How Many Tomato Plants Per 5-Gallon Bucket? And Tomato Spacing Tips!

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Growing tomatoes in 5-gallon buckets is a great way to cultivate fresh produce in a small space. But how many tomato plants should you grow per bucket? We usually recommend only one or two plants per 5-gallon container. But the real-world answer depends on the tomato type and cultivar you want to grow, as some varieties require more space than others.

Beautiful tomato plants growing in thick black buckets alongside greens and salad crops.

Also, there’s much more to know about growing bucket tomatoes than how many you should grow per container. Let’s continue by analyzing several common tomato varieties and their growing habits. We’ll also talk in more depth about tomato plant spacing requirements.

Sound good?

Then let’s plant some bucket tomatoes!

How Many Tomato Plants Fit Per 5 Gallon Bucket?

Growing yummy cherry tomatoes in a small silver bucket.

One tomato plant per 5-gallon bucket works best. However, you can grow up to two plants per 5-gallon bucket for determinate varieties because many determinate cultivars are often stout and require little support. Larger varieties, such as beefsteaks or sprawling indeterminate heirlooms, require at least one 5-gallon bucket each and usually benefit from a larger growing container.

In other words, you may get away with growing two determinate tomato plants per 5-gallon bucket. But you can only plant one indeterminate tomato plant per container, as they require more space.

We often recommend using a 20-gallon grow bag rather than a 5-gallon bucket for larger tomato cultivars. Let your tomato plant roots stretch and thrive! (Larger grow bags are also more stable. Wind won’t topple a 20-gallon grow bag.)

Here’s the most critical rule of thumb for bucket tomato growers. No matter what, never overcrowd your tomato plants! If you cram too many tomato plants in a tiny bucket, you’ll deprive them of water, air, room, sunlight, and nutrients.

Read More – How To Make Your Tomato Plants Grow Faster For A Bumper Crop

Caring For Your 5-Gallon Tomato Plant

Watering tomato and basil plants growing in small buckets or pots.

Caring for your tomato plants in a container requires special attention if you want healthy growth and a bountiful harvest.

Consider the following.

Water Requirements And Dry Spells

Tomato plants in a 5-gallon container have specific water challenges. A 5-gallon bucket usually has inferior water retention compared to a larger pot, so you must watch it to ensure it never dries. At the same time, never let the soil waterlog, as soaked soil can lead to root rot. So, instead of measuring water, aim to keep the soil moist throughout the day. (A few inches per week should be okay. But monitor the soil! Keep it damp.)

Proper drainage is also essential for healthy container tomato plant growth. Ensure adequate draining holes to help excess moisture escape. The tomato plant root ball – but not the foliage should stay moist.

Nutrients And Heavy Feeders

Tomato plants are famously heavy feeders. They need many nutrients to grow and produce a bountiful harvest, especially if they grow in a tiny container.

One way to provide ongoing feeding is to use slow-release fertilizers. These fertilizers formulate to release nutrients gradually over time and provide a steady nutrient supply to the growing tomato plant. Another option is to use liquid fertilizers, which you can apply to the soil or foliage for quick absorption.

Organic fertilizers like worm compost castings work marvelously on the tomato plant’s soil to improve nutrient content and promote healthy growth.

Nearly any fertilizer marketed for potted tomato plants should work fine. But remember, many fertilizers vary in nutritional content and feeding routines. So, always follow the instructions for any tomato fertilizer you use. Choose organic when you can!

Read More – What To Plant With Tomatoes To Keep Bugs Away – 19 Fabulous Tomato Companion Plants!

Overview Of Tomato Plant Varieties

Tomato plants growing in a bucket alongside a sunny windowsill.

Choosing the correct tomato variety for your 5-gallon bucket or larger container ensures healthy growth. The problem is that selecting a new tomato plant cultivar is exhausting.

The options can feel overwhelming, from indeterminate to determinate, genetically modified to heirlooms, cherry to beefsteak, and everything in between. Each cultivar’s characteristics vary, like flavor, size, color, and growth habits.

Choosing The Right Variety For A 5-Gallon Bucket

Not all tomato plants are suited for container planting, and selecting the wrong type could lead to stunted growth or even failure to bear fruit.

Determinate Vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes

Determinate tomatoes grow to a maximum height of four feet tall and do not require caging or staking. These tomatoes produce a large crop over a short period, making them ideal for those seeking a predictable and high yield.

  • Celebrity, Roma, Baby Boomer Hybrid, Carolina Gold Hybrid, and Patio Hybrid are some of the most popular determinate tomato varieties.

Determinate tomatoes are our top pick for container growing. They have an easily-tracked harvest schedule, are stout, and only take up a little space. They’re perfect.

Let’s also discuss indeterminate tomatoes. These tomato plants are much lengthier and require support, care, and effort. Unlike determinate tomato plants, indeterminate plants produce fruit throughout the season until the frost kills them.

  • Brandywine, Sungold, Black Krim, Golden Rave, and Cherokee Purple are some of the most popular indeterminate tomato varieties.

Indeterminate tomatoes are superb for a raised garden bed or backyard plot. But, since they are so lengthy, vine-like, and sprawling, indeterminate tomato plants are inferior container-growing choices. Choose dwarfy, compact, determinate cultivars instead. 

Read More – How Much Sun Do Tomatoes Need to Ripen? No Splitting or Sunscald!

Small Determinate Varieties And Cherry Tomatoes

Growing tiny cherry tomatoes in lovely hanging pots or buckets.

Small determinate cultivars are perfect for growing in a 5-gallon bucket. Determinate tomatoes are our top pick overall. These tomatoes are sumptuous for container gardening as their compact size helps them thrive in a smaller space.

Determinate tomatoes come in various colors, ranging from red and yellow to green and black, and their small size makes them perfect for snacking or as a garnish.

But we also confess that not all our favorite container cultivars are determinate. We also love a select few indeterminate tomato cultivars for container growing. One such variety is the Sweet 100. Sweet 100s are an indeterminate cherry tomato variety famous for their lovely, slightly acidic taste and are ideal for salads. 

The Yellow Pear tomato is another excellent indeterminate variety with a distinct pear shape and a bright, sweet flavor. Either indeterminate tomato grows excellently in containers.

Meanwhile, one of our favorite determinate varieties, the Roma tomato, is perfect for making sauce due to its thicker flesh and lower water content. Its stout growing nature matches splendidly with a five to 20-gallon grow pot.

If you decide to grow Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes in a 5-gallon pot, remember that they are an indeterminate tomato cultivar! They can grow surprisingly long. So, it may be wise to stake them, even in the pot, to ensure they don’t topple over in the wind. Or, you can upgrade your 5-gallon pot to a ten or 20-gallon pot if you want a more stable base and more room to stretch.

The Benefits Of Growing Tomatoes In Five-Gallon Buckets

There are several advantages to using buckets instead of planting tomatoes in the garden soil. One benefit is using fresh soil each season, reducing the chances of blossom end rot and tomato blight. Starting with new soil and sterile containers also helps minimize pest problems.

Another benefit is the raised plant level that the buckets provide. This waist-high height makes watering, fertilizing, and pruning the plants much easier on your back, knees, hips, and feet. It also makes harvesting the tomatoes more comfortable, eliminating the need to bend down to pick them.

Read More – 13 Tastiest And Best Tomatoes For Containers And Pots

Preparing The 5-Gallon Bucket For Planting

Cultivating backyard tomato plants in a large bucket or pot.

Prepare the container before planting your baby tomato plants or seeds. We can show you how. Here are the precise steps we always follow before planting potted tomatoes, regardless of cultivar or growing medium.

Sizing The Container Appropriately

Choosing the right container size is essential for growing healthy tomato plants. A container of at least five gallons provides enough space for the roots to grow and absorb necessary nutrients. A container with a diameter of at least 18 to 24 inches is recommended for indeterminate varieties, as these types of tomatoes can grow up to six to eight feet tall.

Following tomato spacing guidelines when planting them in containers is essential to avoid overcrowding. Overcrowding almost always leads to a smaller crop of tomatoes or no harvest.

It would be best to grow only one tomato plant per 5-gallon bucket to ensure that it gets enough nutrients, space, water, and sunlight for growth.

And remember drainage! Offer drainage by drilling holes in the container’s bottom and using a mixture of potting and garden soil to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.

(Most Terra Cotta pots already have drainage holes. And many modern growing bag materials don’t need them. But it’s still worth noting and double-checking.)

Space Requirements For Tomatoes Planted In Containers

Tomato plant spacing is the key here. The distance between plants should be about two feet for determinate varieties and three to four feet for indeterminate varieties. The container’s size should correspond to the type of tomato plant with larger varieties needing larger containers such as ten or 20-gallon buckets. Remember that proper drainage holes are essential to prevent root rot.

Be mindful of positioning in hotter weather, as containers may dry out quickly, and tomatoes drink a ton of water under the searing summer sun.

With proper care, indeterminate tomato plants can grow up to six feet tall, even in a 5-gallon container. Determinate tomato plants will be shorter, around two and a half to four feet tall.

Preparing The Soil For Planting In A 5-Gallon Bucket

tomatoes growing in bucket containers

The first step is to choose a well-draining soil that will provide the necessary nutrients for the tomato plants to thrive. Ensure the soil is of good quality and free from contaminants that could harm the plants.

(Nearly any soil potting mix for potted tomatoes will work fine. But, as always, try to choose an organic blend if possible.)

Next, fill the bucket with the soil, leaving enough space at the top to avoid spillage when watering. Incorporate slow-release fertilizer or compost into the soil to keep the plants well-nourished throughout the growing season. Remember, it’s also essential to prevent over-fertilization, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Use a good amount of water to wet the soil thoroughly. From this point forward, monitor your soil. Never let it get too dry. Now’s a great time to double-check your drainage holes to ensure they work.

If you’re transplanting baby tomato plants, planting holes should be about twice as wide as the root ball. Otherwise, bury your tomato seeds about one-quarter of an inch deep in the moist soil.

Positioning The Container To Maximize Sunlight Exposure

Location is everything for your potted tomatoes. Your tomato plants need as much sunlight as you can offer. The container and plant need at least six hours of daily sunlight. Not offering enough sunlight leads to smaller yields and weaker, unhealthy plants.

When determining the best location for the container, consider the time of day the area receives the most sun and whether trees or buildings shade the area. A south-facing area is typically the best location as it gets the most sun throughout the day.

Insufficient sunlight can have several consequences on tomato plants, such as stunted growth, reduced fruit production, small fruit size, and yellowing leaves. Choose a location that provides enough sunlight and monitor the plants frequently for signs of stress, pests, or nutrient deficiencies.

How many tomato plants per 5 gallon bucket and tomato spacing tips!

Conclusion

Thank you for reading our 5-gallon tomato plant guide. We recommend one or two tomato plants per container, depending on the size of the tomato cultivar. Usually, determinate tomato plants are smaller, and indeterminate tomato plants are more extensive.

What about you?

  • Have you ever grown potted tomatoes before?
  • Do you think a 5-gallon container is too tiny for a sizeable indeterminate tomato plant?
  • Do you agree that a 5-gallon container should only have one tomato plant?
  • Have you ever sown tomato seeds directly in the soil? Or do you prefer buying baby tomato plants at the nursery?
  • What are your favorite tomato cultivars to grow? Have you tried dwarf tomatoes?

We grow tomato plants yearly, and we love brainstorming with like-minded gardeners.

Please chime in and let us know what you’re growing this year!

Thanks again for reading.

Have a great day!

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