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Best Ways to Plant Tomatoes in Buckets and Grow Bags

Make the most of limited garden space by growing tomatoes in buckets and grow bags. Planting tomatoes in these easily accessible containers provides an inexpensive alternative to traditional backyard gardening. Container gardening tends to level the playing field in the game of home gardening, allowing even gardeners with less garden area the opportunity to produce high yielding plants. Buckets and grow bags provide convenient mobility, can be kept on a deck or patio for easy care, picking, and monitoring.

rosemary and tomatoes growing in metal buckets on patio

Both methods provide environments that will produce robust tomato plants with delectable fruits if properly planted and cared for. While the concept of using buckets and grow bags are relatively the same, there are some vital differences worth exploring. We will take you through the best ways to plant tomatoes in buckets and grow bags along with some tips for developing a successful crop in each of these useful containers.

Helpful Tips for Planting Tomatoes in Containers

Before we start, here are some useful tips to keep in mind when growing tomato plants in buckets and grow bags.

  • Choose determinate varieties of tomatoes when planting in buckets and grow bags.
  • Ensure successful tomato plants by using a container that is big enough-the bigger the better.
  • Add a little pre-plant application of a dry blend granular organic fertilizer in the planting hole before you place your plant.
  • Plant tomato plants deeply in the soil so that roots will grow from underground stems, resulting in more vigorous healthy plants.
  • Plant tomatoes in full sun.
  • Water regularly, using care not to overwater or underwater, which can both lead to the demise of your tomato plant.
  • Consider placing a tray of water underneath your bucket or grow bag to promote self-watering from the roots up.
  • Use organic fertilizer to feed your tomato plants when they are potted. Tomatoes are heavy feeders of nitrogen and require this nutrient to grow into hardy producers. Make sure to mix or “scratch”  the granular fertilizer into the soil to it doesn’t get washed away when you water. Supplement your granular organic fertilizer with a liquid organic fertilizer every 2-3 weeks with your regular watering routine for quick release nutrients.
  • Add a small amount of Epsom salt to your tomato plant container. This will supply magnesium to the plant, lessening the likelihood of blossom rot on your fruit.

Kellogg Garden Organics

All Natural Potting Mix

**Product not available in AZ, CA, HI, NV, UT. For a comparable product in these states click here.

Best Way to Plant Tomatoes in Buckets

Growing tomatoes in buckets and pots is a terrific way for anyone to enjoy way fresh tomatoes off the vine. One of the biggest mistakes gardeners make when growing tomatoes in containers is planting them in too small of a pot. Tomatoes are heavy feeders with a well-developed root system, and keeping them confined in too small of a pot will stunt their growth and diminish their yield. Follow these steps for the best results.

Supplies:

  • 5 Gallon Bucket or pot
  • Organic Potting Mix
  • Organic Fertilizer
  • 1 Tbsp Epsom Salt
  • Water
  • Determinate Tomato Seeds or Plants
    Mulch (optional)
up close sprout of tomato plant in peat pot

Steps for Successful Planting

  1. Find an area in the yard or on the patio that receives plenty of sunlight for tomatoes to grow successfully.
  2. Make certain that there are drainage holes in the bottom of the bucket before planting. This is essential so that your plant does not drown.
  3. Fill the container half-full of potting mix.
  4. Place the plant into the bucket. You can plant tomato plants a little deeper in the soil that other plants because the stems will sprout roots creating a more robust plant. If sowing seeds directly, do so when the pot is ¾ of the way full, sow seeds, and lightly cover with one inch of soil.
  5. Add water when the bag is approximately half-way full.
  6. Add more potting mix around the tomato plant.
  7. Sprinkle organic fertilizer and Epsom salt around the base of the plant. This will supply the tomato plant with essential nutrients like nitrogen and magnesium for healthy growth and protection from a disease like blossom-rot.
  8. Continue to build up the soil until the bucket is full.
  9. If desired, you can add some light mulching to finish off the pot and protect the soil.

Water Requirements

It is essential to water tomato plants that are planted in buckets until water runs freely from the bottom. Water in the morning and recheck the soil moisture levels in the afternoon. If soil feels dry about one inch below the surface, it’s time to water again. Add mulch to tomato plants to help with moisture retention.

Best Way to Plant Tomatoes in Grow Bags

Growing tomatoes in fabric grow bags is an excellent option when it comes to container gardening. It acts like a bucket in many of the essential ways but has additional attributes. As we now know, tomatoes have strong root systems that grow vigorously. The texture of the fabric grow bag allows the roots to prune themselves when they hit the edge of the bag. The benefit of this self-pruning is that instead of encircling the shape of the container over and over again, the roots offshoot into new fibrous hairs continually. This process makes the root system in tomatoes planted in fabric grow bags healthier and more robust.

Supplies:

  • Fabric Grow Bag
  • Organic Potting Mix
  • Organic Fertilizer
  • 1 Tbsp Epsom Salt
  • Water
  • Determinate Tomato Seeds or Plants
  • Mulch (optional)
Mother and daughter gardening in a small space outdoors. Mother is showing kid how to even out the soil. Selective focus on kid's hand. Pepper plant in foreground, tomato plant present.

Steps for Successful Planting

  1. Select an area that receives plenty of sunlight for your tomatoes to grow successfully.
  2. Open the grow bag and fill with three to four inches of potting mix, pressing the soil firmly around the base. This will bolster the form of the grow bag.
  3. Place the plant into the bag. You can plant tomato plants a little deeper in the soil that other plants because the stems will sprout roots creating a stronger plant. If sowing seeds directly, do so when the bag is ¾ of the way full.
  4. Add water when the bag is approximately half-way full.
  5. Add more potting mix around the tomato plant.
  6. Sprinkle organic fertilizer and Epsom salt around the base of the plant. This will supply the tomato plant with essential nutrients like nitrogen and magnesium for healthy growth and protection from a disease like blossom rot.
  7. Continue to build up the soil until the bag is full.
  8. If desired, you can add some light mulching to finish off the pot and protect the soil.

Watering Requirements

Planting tomatoes in grow bags can take some of the guesswork out of watering. The fabric the grow bag is composed of is porous and allows air to circulate through soil and water to drain. Grow bags reduce your chances of over-watering, but you still can run the risk of not watering enough. With air circulating circulates so efficiently through the grow bag, soil can dry out faster than you might expect. Regular watering is essential for successfully growing tomatoes in grow bags.


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tomato plants growing in metal buckets on patio
close up of tomato vine in grow bag

5 Comments

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  1. Would like you to know that I’m a 64 year old Electrican trying to retire that loves my garden and love to mentor new gardeners. Your G & B soils have really changed how I now garden and teach. Used commercial green house soil in my green house for many years till I was introduced to your soils. My tomatoes in 4″ pots now go to market almost totally rootbound and large pots are pretty much fool proof to grow. One problem is the longer you garden the harder the fight with bugs and weeds. Carrots are wonderful but a pain to grow,weeds and carrot magnets. Now I use a box with 6″ clear sides filled with GB raised bed mix. No weeding,EZ thinning,6″ clear guard slows down low flying maggot flys and fly traps on edge catch most low flying bugs. We now grow Mokum carrots without fuss. May sell this year at farmers market if they reopen and would love some promotional materials like a banner and hand outs. I make no money promoting your products but make better farmers, urban and country. Keep up the good work and I will keep selling promoting you products.

    • Happy to hear you found a solution to your pests and weed problems! Thank you for this wonderful comment, we are overjoyed that you are having such great success with our product. We hope you get the chance to sell at farmers markets soon!

    • An answer for the person asking for a banner or sign? I know you have them. At the Nursery, they hang your empty bags behind the check out.. with prices of each. They always ask if we need any of them.

  2. You don’t state a preferred size of bag – only “only there bigger there better.” How much Epsom salts for a 15 gallon grow bag?

    • Hi Greg, it is generally recommended to mix in 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt for each foot of your tomato plant. For example, if your plant is 2 feet tall, you would mix in 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt to the top layer of your soil. You can also add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt into the planting hole at the beginning of the season. You can also mix in 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt with 1 gallon of water and use it to water your plants throughout the season. Happy Gardening!

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