15 Delicious Foods You Can Grow in 5 Gallon Buckets

Imagine transforming the smallest spaces into lush, edible gardens—where vibrant greens and succulent vegetables grow from the unlikeliest of places.

Welcome to the world of 5 gallon bucket gardening, an innovative approach to urban farming that turns limited space into an oasis of fresh, home-grown produce.

Whether you’re nestled in a city apartment with just a balcony for outdoor space, or you’re looking to maximize the productivity of your backyard, I will guide you through the ins and outs of cultivating 15 delectable foods in just a 5 gallon bucket.

1. Lettuce

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Lettuce is a perfect choice for 5 gallon bucket gardening. Its shallow roots and quick growth make it ideal for container cultivation.

Plant your lettuce seeds directly in the bucket, or start them indoors and transplant the seedlings later.

To maximize your lettuce harvest, consider planting a few holes around the sides of the bucket. This allows you to grow more plants in a single container.

Harvest the outer leaves first, allowing the center of the plant to continue growing for a continuous supply of fresh, crisp lettuce.

2. Arugula

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Arugula, also known as rocket, is another leafy green that thrives in 5 gallon buckets. Its peppery flavor adds a delightful kick to salads and sandwiches.

Like lettuce, arugula has shallow roots and grows quickly, making it perfect for container gardening.

Sow arugula seeds directly in your bucket, and thin the seedlings as they grow to ensure proper spacing.

Arugula prefers cooler temperatures, so plant it in the spring or fall for best results. Harvest the leaves when they’re young and tender for the best flavor.

3. Asian Greens

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Asian greens, such as bok choy, tatsoi, and mizuna, are excellent choices for 5 gallon bucket gardening. These flavorful greens are packed with nutrients and add a delightful crunch to stir-fries and salads.

Plant your Asian greens in the spring or fall, as they prefer cooler temperatures. To grow Asian greens in buckets, sow the seeds directly in the soil or start them indoors and transplant the seedlings later.

Harvest the outer leaves first, allowing the plant to continue growing for a continuous supply of fresh greens.

4. Leaf Mustards

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Leaf mustards, such as red giant mustard and green wave mustard, add a spicy kick to salads and sandwiches. These flavorful greens are easy to grow in 5 gallon buckets and thrive in cooler temperatures.

Plant your leaf mustard seeds in the spring or fall for best results.

Sow the seeds directly in your bucket, and thin the seedlings as they grow to ensure proper spacing. Harvest the leaves when they’re young and tender for the best flavor.

Leaf mustards can be harvested continuously by removing the outer leaves and allowing the plant to keep growing.

5. Spinach

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Spinach is a nutrient-packed leafy green that’s perfect for 5 gallon bucket gardening. Its tender leaves are delicious in salads, smoothies, and sautés.

Plant your spinach in the spring or fall, as it prefers cooler temperatures.

To grow spinach in buckets, sow the seeds directly in the soil or start them indoors and transplant the seedlings later.

Harvest the outer leaves first, allowing the plant to continue growing for a continuous supply of fresh spinach.

6. Chard

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Chard, also known as Swiss chard, is a beautiful and nutritious leafy green that thrives in 5 gallon buckets. Its colorful stems and tender leaves add a pop of color and flavor to any dish.

Plant your chard in the spring or fall for best results.

Sow the seeds directly in your bucket, and thin the seedlings as they grow to ensure proper spacing.

Harvest the outer leaves first, allowing the plant to continue growing for a continuous supply of fresh chard. The stems can also be harvested and used in stir-fries or sautés.

7. Bush Beans

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Bush beans are a great option for 5 gallon bucket gardening, as they don’t require trellising and produce a bountiful harvest in a small space.

Plant your bush bean seeds directly in the bucket after the last frost in spring.

To maximize your bush bean harvest, consider planting a few seeds around the edges of the bucket. Water your plants regularly and harvest the beans when they’re young and tender for the best flavor.

Bush beans will continue to produce throughout the growing season, providing you with a steady supply of fresh beans.

8. Tomatoes

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Tomatoes are a classic choice for 5 gallon bucket gardening. Choose determinate varieties, which have a more compact growth habit, for best results.

Plant your tomato seedlings deep in the bucket, burying a portion of the stem to encourage strong root growth.

Provide your tomato plants with support, such as a stake or cage, to keep them upright as they grow. Water regularly and fertilize every few weeks to ensure healthy growth and fruit production.

Harvest your tomatoes when they’re ripe and enjoy them fresh or use them in your favorite recipes.

9. Peppers

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Peppers, both sweet and hot varieties, thrive in 5 gallon buckets. Plant your pepper seedlings in the bucket after the last frost in spring, and provide them with plenty of sunlight and regular watering.

Consider planting a single pepper plant per bucket, or try companion planting with herbs like basil or oregano to maximize space and benefit from their pest-repelling properties.

Harvest your peppers when they’ve reached their desired size and color for the best flavor.

10. Eggplant

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Eggplant is another great option for 5 gallon bucket gardening. Choose compact varieties for best results, and plant your seedlings deep in the bucket after the last frost in spring.

Provide your eggplant with plenty of sunlight and regular watering, and consider using a stake or cage to support the plant as it grows.

Harvest your eggplants when they’re glossy and firm, and enjoy them grilled, roasted, or in your favorite recipes.

11. Cucumbers

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Cucumbers can be successfully grown in 5 gallon buckets, especially if you choose compact or bush varieties.

Plant your cucumber seeds or seedlings in the bucket after the last frost in spring, and provide them with a trellis or support to climb.

Water your cucumbers regularly and fertilize every few weeks to ensure healthy growth and fruit production.

Harvest your cucumbers when they’re young and tender for the best flavor and texture.

12. Summer Squash

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Summer squash, such as zucchini and yellow squash, can be grown in 5 gallon buckets. Choose compact or bush varieties for best results, and plant your seeds or seedlings in the bucket after the last frost in spring.

Provide your summer squash plants with plenty of sunlight and regular watering, and harvest the fruits when they’re young and tender for the best flavor.

Regular harvesting will also encourage the plant to produce more fruit throughout the growing season.

13. Potatoes

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Potatoes are an excellent choice for 5 gallon bucket gardening. Fill your bucket with a mix of soil and compost, and plant your seed potatoes about 6 inches deep.

As the plants grow, continue to add soil around the stems, a process called “hilling,” to encourage more potato production.When the potato plants begin to flower, you can start harvesting small, tender “new potatoes.”

For larger potatoes, wait until the plants have died back, then tip the bucket over and collect your harvest.

14. Carrots

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Carrots can be successfully grown in 5 gallon buckets, as long as the bucket is deep enough to accommodate their root growth.

Fill your bucket with a loose, well-draining soil mix, and sow your carrot seeds directly on the surface.Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and thin the seedlings as they grow to ensure proper spacing.

Harvest your carrots when they’ve reached their desired size, and enjoy them fresh or cooked in your favorite recipes.

15. Radishes

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Radishes are a quick-growing, easy-to-grow crop that’s perfect for 5 gallon bucket gardening.

Sow your radish seeds directly in the bucket, and keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.Radishes are ready to harvest in as little as 20-30 days, depending on the variety.

Pull them from the soil when they’ve reached their desired size, and enjoy them fresh in salads or as a crunchy, spicy snack.

Tips for Successful Bucket Gardening

community garden
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Here are the most important tips I’ve learned for successfully growing food in 5 gallon buckets:

First and foremost, make sure you use food-grade buckets. Avoid any buckets that previously held chemicals or non-food items, as these substances can leach into the soil and contaminate your plants. I get my buckets from local restaurants or buy them new to be safe.

Proper drainage is key. I always drill several 1/2-inch holes in the bottom of each bucket for water to escape. Elevating the buckets slightly on bricks or boards helps excess moisture drain away from the roots.

For the growing medium, I use a high-quality potting mix rather than garden soil, which can compact and cause drainage issues in containers. Mixing in some compost provides added nutrients. I fill the buckets nearly to the top, leaving about 1-2 inches for watering.

When it comes to what to grow, I’ve had the best luck with compact varieties bred for containers. Determinate or bush tomatoes, salad greens, peppers, beans, and even root veggies like carrots and potatoes have thrived in my 5 gallon buckets.

Herbs are also a great choice.

Placement of the buckets is important too. Most food crops need at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. I use light-colored buckets in hot climates to keep the roots cooler, and dark buckets in cooler weather for some extra heat absorption. The portability of buckets allows me to move my plants to the best growing conditions.

Consistent watering and regular feeding are a must, as the limited soil volume dries out and gets depleted faster than in-ground gardens. I check the buckets daily and aim to keep the soil evenly moist.

Every couple of weeks, I add some diluted liquid fertilizer formulated for vegetables and herbs.

With these tips in mind, you can grow an abundance of fresh food in 5 gallon buckets, whether you’re short on space or just looking for a convenient and budget-friendly gardening method. I’m always amazed at how much I can harvest from even a small bucket garden!

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.