QUESTION: I don’t have room for a garden at my house, but I want to grow my own tomatoes. Can I grow tomatoes in a five-gallon bucket?- Linda K
ANSWER: Five-gallon buckets make convenient containers for growing tomatoes and allow you to grow up to six plants in a 10-foot space in your yard or on your balcony or patio. Tomato plants perform well in black buckets because the black soaks up heat, and tomatoes thrive in warm soil. You must drill four to six drainage holes in the bottom to use five-gallon buckets for growing plants, however. Use a mixture of equal parts peat moss, perlite or sand, and potting soil rich in organic material to fill the buckets halfway or up to three quarters full. Plant your tomato seedling in the soil so that only its top two to four leaves rest above the surface. Add any additional soil that’s needed to keep the plant sitting securely upright, and use your hands to gently press the soil and keep it firm.
Now is the time to add staking or trellis if you’re growing indeterminate tomatoes or a determinate type that requires support, as adding the support system later can damage the plant’s root system. Water the tomato plants deeply until the water is flowing through the drainage holes in the bottom of the bucket. Provide the plants with a dose of water-soluble fertilizer.
You will continue to apply fertilizer every 10 to 14 days and water the plants whenever the top inch of soil has dried out. You can check the moisture level of the soil by sticking your finger into the dirt an inch deep. If the soil clings to your skin, it is still wet and you don’t yet need to water your plants. When it’s especially hot or dry, you may need to water daily. Choose a location for your tomato plants that gets direct sunlight for six to eight hours per day.