Best 5 Gallon Bucket Garden Ideas & Yard Uses

Three 5 Gallon Buckets on a Wooden Pallet in a Bucket Garden SettingThree 5 Gallon Buckets on a Wooden Pallet in a Bucket Garden Setting

A Container Fit for the Outdoors

In many of our homes, the 5 gallon plastic bucket– also known as a 5 gallon plastic pail– is a staple item. It may have once stored concrete mix, paint, or ice melt, but its usefulness is far from over! Thanks to the durability and weather resistance of 5 gallon buckets, this handy container can be repurposed for a variety of outdoor uses. From creative planters to bucket garden ideas, we’ve compiled a list of our 5 favorite ways to turn a 5 gallon plastic bucket into a garden addition that's impossible to resist. 

Decontamination Before Creation

Most 5 gallon plastic buckets are made of high density polyethylene (HDPE), an FDA-Approved plastic. To check what type of plastic your bucket is made of, look for the triangular resin identification code and use this guide to plastics to decipher your bucket’s plastic type. 

Note that while The Cary Company does sell steel 5 gallon buckets, the projects described in this article are only suited for plastic 5 gallon buckets.

Regardless of FDA-Approval, if your 5 gallon plastic bucket has previously been used to store paint or other toxic substances, it may not be suitable for growing produce. It is also important that you understand what BPA is and determine that your bucket is BPA-free. Previously unused, BPA-free 5 gallon buckets can be a better option for food-related projects such as bucket gardens or chicken feeders. Thoroughly clean your bucket before your project to avoid any contamination.

1) 5 Gallon Bucket Garden Ideas

If this is your first time hearing about a 5 gallon bucket garden, think of it as a mobile home for your cultivated goods. Rather than planting your flower, fruit, or vegetable seeds directly into the soil, fill a 5 gallon bucket with dirt and plant your seeds in the bucket. The result is a flexible, above-ground garden that is transportable, budget-friendly, and easy to rearrange as it grows!

Bucket gardens are a wonderful option for anyone who does not have access to plantable land or intends to move. They can also be adapted to fit smaller spaces, such as balconies and patios, to make gardening possible in almost any setting. 

Setting Up Your Buckets

There are a few steps you need to take to ensure that your 5 gallon bucket garden is maintaining plant growth. Bucket gardens support most plants, but it is important to recognize the individual needs of every plant type. Generally, you want to allot one bucket per plant. Use your best discretion; plants like carrots, radishes, beets, beans, peas, spinach, and chard can have multiple seedlings in one bucket.

steps to planting seedlings in a 5 gallon plastic bucketsteps to planting seedlings in a 5 gallon plastic bucket
  1. Begin by drilling holes on the bottom of your bucket for water drainage. About 4-6 dime-sized holes will suffice.
  2. Next, to prevent the potting mix from falling out of the drainage holes, create a thin base layer of coffee filters, gravel, vermiculite, or another porous material. Make sure not to completely block the drainage holes as this can lead to root rot.
  3. Fill your 5 gallon bucket with the potting soil of your choice. Do not fill the bucket to the brim; leave about 4 inches from the top free.
  4. Plant your seeds or seedlings in the bucket! Add compost, fertilizer, and water as recommended for your plants’ optimal health.

Arranging Your Buckets

Bucket gardens may be movable, but choosing a great spot right off the bat will help you avoid excessive lifting once your plants have sprouted. Select a sunny spot that is exposed to about 8-10 hours of sunlight per day. Ideally, aim for a location on level ground, not in a low-lying area. Keep in mind that you should be able to conveniently access your garden.

If your 5 gallon bucket garden is made up of multiple buckets, you will want to arrange them. While the creative possibilities are endless, we’ve compiled a short list of the most common arrangements for 5 gallon bucket gardens. All mentions of cutting the plastic bucket can be achieved using a hole saw, jig saw, or drill.

bucket garden on wooden palletsbucket garden on wooden pallets

Wood Pallet

Wood pallets provide a lightweight yet durable base on which you can place your 5 gallon buckets, and they don’t require complex assembly. Stack them for added height!

Wooden Stand

There are several styles of bucket garden stands you can construct to raise your bucket garden. Made out of wood, these stands can have one or mulitple tiers. To ensure that your stand properly supports your buckets, famailairize yourself with the dimensions of a standard 5 gallon bucket. 

Bucket Tower

For some plants, such as strawberries, constructing a bucket garden tower is an excellent idea! While there is more than one method for creating a bucket garden tower, all consist of cutting holes in the sides of the bucket through which the plants can grow.

Hanging Bucket

The hanging bucket option is great for plants like tomatoes. For this 5 gallon bucket garden idea, cut a hole in the bottom of your bucket and hang it from a frame, hook, beam, or alike.

2) 5 Gallon Bucket Planter Ideas

Looking for a planter with a spacious interior and sturdy exterior? Look no further– there are many ways to decorate a 5 gallon bucket and transform it into a visually pleasing container for your florals and greenery. Some of these decorating options can also be incorporated in a bucket garden, as long as no food-toxic supplies are used.

  • Burlap Sack: One of the simplest methods to decorate a 5 gallon bucket consists of covering your bucket with a burlap sack. Use rope to secure it in place without adhesive.
  • Rope: The rope decorating method requires you to wrap thick craft rope around the bucket, securing the ends in place. You can wrap the entirety of the bucket, or just the lip for an accent.
  • Wood/Straw/Etc.: Lining your bucket with thin pieces of wood, straw mats, and sticks creates a natural appearance.
  • Paint: Spray paint and decorative paint are classic decorating options. Avoid painting the interior so the paint does not affect your plant. Avoid toxic paint when growing food.
  • Purchase Different Colors: The Cary Company offers many unique colors of 5 gallon plastic buckets. You can even customize your own pail!
5 gallon bucket garden planter5 gallon bucket garden planter

3) Gardening Tool Storage

We wouldn’t have planters or 5 gallon bucket gardens without our handy gardening tools. Conveniently, 5 gallon plastic buckets can also be used to store and transport gardening tools.

Aside from serving as a general purpose container, you can fashion or purchase a tool organizer, also known as a tool caddy or bucket apron, for your 5 gallon plastic bucket. If sewing is your forte, you can sew a circle of pockets that slip on the bucket like an insert or liner and hang over the bucket’s rim.

No sewing, no problem! Cut an old pair of jeans as if you were creating a skirt for your 5 gallon bucket. The pockets are great for organizing small tools, while the bucket’s center can hold heavier equipment.

4) Compost Bucket

Your 5 gallon plastic bucket can also be used as a compost bin for food and household scraps.

Similar to prepping your bucket for plants, you will have to create small holes in the bucket's bottom and sides to allow for air movement. Skipping this step will trap the scent of your food scraps in the bucket, leading to unpleasant smells.

Create a base out of dirt and some dry leaves to support your compost. Compostable items that offer your plants nutrients include fruit peels, veggie scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea leaves.

Remember to turn and aerate your compost weekly to help the elements decompose faster. Keep your compost moist by watering it when dry, and aerating it when it feels too saturated. To fend off unwelcome critters, keep a bucket lid on the container and consider suspending your compost bucket above ground.

5 gallon bucket full of compost5 gallon bucket full of compost

5) Poultry Beds & Feeders

It’s time to ruffle some feathers! There are a handful of ways in which you can utilize a 5 gallon plastic bucket around birds, from chickens to songbirds. 

  • Chicken Nesting Bed- Arrange 5 gallon buckets on their side and fill with straw. Slip into a frame structure or use an alternative stabilizing method.
  • Chicken Feeder - Create “windows” for your chickens to access their feed by drilling large holes near the base of your bucket. You can also insert short portions of a PVC pipe in the holes for a “tunnel” effect.
  • Birdhouse - A 5 gallon plastic bucket can make a great enclosure for your local birds! With a few holes for entrances and some creative additions like perches and a roof, you can make a lovely birdhouse.

Buckets of Opportunity

Don’t just add these 5 gallon bucket garden and yard ideas to your bucket list–try them today! The Cary Company has a fantastic selection of 5 gallon buckets for a wide variety of applications, from food and dry goods to chemicals and more. For more ideas on how to use a 5 gallon bucket as well as visuals for the ideas discussed above, visit our Pinterest!

Have any questions? Contact one of our product specialists available to answer any questions and recommend products for you. Give us a call at 630-629-6600 or email us at