5 Gallon Container Vegetable Gardening To Enjoy Tasty Veggies

Today, I have a guide to help you grow food at home with the 5 gallon container vegetable gardening.

I’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of setting up a bucket garden to produce tasty greens.

Plus, a list of what can grow in a 5-gallon container.

So if you live in an apartment, a house with a small backyard, or short on space for vegetable gardening, you’ll love this guide.

FTC Disclosure

Bucket Gardening 101: Step-By-Step

A five gallon bucket is a perfect size and cheap for growing a variety of dwarf or patio edible plants.


  • Eliminate poor soil issues
  • Fewer weeds to pull and pests to deal with
  • Save space
  • Move around quickly to maximize sunlight exposure
  • Quick early frost protection by tossing a floating row cover over the buckets


  • Needs regular watering and feeding

Follow the steps below on how to prepare a 5-gallon bucket for growing vegetables.

Step 1: Get A 5-Gallon Bucket

Before using, sanitize the container.

Add a cup of chlorine bleach into a gallon of water.

It should wipe out any surviving bacteria.

Where Can I Get A 5 Gallon Bucket For Free?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on containers.

Keep your eyes open for them among the garbage on the sidewalks.

Or scavenge from your local bakeries or grocery stores.

It never hurts to ask.

If you are concerned about using “food grade” plastic buckets, check at local restaurants. Many bulk restaurant food supplies are delivered in 5 gallon food grade buckets and many restaurants are happy to give them away.


If you can’t get a 5 gallon bucket for free, then check this out

[content-egg-block template=offers_list limit=4 offset=0]

Is It Safe To Grow Vegetables In 5 Gallon Buckets

Don’t use containers that previously-stored questionable materials, such as pool chemicals, pesticides, herbicides tar, or asphalt.

The toxic residue can pass to your homegrown produce.

Recycled 5-gallon paint buckets seem to be safe.

If the container has been used for other purposes, wash it with warm soapy water and rinse it thoroughly before using it.

LSU AgCenter
Watch This Video

How to Make A 5 Gallon Bucket Garden

How Do You Clean Pickled Buckets?

Sometimes, you need to fork out a dollar or three for used buckets with lids.

They may once store pickles.

If you want to get rid of the smell, rinse the containers with dish soap and hot water,

Then add a mixture of a cup of bleach and warm water.

Let them sit overnight.

Step 2: Drill Holes For Drainage

To prevent waterlogged soil, drill 6 to 8 1/2 inch holes in the bottom of 5-gallon buckets.

Space the holes at equal distances apart.

The drainage prevents water from pooling around the roots.

Watch this video on how to drill holes in 5 gallon plastic bucket containers.

These 20V cordless drills are handy to make holes for your container.

[content-egg-block template=offers_grid limit=3 offset=4]

Should I Put Rocks Or Gravels In Bottom Of Planter?

You may want to put a layer of sand, rocks, or gravels (a few inches deep) in the bottom of the five gallons bucket.

Some argue that it doesn’t improve the drainage of the soil. The only effect is the layering itself.

Furthermore, it takes up space that a healthy root needs to thrive.

Instead, cut a piece of non-metal screening such as window screens to make it fit the bottom of the bucket.

Or fill the container with a high-quality potting soil that drains well.

It’ll give your vegetable crops the best chance to produce high yields.

For better drainage, elevate the bucket using stands, bricks, or wood blocks.

Step 3: Fill It Up With The Right Soilless Mixture

When choosing a potting soil, make sure it has the right balance of drainage and water retention.

You can buy a high-quality organic potting soil like Foxfarm Ocean Forest, or Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix.

You don’t have to feed your plants often.

Fill the bucket two to three inches from the top with the potting media.


The level of soil should be somewhat below the rim of the container after planting. It is called head space and helps facilitate proper watering.

LSU AgCenter

The bucket also helps gather and hold heat. Leave three inches or so of bucket above the soil line, and the sides will cut the wind and contain heat.

Planet Natural

Before planting, wet the potting media in the container until the water flows out the drainage holes.

[content-egg-block template=offers_grid limit=3 offset=7]

Why Add Compost To Soilless Mixture?

Potting soil doesn’t contain any weed seeds, nasty bacteria, and fungi, thanks to pasteurization.

But the baking process also kills beneficial organisms that your vegetables in a 5-gallon bucket need to grow well.

Compost is packed with beneficial fungi and bacteria that encourage healthy roots and vigorous plants. The compost also provides essential plant nutrients.


In a large container or on a plastic mat on the ground, mix potting soil and compost in a 2:1 ratio. Two scoops of potting mix and one of compost, add ½ cup time-release fertilizer, every 6 weeks.

IFAS Extension, University of Florida
[content-egg-block template=offers_grid limit=3 offset=10]

How Much Perlite To Fill 5 Gallon Bucket?

If you’re using perlite, add equal parts of peat moss and potting soil.

[content-egg-block template=offers_grid limit=3 offset=13]

Step 4: Start Sowing Or Transplanting

Plant the vegetable seeds or seedlings in 5-gallon containers.

Step 5: Think About Your Bucket Location

For veggies that love full sun, place the bucket in a sunny spot.

Some edible plants will appreciate some shade from the hot afternoon sun.

For outdoors, put the containers on a mulch system or a grass area.

For tall-growing veggies such as cucumbers, eggplant, beans, add a trellis, a cage or stakes.

Step 6: Watering Is Essential To Keep Your Plant Healthy

Unlike traditional gardening, the 5-gallon bucket holds a small amount of soil.

So, frequent watering is necessary to keep the soil moist.

Vegetable plants lose moisture during the day through photosynthesis and transpiration.

It makes sense to water in the morning.

[content-egg-block template=offers_grid limit=3 offset=16]

Pour the water directly onto the soil at the base of the plant until it begins to drip out of the bottom drainage holes. It ensures even moisture in the soil moistened.


To minimize disease problems, try to water without wetting the foliage, if possible.

LSU AgCenter
Container-grown vegetables tend to dry out quickly. So, always check soil moisture once or twice a day with your finger before watering. If it’s dry, water until it drains out of the bottom of the 5-gallon container. If it’s wet, only water when the soil feels dry on top and remains slightly moist below the surface.

Self Watering 5 Gallon Bucket Garden

Consider a self-watering bucket garden if you

  • don’t have the time to water your edible crops or
  • live in zone 7B (where temperature can soar as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit during summer)
[content-egg-block template=offers_grid limit=3 offset=19]

Find out how to make DIY self watering 5-gallon container. The University of Maryland designed a mini vegetable garden that recycles water and nutrients and uses only compost as the growing medium.

Step 7: Feed Your Plants Regularly

Without sufficient fertilizer, your crops take longer to grow and will produce lower yields.

Most potting mixes usually include fertilizers.

But they don’t contain enough nutrients to support full plant growth.

They only last for a couple of weeks.

Begin fertilizing every two weeks by applying a water-soluble fertilizer to the soil.

The 3 numbers that you see on a package of fertilizer represents the value of the three macro-nutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). You need them for healthy plant growth. Nitrogen encourages the growth of foliage. Phosphorus promotes the development of roots and ripening of the seed while potassium boosts fruit production.

Use organic feeding options such as fish emulsion, liquid kelp, or other fish or seaweed extract fertilizers.

The smell of an organic fish emulsion fertilizer can be offensive, but they make your veggie plants happy! Use a hose-end sprayer for quick and even application without stinky havoc.

You can use slow-release fertilizers if you want to cut down the frequency of soluble fertilizer application.

Plants show a need for fertilizer when they turn pale green, lack vigor, and the older, bottom leaves are yellowing.

[content-egg-block template=offers_list limit=3 offset=22]

You may want to add mulch on the 5-gallon containers for weed control and water conservation.

The problem with doing this is that it is harder to tell when plants need water because you can no longer see the soil surface.

LSU AgCenter

If you do, don’t let the mulch clump around the stem of the veggies. An inch or two above the potting medium should be enough.

Step 8: Pest Control

5-gallon buckets may offer protection against most soil-borne viruses, bacteria, and diseases.

But insects such as aphids, mites, and slugs can still spread disease if you fail to take action promptly.

Look out for chewed or spotted leaves.

You can make DIY insecticidal soaps by adding 4 to 5 tablespoons of concentrated dish soap to one gallon of water. Use it to spray foliar pests.

Set out a pan of beer or an upside-down melon rind to get rid of slugs.

[content-egg-block template=offers_list limit=3 offset=25]
Watch This Video

Setting Up a 5 Gallon Container for Gardening: Line It/Food Safe, Drainage Hole & Reservoir

Best Vegetables To Grow In Buckets (Easy Ones 😉)

Decide what you want to plant.

The climate and the environment in your area determine what plants can thrive.

Five-gallon containers have limited space.

So, focus first on the vegetables you like the most.

Beginners should always start with easy plants. It will boost your confidence.

With a gradual learning experience, you can try more difficult plants.

You can grow the following low-maintenance vegetables in five gallons containers, even if you think you have a black thumb.

The first 4 are cut-and-come-again salad greens. Harvest them when they reach 2 inches or more.

Kale (Brassica)

  • The easiest brassica to grow throughout the year in containers
  • Tastes better after winter
  • 3 plants per bucket

Bok choi or sui choi (Chinese Greens)

  • Perfect for the winter vegetable gardening, an early spring start, or a late fall
  • It will bolt when the weather warms up
  • 1 plant per bucket
Watch This Video

How to grow Chinese greens in a bucket


  • Cold hardy leafy greens
  • Same family as beets
  • It has a slightly longer growing season than lettuce
  • It serves as a double season crop for spring and fall
  • 2 plants per bucket


  • Require less space than the average herb plant
  • 2 plants per bucket
Dedicate each bucket to one major veggie and a few small companion plants.


  • Grow well in shallow containers
  • Add slow-growing companion plants in the same bucket
  • Sow in early spring and harvest in late fall
  • Winter vegetable survivor
  • Bring your 5-gallon containers inside the house to prolong the growing season into early winter
  • 4 plants per bucket


  • Shallow-root edible plants
  • Conserve water – do not dry out between waterings
  • 1 plant per bucket
Never overcrowd your edible plants. They need space to produce optimally. Crowded plants compete for nutrients, water, and root space. It will increase the risk of pest or disease problems.

What Other Vegetables Can You Grow In A 5 Gallon Bucket? 😮

And how many to put in each?

If you’re up for a challenge, try growing these varieties.

Types Of VeggieNumber of Plants per 5-Gallon Bucket
Bush Beans3
Snow Peas3

Recommended Varieties To Plant in 5-Gallon Containers



Picolino F1, Saber F1, and H-19 Little Leaf cucumber seeds are parthenocarpic. They can produce fruits without seeds.

[content-egg-block template=offers_grid limit=3 offset=28]
Companion plants are beneficial to deter pests. Adding marigolds to your 5-gallon buckets can keep nasty insects away while inviting favorable ones such as ladybugs and praying mantis.





Green Comet
Waltham 29
Sun King


Cherry Belle

[content-egg-block template=offers_grid limit=3 offset=31]


Danvers Half Long
Short ‘n Sweet
Tiny Sweet


3 plants per 5 gallons

Papaya Pear
Table King

1 plant per 5 gallons

[content-egg-block template=offers_grid limit=3 offset=34]

Growing Vegetables In Pots On Balcony

If gardening space is limited, like your balcony, then avoid space hogs that yield only one major head per plant.

For growing vegetables in 5-gallon containers on a balcony, choose compact bush varieties.

They are short, sturdy edible plants. Perfect for bucket gardening.


If you only have a sunny patio or balcony, give 5 gallon container vegetable gardening a shot.

For a good start, pick a few easy-to-grow greens that you enjoy eating.

Experience the rewards of growing your fresh vegetables right in your home.

Give your plants a quality potting mix, water, feeding, and light.

Watch them sprout and grow!

Share This
5 Gallon Container Vegetable Gardening Post Graphic
Did you find “5 Gallon Container Vegetable Gardening” post helpful? Share it with your friends!