How to Build a Simple and Basic Double Tomato Container with Water Resevoir

Picture of How to Build a Simple and Basic Double Tomato Container with Water Resevoir
Wow! A lot of words to say two five gallon paint buckets put together so you have a back-up water resevoir in the bottom. Tomatoes will grow really well in containers but you can't let them dry out even for a day. I recommend a 5 gallon bucket or larger. It is really hard to ensure you don't let container tomatoes dry out. You want to give yourself three advanatages. The first is using a 5 gallon container or larger. The second is using a moisture control soil mix and the the third is using this dual container design.

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Step 1: The Basic Materials: 2 Five Gallon Buckets, Stones and Moisture Control Soil

Picture of The Basic Materials: 2 Five Gallon Buckets, Stones and Moisture Control Soil
The 5 gallon buckets will cost you about $4 each from any home improvement center. Different centers have different colors. You will need a bag of pebbles, the size in the picture. They can cost anywhere from $4.99 to $6.99. It will however supply enough pebbles for 3 or more containers. The soil can be store bought or hand made. The key is a lot of peat moss or other organic matter that will hold water. Any of the commerical bags of moisture control garden mix while work well. The cost for a large bag is about $9.99 and that should be enough for 3 or more containers.

Step 2: One Container is the Resevoir and It Gets Pebbles and a Small Hole or Two

Picture of One Container is the Resevoir and It Gets Pebbles and a Small Hole or Two
The first conatiner will be the resevoir container. First put a hole no larger then 1/2 inch wide about 3 inches from the bottom of one 5 gallon container. The hole is there to let excess water above the 3 inch resevior flow out. Too much water, that is if you tomato sits in it , will also harm the plant.

Once you put the 1/2 inch hole, 3 inches from the bottom, add pebbles up to the level of the hole. You resevoir bucket/container is now complete.
pwitkowski11 months ago
You mention standard watering and not letting the soil dry out. What would you instruct about watering?
oldngrumpy2 years ago
I hate to pop anyone's bubble, but there are a couple of problems that should be pointed out with this build. I have made several self watering containers and learned some things the hard way, but some things are simply matters of physics.

As soon as enough water is drawn into the soil, or evaporates, to create an air space between the top container and the water level the water will stop moving into the soil. While plant roots may eventually seek out the water, soil nutrients can't be transferred to plants in dry soil and your plants will suffer deficiencies. This build would, at best, make use of about 1/4 in of the available water.

There are a couple of possible remedies for this. A couple of larger holes in the container bottom could accommodate absorbent rags to act as wicks to transfer water. These should be long enough to extend to the bottom of the holding (lower) bucket and almost to the top of the soil. One could also cut an opening in the bottom of the planting bucket and install a basket to hold soil and then adjust the drain hole to match the height of the basket. Pond plant baskets or strawberry containers work well for this. I would suggest a landscape cloth barrier between the soil and water in either case to prevent plant roots from actually reaching into the bottom container.

Also, while fine for starting multiple plants, the 5 gal bucket is marginal for even 1 full size tomato plant. With varying sizes of storage containers available for cheap it is wise to go larger. The lower center of gravity of the storage containers may also avoid finding your plants laying down after a wind storm. In any event, secure them upright as much as possible.
TheRustedGarden (author)  oldngrumpy2 years ago
Well experience for 5 years has had me grow many large and successful tomato plants. It is very effective. Wind wont plow a 5 gallon container over. This model even has stones in it. It is a water reservoir not a self water wicking system. The water system provide an excellent reservoir. Remember its not self watering system.

It will provide you several days of water if you miss a standard watering. You should also use a diluted fertilizer with all container vegetables. The tomato will also root 100% into the stone an use every drop of water. There is not gap problem. Nature takes care of it.

rookie12 years ago
Well written and a great idea. Thanks for sharing.