smaller plant varieties if your container garden space is limited. Cherry tomatoes are stunning producers, and the tiny tomatoes are easy to dry if the plants over-produce. Cherry tomatoes usually fruit sooner than the larger tomato varieties.
If you would like to learn more about growing tomatoes in a bucket, check out this video:
Blueberries do grow well in containers, but they are known for being a somewhat difficult plant to grow regardless of whether or not they are planted in a container. Blueberries require plenty of water, lots of sunlight, and acidic soil. If you give them these three things, though, it is entirely possible to grow a healthy, productive blueberry plant in a bucket.
If you would like to learn more about growing blueberries in a bucket, check out this article.
Cherry trees are short trees with a small root system, making them ideal for growing in a bucket. Most sweet varieties of cherries will require a good deal of sunlight, while most sour varieties do better in the shade, so it is important to understand what type of cherry tree you are planting.
If you would like to learn more about growing cherries in a bucket, check out this article.
Yes, lemons can be grown in containers, or indoors in climates that are too cold for outdoor growing. Meyer lemons are the smallest variety, more of a bush, and grow exceptionally well in pots. You can start your own lemon tree from seed. You can also try other citrus-like kumquats or mini oranges for container or indoor growing.
If you would like to learn more about growing lemons in a bucket, check out this article.
Melons are large fruits with equally large root systems, which means that growing them in buckets can sometimes be a challenge. With that said, it is entirely possible to grow many varieties of melons in buckets if you use the right approach. If this is your first attempt at growing melons in buckets, try sticking with smaller melon varieties such as cantaloupes and miniature watermelons.
If you would like to learn more about growing melons in a bucket, check out this video:
These lovely root veggies need one of two things, either a deep container or a potato bag. Potato bags enable you to grow a good amount of potatoes in a very limited space, and you don’t even need seed potatoes to start your plants. If you have potatoes that have started to sprout, you can simply plant them. As soon as the potato plant starts to flower, you can start sneaking potatoes.
If you would like to learn more about growing potatoes in a bucket, check out this video:
Raspberries come in both summer and fall-fruiting varieties, meaning that you can enjoy a harvest that is months long if you plant the right plants. However, it is worth noting that summer-fruiting raspberry plants tend to do better in containers since they are smaller, less bushy plants.
If you would like to learn more about growing raspberries in a bucket, check out this video:
These are an awesome container plant, particularly if you get a strawberry tower or similar contraption to help maximize space. Grow everbearing for steady harvesting from July onward, or try a mixed planter of different varieties.
If you get a variety with runners, you can also catch the runners in small pots and perpetuate your supply of strawberry plants. A strawberry plant usually has a productive life of three or four years.
If you would like to learn more about growing strawberries in a bucket, check out this article.
I know, it’s a lot of information to absorb. Your best is to pick just a few fruits and veggies that are easy to grow and that you really like and start there.
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Great article. I had a huge success this year with inexpensive grow bags full of peppers. 5 bags that were 5 gallons each full of 3 pepper plants.. 2 bags of banana peppers, 2 bags of jalepenos and 1 with a mix of cayenne and anaheim. Canned jars have me stocked for the winter!! Thanks for sharing…gave me some great ideas for next year.
Considering the events in California and the power cuts its a good idea to grow. There is always plus and minus to anything you grow but its no reason(s) not to. Some have said learn and then earn from it. In some ways urban survival and rural have a lot in common. Good idea to be somewhat aware of both.
Tracy Williams says
Great ideas, I as well have been using buckets and have found them to be much easier. I grow marigolds with my tomatoes they thrive for some reason. I would like to grow melons in a bucket any ideas?
A good variety of melon for a bucket or pot is the melon “Tigger”. The melons are smooth, thin skinned, small (about the size of a softball) and the vine is compact. They turn vivid orange and yellow striped and smell very fragrant when ripe. You can train the vine up a sturdy trellis or tee-pee, and use panty hose to make slings to hold the fruit on the trellis to ripen, thus taking advantage of vertical space.
You will need to be careful when growing melons: melons, cucumbers, and squash are all from the cucurbit family and certain varieties can cross-pollinate; thus resulting in flavorless fruit. Assuming you have limited space, I would recommend researching the varieties you want to grow, or limit your choice to only one ( for example, only grow a melon).
Dennis C Nix says
Yeah, me too.
Green onions, leeks, blueberries (top hat is good), melons (silver line and honeydew), asparagus (takes 2 years), any type of onion (just like potatoes), garlic, baby corn, other types of corn (red, blue, dent) just a few stalks, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberry, peppers (all types), cranberries. I’ve grown all of these in buckets. I also put earthworms in the soil and dump my food scraps in to feed them and nourish the soil. I use Diatomaceous earth to get rid of harmful pests. I’ve also grown the types listed by others. Next time I’m thinking about ordering lady bugs to kill harmful insects along with praying mantis. Depending on the size of the container you can grow just about anything. I’m also thinking about getting one of the cheap kid swimming/wading pool. What do you think about that? Comments welcome. You can cut off the bottom of a plastic bottle, upend it into the soil and use that as a gauge for how much water your plants need. Just keep refilling it as necessary.
Thanks for sharing your tips! I’ve never used a kid pool for gardening before but it sounds like a good idea. Let us know how it goes.
with the kiddie pool make sure it doesnt have hmm bph??? the bad chemicals in plastic also look into the fabric raised bed they come in a number of sizes good luck… if you do use a pool drill holes and use weed barrier to keep dirt from washing out good luck and have fun 🙂
Anstria Greenwood says
I’ve had great luck with leeks and other aliumjs but get blossom end rot with tomatoes and no luck at all with cukes or zucchini. Onions and carrots are so cheap – buying dirt to grow them in and all the effort watering and feeding them costs a lot more that it’s worth. Got loads of black raspberries in pots after a couple of years growing though. Potatoes in extra large garbage bins and even in an old wheelbarrow. They are so easy to grow. I just cut up store potatoes that has begun to sprout – same for garlic. The kiddie pool idea is great! I also use diatomaceous earth but am plagued with spider mites and they suck my basils and other plants dry.
I had a big issue with spider mites too. A mixture of dish soap and water in a spay bottle worked great. To avoid them make a place for lady bugs. A clay saucer with rocks &water makes it easy for them to get a drink, and a pile of thin twigs gives the a place to hang out when their done gorging on spider mites.
How do you keep the Bugs away?
Joyce Lawlyes says
I planted several different kinds of tomatoes in buckets last year and 1 pop cooler which required less watering and worked well. The problem was that the cherry tomatoes had tough skins and some of the plants got very small bugs/worms and died off after producing several tomatoes. The tomato plant that went WILD was the yellow pear shaped tomato (produced so many I couldn’t keep up with it and lots went to waste). I would like to know if I can use the same buckets this year or should I get rid of all the dirt and start all over again. Are those bugs/worms in the dirt and will they come back this year? Thanks for any advice.
I’m not sure where your pests came from, but I would get rid of all the dirt and start fresh just to be certain.
Nolan ashe says
always rotate tomato do not use same dirt every fourth year use it for other plants and keep rotating that what I do
I use buckets also but change my soil every year.
Karmen Muia says
I just planted potatoes in a bucket but I not sure how often and how much water it needs.
Potatoes need a lot of water. Make sure the soil is always moist (but not wet, you don’t want to drown them). Just stick your finger in the soil at least once a day and if it doesn’t feel moist, it’s time to water them again.
I was hoping there would be some direction about setting up the buckets. Do you drill holes in the bottom or just put some gravel for drainage? Do you use potting soil or a mix of that and compost?
You’re right, I really need to write a follow-up article. I just drilled a few holes in the bottom of the buckets and used a 50/50 blend of potting soil and compost. No gravel. Hobby Farms has a great tutorial: https://www.hobbyfarms.com/build-five-gallon-bucket-garden/
Roy Giles says
I’m 79 and can’t get up and down without help or somthing to hold on to. So– I rounded up some 5 gal paint buckets (water based, well cleaned) and stacked them on 8x8x16 ” blocks. Cost $1.25 each.No weeding, no kneeling , and brocoli is going well. Four blocks per bucket. Planning on cucs next and getting more buckets . Buckets are usually free from contractors who have to pay to dispose.
Where are buckets found for free?
Ask at the bakery in your grocery store or Walmart. Also Dunkin Donuts, Chick-Fil-A, Wendy’s, etc. If you call them up they’ll say no, but if you show up and ask, they may give you some.
Where are they found for free? Ask and you will receive. But there is a little bit of work needed. Near my house a fast food restaurant orders cooking oil in twenty litre ( or about four gallon) drums. When they are empty they put the drums out for the scrap metal merchant. I asked and the restaurant said take a many as you like. A quick wash out with hot water, cut around the top and bingo, a metal drum.And they go through around at least a dozen drums month.
Frank Wingard says
I want to try okra in 5 gal pots this year. Last year I grew Burpee Baby Bubba Hybrid okra. Anything but “baby” they grew 8 ft high and produced extremely well. One plant per pot. I have very limited area for gardening so am doing raised beds and 5 gal pots.
I grew okra in 5 gallon buckets. They grew well, just not as tall and thick. However, they produced well.
Can I spray paint the outside of the buckets? Or would that harm the plants from chemicals leaking through the plastic?
William Unger says
I saw your Web site very impressed. How do you put the buckets together?
I started container gardening this year with tomatoes and it worked great! I can put them near my house to keep them safe. I have plenty of room in my yard for a garden but live on a creek with lots of wildlife and would need 9 foot fences (no thanks). Next summer I will experiment with more.
I was considering gardening in buckets so I could elevate them as I have trouble kneeling or bending, but I do live in Utah where it is dry and hot. I had not thought they would need twice a day watering. Good to know. I think that option is out.
My mom mixes the innards of cheep new diapers mixed with potting soil to retain more water, just an idea…
You can use water beads (like the kind that you use in vases for decoration). It’s what they are designed for. To keep plants moist.
Sawdust works extremely well too.
Tyler Cochiloko Carlson says
I’m going to try to offer some constructive criticism of this article. “Do you live in an apartment or a house with a small backyard? Have you always wanted a garden but don’t have enough space?”
Well… if you don’t have enough space, you simply don’t have enough space. Try living off what you can grow from an apartment bucket garden. Would it last you a week? Maybe. Don’t get me wrong you can do some amazing stuff with small amounts of space but if you’re looking at growing your own food as a SHTF food supply you’re going to need at the VERY LEAST a large backyard to grow things in. If you live in an apartment your time and money is much better spent stocking up on imperishable foodstuffs and storing them properly.
and sometimes we have no courage or idea how to start to use our little space – that’s why we apreciate the article: it gives some ideas, advices, to redirect our attention and to proceed.
For example I started with dill, and surprise: they need a deep bucket and doesn’t like to move. After that experience I searched to see what are the plants easy for my containers…: salads, tomatoes, aromatic plants.
I grew eggplant, tomatoes, peppers all on my patio in an apartment near Austin. Only issue was if I watered too much. The downstairs neighbors got wet ?. Sometimes it’s not the output it’s the joy of growing something. Relax! Enjoy the fruits of your labor
We are growing sweet basil in a 5 gallon bucket… and its going nuts!
oregano works about the same as sweet basil just a thought for another herb to grow
I believe it will come back every year. if you planted it on the ground it would spread like wildfire. I stopped gardening a year before we sold our house because I didn’t have any time to pay attention to it. I found my entire raised garden buried in the stuff.
The sun heats plant containers up quickly and dehydrates the water in the container. Then you have to water them a couple times a day. I sink my containers into the ground, insulating them and reducing the water needed.I also put flakes of insulating straw or mulch around the containers. I find this helps, too.
This is true, you do have to water them a lot unless you insulate them somehow. Thanks for the tip!
Bernie Singh Chadman says
What is the benefit of growing in a container if you have to bury the container in the ground? I’m being serious, not being a smartas$. Thanks.
Kenneth G. Walters says
Best way to contain invasive / spreading plants (live chives or horse radish). For flowers allows you to change locations of perennials.
the benefit is the small quantity of planting soil and compost used in the container is a good quality one, in plus I can move the container during the year.
Has any body grown melons in containers with success thankyou
Containers allow you to amend only the soil close to the plants. If you are older, or disabled, it is easier to tend your plants.
Dr. Dolittle says
Self wicking alaska buckets are great. Cheap to make, easy to move, less soil, air pruned roots and less hassle watering.
Steve m says
simple go to wicking ….water from the bottom water every 7 days with hose.
You want easy for container crops then learn to love okra it produces fast and plentiful with minimum water and soil doesn’t have to be great. You want easy tomato growing use Brandywine or BN144 tomatoes both produce fast and tender fruit that will keep up with your needs with less water than others. There are many more fruits and vegetables you can do but that’s for another day.
I found your reply useful steve, thanks.
How many okra plants would you suggest just to keep a steady supply for a family during the summer?
There are five of us in my family and three plants did us well. However, okra isn’t a staple at our table but is a great snack with a little ranch straight from the garden. Six plants will produce more than enough for one large dish a week depending on how prepared. It is easy to store by freezing and/or canning.