Five Gallon Bucket Gardening

After the post on garden tools, we realized we’d left out an important one: the five-gallon bucket. “Gardeners are doing things with buckets that we can’t imagine,” he enthused. “It’s truly the tool of a thousand uses. And there are uses still out there that no one has yet dreamed.”

He might be exaggerating. But buckets of all sorts are utility tools, good for carrying, mixing, and picking up. And if they’re used, food-grade 5 gallon buckets (no one needs to tell you to stay away from those that held paint or other toxic materials), then you’re making a contribution to sustainability by keeping those buckets out of the landfill.

Sure you can buy brand new buckets at hardware and building supply stores. But they are available for scavenging from some restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores. These often come with fitted lids. It never hurts to ask.

Occasionally, you’ll be asked to pay a dollar or three for clean, sturdy used buckets with lids. It’s worth it.They may smell like the pickles they once held — frosting is another bulk product that often comes in five-gallon buckets — but the smell will go away after you haul a few loads of manure or whatever.

For garden use and camping we’ve used buckets that once held laundry soap. Getting all the suds out of them was a bit of a problem, but once that was accomplished they were great for all kinds of things.

Maybe the most popular use for the five-gallon bucket is as a grow container, an application especially popular in the city. Drill some holes for drainage or fill with an inch or two of pea-sized gravel for annual flower plantings and you’re in business.

Nasturtiums and other trailing, flowering annuals are especially nice in buckets. As they grow up over the bucket’s side and down to the ground they make you forget that you don’t have them in some expensive designer pot.

The bucket, with its handle, is ideal for those who might want to get a jump start on setting out peppers and tomatoes. You can put them out in the sunshine during the day and bring them in when cold weather and frost are in the forecast. You won’t need to transplant once the danger of frost is over.

A five-gallon bucket is deep enough for setting tomatoes well below their root line with room to grow. 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.

Some of the container applications are pretty clever.


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