Question: I am planning for my 2019 tomato garden already. What I want to do is grow 8-10 tomato plants in five gallon buckets. They will be “Beefmasters” and “Better Boys.” I plan to drill 5 to 6 1/2″ holes in the bottom of the buckets for drainage. I will fill the buckets about 2/3 full with a mix of potting soil and top soil and layer 2″ of mulch on the top of the soil. I plan to use seedlings bought at a local nursery and water every other day if there is no rain fall. Once the plants are tall enough, I will stake them with 1″ by 2″ treated lumber.
- Should I keep these buckets 36″ to 48″ apart, like a normal garden planting?
- Can the dirt be used for the next season’s tomatoes?
Answer: Thank you for your questions on container gardening. First off, I admire your ability to plan one year out. That is great. Please use the following guidelines when planting tomatoes in a 5 gallon bucket:
1.Drill holes in the bucket for drainage which is already in your plan. Cover the holes with coffee filters or mesh to keep the soil in the bucket.
2. Either use a soilless mixture or a soil mixture. Specific recommendations are made since soil compaction is a concern when growing in containers. A soilless mixture contains peat moss, vermiculite, and either coarse sand or a wood product. A soil mixture contains peat moss, pasteurized soil, vermiculite, and cow manure. If you plan on moving the buckets around, the soilless mixture is lighter. However the soil mixture does a better job in holding water.
3. When fertilizing follow package directions. You may not get the desired results if you use too much. Start with a time release after planting. In 2 weeks switch to a soluble balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. When the blooms set, switch to a high potassium fertilizer like 9-15-30.
4. Keep the containers 3-4 feet apart as you mentioned.
5. Consider using light colored containers so they won’t absorb as much heat. Plants may cook in a black container with hot weather.
6. Start with new soil each year. Diseases and pests may multiply if you use the same soil each year. It’s not worth the risk with all the planning and preparation you have done.
7. From what I have read Better Boy and Beefmaster should do well in containers. You can also look at varieties that are tailored to container gardening such as Bush Early Girl, Patio Princess, Bushsteak, Super Bush Hybrid, and Husky Red, Gold, or Pink.
I hope this helps with your gardening plans for next year. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to submit your questions to Ask a Master Gardener. Our goal is to make you successful in the garden.
[…] What I want to do is grow 8-10 tomato plants in five gallon buckets. They will be “Beefmasters” and “Better Boys.” I plan to drill 5 to 6 1/2″ holes in the bottom of the buckets for drainage. I will fill the buckets about 2/3 full with a mix of potting soil and top soil and layer 2″ of mulch on the top of the soil. via […]