Planting tomatoes in 5 gallon nursery buckets

bholder78(6b)July 3, 2014

I was wondering if using 5 gallon nursery buckets would be big enough for tomato plants. I came across some free plants and even though it's late I thought I'd try to plant them in these buckets because I have them and I'm out of room in the garden. I have some growing in regular 5 gallon buckets and they are doing well. These nursery buckets look more like 3 1/2 gallon to be honest. Would these be large enough. I have Goliath Beefsteak and old Germans that I'd like to put in these. Thank you for your opinion.

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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I thought nursery pot sizes are based on DRY gallons and are bigger ? Hmmmmm !!!

But I look at it this way : Plants are free: Pots are free and you've got about 3.5 months till the end of season. Worst scenario is that the plants will fill up the pots with roots by the end of season . Does it matter ? They will be composted anyway. In the meantime what they need are: Moisture ; Nutrient ; warm temperature and sun.

BTW: Old German and Goliath are on my next year's grow list. Nice pick there.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 3:23AM
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labradors_gw

Go for it! I've grown tomato plants in 3 gallon buckets over the winter. They need LOTS of water, but they will produce a few tomatoes for you!

Linda

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 9:23AM
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fireduck(10a)

b...I would recommend only planting determinate tomatoes in the 5 gal nursery pot. You are correct...it is not the same size as a 5 gallon bucket. 5 gallon buckets (with holes) would be much better. Use free-draining mix for medium. My tomatoes are planted in a minimum of 15 gal nursery pots. My local nursery sells me used/old 15 gal pots for about 1 or 2 dollars ea.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 9:56AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Far from ideal conditions, especially for those big varieties. But all you have to lose by trying it is the cost of the potting mix, water, cages and fertilizer. Those costs are not cheap so personally I wouldn't waste doing it. They'd do better by just digging a hole in the ground somewhere in the yard for each.

Dave

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 10:56AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i would think potting media would be the determinative factor ...

dirt isnt going to work ...

ken

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 10:59AM
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bholder78(6b)

Thanks for all the advice. I opted to make room in my garden. It's in a little more shaded area than I'd like but I was afraid the pots were a little small. Hoping for good results. I'll keep you all posted.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 7:08PM
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kathyb912_in (5a/5b, Central IN)(5a/5b)

I'm glad you were able to find room for them in your garden. Good luck!

For those who might find this thread through a search in the future, I want to add one thing:

"Worst scenario is that the plants will fill up the pots with roots by the end of season."

IME, that's not the problem, or at least you can't just dismiss another problem that can result from this situation. My experience with trying to grow large, full size tomato plants in 5 gallon buckets was that I lost approximately half the fruit to BER throughout the entire season. The same varieties grown the same year in the ground were fine, but I just couldn't keep the moisture levels consistent in the buckets, even by watering multiple times/day. But when I specifically selected varieties that did well in smaller containers (dwarfs, bush cherries, etc.), BER problems dropped to nearly zero with much less effort.

That said, it's always fun to experiment and learn for yourself. I don't consider such experiments "mistakes" but rather "opportunities to learn something". :)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 5:06PM
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NBM81(Zone 5b (Denver/Boulder))

I agree with Kathy! I say go for it! The only way to know what will work for you is to try it. Some people have terrible luck with tomatoes no matter where they plant them or what they do and some people just plop 'em somewhere and they produce a bumper crop with little care other than watering. The final outcome of one's harvest is highly dependent on many things we can't control ourselves.

While I'm not using nursery buckets, I am growing 4 varieties of tomatoes in self-watering 5-gallon buckets ("global buckets") this year, two of which are determinate and two of which are indeterminates - early girl (which is an indeterminate that is nearly 7' tall with dozens of green tomatoes), better bush (determinate), roma (determinate) and San Marzano (indeterminate). I will admit the early girl is suffering quite badly from BER, but they have all been first fruits of the season and the plant has grown ridiculously fast. Once it slows down a bit on the growth, I expect BER will follow suit. If not, it's been a riot watching her grow. If she suffers from BER badly throughout the summer, I still might try again next year because her growth alone spurs comments of envy from the neighbors; which, honestly, is sometimes enough for me. :) The other 3 are absolutely thriving and have more tomatoes than I can even count. One tomato on the San Marzano plant had to be yanked because of BER, but the rest of those and all of the romas so far look amazing (many are egg size, but the plant is still pushing out a TON of blossoms).

I also grow yellow squash, lemon cucumbers, Japanese eggplant and several varieties of peppers in 5-gallon containers with excellent results. I put two banana pepper plants in one bucket, but I do only one plant per bucket with everything else.

Much of the success I've had so far this year is due the near-perfect weather we've had since mid-May. Some of the nights have been cooler than I'd like, but the days have been ideal in the 80s and 90s (with a few 70s thrown in here and there). I also make sure all of my containers have a constant supply of moisture by way of a timer and 1/4" drip line that fills the reservoirs of all 12 of my global buckets every 4 hours around the clock. A shower cap taped and clipped over the top of the soil keeps everything perfectly moist without being saturated, as the plants only get their moisture from a "wick" that hangs into the reservoir below. I won't go into extreme detail since an internet search for "global buckets" will show you what I'm talking about. It worked extremely well for me last year (with less than ideal weather conditions) and is working even better for me this year.

At the end of the day, you could set your garden up exactly like mine or the next guy over and we could all have completely different results. If you want to try it, give it a go and see what happens for you! Take good notes and learn from your observations. It's amazing how much we think we'll remember, but.. :)

This post was edited by NBM81 on Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 12:02

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 9:38AM
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NBM81(Zone 5b (Denver/Boulder))

As a follow-up, here is a photo showing 3 of my "global buckets". From left to right: Ichiban (Japanese) eggplant, roma, San Marzano. Taken this morning before sun up. The eggplant and roma (determinate), in particular, are far exceeding any expectations I ever had. About 20% of the tomatoes on the San Marzano (indeterminate) so far have suffered from BER, but they're also the very first tomatoes of the season and they're in a container, so that's to be expected. It's my first time growing them and I understand they are one of the most BER-prone tomatoes, especially in containers. OH WELL. What's the fun in having a garden if you don't try new things?!?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:16AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

It so happens that as you know, SanMarzano is a BER prone. It has nothing to do with the containers size. But on the other hand you should've supplemented your potting soil with some form of calcium. For example, MG Shake n Feed granular slow release has calcium in it. Or adding some dolomitic lime could also be another option.

But Your plants look very healthy and happy, to me.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:27AM
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NBM81(Zone 5b (Denver/Boulder))

I don't want to hi-jack this thread, but I'll respond quickly and say that I did incorporate dolomite when I "prepped" the buckets in mid-March. When I transplanted in mid-May, the dolomite had distributed nicely within the moist mix. I think my localized climate with cool nights at the time of first blossom set (mid 40s) combined with very warm days nearing 100 contributed more to the BER than calcium. All in all, no complaints. It's fun learning what works well and what doesn't work.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 12:06PM
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