Bucket Gardening 101

For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a garden.  I think it’s something that’s been passed down from my grandparents, to my parents, to me.  We grew zucchini, always tomatoes, sometimes beans, radishes, beets, eggplant, peppers.  And roses; my mom grows the most beautiful roses.

When I moved out the first time, it was for an internship….at a botanical garden.  Besides working in a garden during the day, I shared a garden space with some of the other interns and we grew cantaloupe, squash, and herbs.

When I moved out the second time, my roommates and I grew a garden again: tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, beans, peas, and carrots.

I think the only time I haven’t had a garden was during the year and a half I spent in Argentina…but even then, towards the end of that time I had acquired a houseplant which is it’s own special kind of gardening.

With so many gardens in my past, I knew that I had to grow a garden again this year.  But I also knew that this year would have to be different.  Living in an apartment with no available yard to dig up was going to require a different approach.  And so my bucket garden was born.  When I want to be fancy I call it my “patio salad garden”, but I don’t feel fancy too often, so I’ll just call it how it is: gardening in buckets.

I know in theory it should work, but since I’ve never gardened this way before, I invite you to share this adventure with me.  I’ll keep you updated about it’s progress and any tips or tricks I learn along the way.  First things first, though, so that means I’ll show you how I got started.

Gardening in buckets:

1- You’ll need some buckets.  I’m using 5 gallon buckets.  You could use nice fancy containers, but since these were free (and I like free things), this is what I’ll be growing my garden in this year.

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2- Whatever kind of container you choose, you’ll need to make sure it has a way to drain.  My fella helped me with this part by drilling some holes through the bottom.

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3- Besides the holes, having rocks, or a large-chunk bark layer at the bottom will also help with drainage and keep the soil from getting too compact.

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4- Speaking of soil…whatever you do, DO NOT use dirt you just dig up from somewhere.  This will not work well in a container, and no matter how much drainage you provide it will get compacted.  What you’ll want to use instead isn’t actually soil at all, but “soil-less media”.   It will give structural support for the roots, provide some nutrients, and provide a nice balance of water-holding capacity and aeration.  (Note: Because I had a gift card to IFA, I bought my grow mix there, but I think you could find success with just about any kind.  Just make sure it doesn’t have too much bark in it, and whatever you do, don’t use dirt you’ve dug up.)

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5- Plant away!  I decided that I wanted this to be a “salad garden”, so I planted one bucket with lettuce, one with spinach, and one with radishes.  All of these species like the cooler temperatures, so I’m fine with planting them outdoors in March.  Later on, when the temps are more consistently warm I’ll plant another bucket with a tomato and another with a bell pepper.

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6- Don’t forget to water.  You’ll need to water in the seeds when you plant, but you’ll also need to keep watering them throughout the growing season.  Because they are in buckets, they’ll dry out quicker than if you were growing in the earth, so keep an eye on them daily.

2 Comments

  1. I am SO tempted to try this. I love gardening too, and really want a garden. But all of our flower beds are in shade. However, our patio is in full sun almost all day long and this sounds like a great way to go. Can’t wait to see how yours turn out.

    • Heather

      May 14, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      I think you should try it, Sharon! And then let me know how it works out for you! So far, my plants are just really slow growers…but the important thing is that they do keep growing!

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