What plants can you grow…besides tomatoes…upside-down when you are gardening in a bucket? Well actually, a LOT of different edible plants, and there are a wide variety of reasons to do so.
My bucket garden exists for two reasons.
First, I wanted my culinary herbs close at hand to the kitchen. I have a raised bed veggie garden about 100 feet from the house, but I started gardening on my porch rails so I could grab some basil or chives without hiking to the garden.
Second, my regular garden spot is partially shaded. Many veggies can deal with 4-6 hours of sunlight daily, but tomatoes aren’t one of them. Tomatoes need FULL sun, 6-8 hours a day, and my garden spot just doesn’t provide that.
My porch does, though, so I decided to really fill the railings up. I already had the culinary herbs out there…what’s a few tomato plants added to the rails?
OK…OK…there IS a third reason. The combination of my love of tomatoes and my laziness drove me to find a way to bring my tomatoes closer to the front door…so sue me!
Anyway, let’s take a look at what we can grow in the bucket garden I showed you how to make in Part 1, OK? We’ll lead off with the obvious:
Tomatoes are the first vegetable most people think of when they think of growing a garden upside-down in a bucket. That is what the commercials promote, and tomatoes are usually the first vegetable folks think of when they think of growing some of their own veggies.
Any size of tomato CAN be grown hanging upside-down, though the small cherry and grape varieties are the easiest to manage. The larger…thus heavier…varieties grow well but take more care because you cannot “cage” or stake them like you would when planted in the ground. You need to tie them up to the bucket or tie a cage on upside-down under the bucket to support the weight of the tomatoes or you might find yourself with broken stalks and damaged plants.
With that said, my three “garden in a bucket” tomato plants this year are Pink Brandywines, a variety that regularly produces fruit weighing over a pound. I have my grape tomatoes growing on my porch in a pot…go figger!
Cucumbers are vining vegetables, and, like most vining veggies they grow well hung upside-down. While both pickling and slicing cucumbers will grow well hung upside-down, pickling cukes will be somewhat easier to manage.
The only cucumbers to avoid completely in your upside-down garden are bush cucumber varieties.
Bonus info: The difference between pickling and brining cucumbers is that pickling cukes are shorter, fatter, have lighter green skin with dark/black spines bred for appearance, and have thinner skins.
Eggplant grows well in an upside-down garden, with one caveat…think small varieties.
The larger varieties grow well, but are so heavy they will damage the plant without almost constant babysitting.
They are eggplants, so think egg shaped when you are considering which variety to grow, as they are smaller than the elongated varieties. Miniature and some of the slender Asian varieties grow well upside-down too.
Beans…both pole beans and bush beans…grow well upside-down. Since they produce a smaller, lighter vegetable than crops like omatoes and eggplants, they don’t need to be supported like they do when grown in a ground-level garden. Just let ‘em grow, keep ‘em watered and fertilized…and enjoy.
Peppers are closely related to tomatoes o it stands to reason that they would do well in your upside-down garden. All varieties of pepper will do well…as a matter of fact, peppers have an advantage over their tomato cousins. They are full of air, not water, and thus are lighter and need little or no support.
Now…you didn’t think we were just going to talk about what you can hang from the bottom of your bucket garden, did you? Are you going to waste all that space on top?
The fact is, you can grow quite a bit of stuff in the top of your upside-down garden…as long as you remember a few…two actually…rules:
First, some plants are a lot like siblings…they like to fight. They simply don’t get along and can’t be grown well close together. Mixing them in the same bucket can cause off flavors and, in some cases, hurt the growth of one of the plants.
I’m not an expert here, so rather than tell you what you CAN’T grow above the above mentioned plants, I’ll tell you what I know you CAN grow along with them.
Second, remember, some plants take up so much room underground that they would crowd out the root system of the hanging plant. Carrots and onions come to mind.
Lettuce can be a good grower in the top of an upside-down garden. While I have never grown it that way, I have seen it done successfully. As a personal opinion, I’d suggest sticking with leaf lettuces rather than growing head lettuce, because of weight.
Radishes are good small-space growers and should do well in the top of a bucket garden. A caution…when I think radishes I automatically think carrots, but in the case of a bucket garden I don’t think carrots would be a good idea unless you are using a BIG bucket. The bottom of the bucket is going to be a large mass of roots, and if you don’t have enough soil on top of those roots, a carrot of any size could grow down into that root ball and make harvesting hard, if not impossible.
Garden Cress I the easiest of the cresses to grow and adds a peppery Zing! To salads. It is a fast grower and can be harvested as soon as two weeks after seeding. One caution…it HATES hot weather and is best grown in early spring and after mid-summer when the weather is cooler. For that reason you will probably only get one planting in…the top of a bucket garden doesn’t have dirt until starter plants are already planted, and by then it’s usually too hot for cress.
Herbs are particularly well suited to growing in the top of a bucket garden for a variety of reasons. First, folks tend to keep their upside-down gardens closer to the house than a regular garden that is typically set out past the regular yard. When herbs are grown in the buckets they are usually closer to where they get used…the kitchen. Going all the way to the regular garden isn’t problem when harvesting a bunch of squash, okra, or onions, but it’s an inconvenience to make the trip for a few basil leaves or a handful of chives.
Also, most herbs tend to have a shallow root system and are friendly to the main host plant in the hanging bucket garden, giving them room to grow.
Bucket gardens work well for different reasons. For some, like me, they afford more sun for sun loving plants when your regular garden spot is a touch shade-deficient. For some, also like me, they are a way to keep the most used veggies closer to the kitchen.
For others, especially the urban homesteader whose “regular” type garden space is meager or non-existent, a hanging bucket garden is often the only thing that can be done to produce your own food.
Now if I can only find a way to raise a milk cow on an apartment balcony…