5 Gallon Bucket Gardening: Seven Ways to Reuse Plastic Buckets for Growing Food

5 gallon bucket garden

We usually discuss container gardening in the context of space: if you live in an apartment, or have a small yard, containers might be your best bet. But even though I’ve got space for gardening – not a ton, but enough – I’m thinking about incorporating containers more this year. Not only are they mobile, so I can figure out the best spots for sun as I go, but there are also lots of ways to set up systems that will water themselves… at least for a few days.

You can choose many different containers for gardening, of course, but after just a bit of poking around, it’s clear that the 5 gallon plastic bucket has captured the imagination of gardeners. They’re readily available, cheap or free (check with nearby restaurants, or on Craigslist), and oh so adaptable. 5 gallon bucket gardening has become its own little cottage industry on the web…

Got buckets, and want to put them to use? Or just want to get started growing something this year? Check out these projects… and keep in mind you always want to use food grade buckets for gardening.

5 Gallon Bucket Gardening: 7 Projects

1. The Single Self-Watering Bucket

The University of Maryland Extension Service provides complete instructions for this take on the self-watering garden container.

2. The Doubled-Up Self-Watering Bucket

This plan from Instructables takes advantage of wicking to keep your plants watered. This first of two videos shows you how to build the planter (via Home Tips World):

3. Another Wicking Bucket

I never write a post on gardening without checking Mike Lieberman’s Urban Organic Gardener. As I expected, he’s got his own plan for a wicking watering planter:

4. The Alaska Grow Bucket

This self-watering system is designed to work with multiple buckets, and uses engineering similar to that of a flush toilet:

5. Global Buckets

One of the beauties of 5-gallon bucket gardening is that it takes advantage of materials widely available, even in the poorest parts of the world. The Global Buckets system – created by teenaged brothers – builds on that concept, with a design for either the backyard gardener, or the developing world resident who needs a reliable source of fresh food:

6. Cylinder Gardening

Think of square foot gardening meets 5 gallon buckets. This system, developed in the Houston, Texas area, is focused on wannabe gardeners with poor soil. And while the video below doesn’t use organic methods, there’s no reason you couldn’t: use compost or organic fertilizer mixes rather than conventional ones:

7. The 5 Gallon Worm Bin

Colleen Vanderlinden at About.com provides the instructions for turning a 5 gallon bucket into a worm composting bin.

As there are whole sites devoted to hacking 5 gallon buckets, I have no doubt there are other great gardening project out their for these ubiquitous items. If you’ve got one, share it with us…

Image credit: square foot hydroponics via photopin


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  1. If you use plastic buckets for veggies, is there any concern over chemicals leeching from the plastic buckets into the soil (and the veggies) – especially in hot weather? Thanks.

  2. I am not sure if the photo above is your garden but if it is what are you using the swing frame for. I have the very same swing and frame but the swing is about done and I was thinking about ways to fix it by maybe adding wood planks. But now that I see the one above I am thinking it could be a great thing to hang pots from. Maybe the upside down tomato buckets or something.

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