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50 Brilliant Uses For a 5 Gallon Bucket

50 Brilliant Uses For a 5 Gallon Bucket

A 5 gallon bucket is an incredibly useful thing to have around your garden, home or homestead.

There are hundreds of different ways to make use of one.

So, whether you buy them new, or, better yet, reuse, recycle or re-purpose ones that were used as containers for something that you bought, they can be very useful things to have around.

To inspire you to make full use of your 5 gallon bucket, here are 50 brilliant uses that you might like to try:

5 Gallon Bucket Ideas for Growing Plants

This first batch of ideas all involve using 5 gallon buckets to grow plants.

But growing plants in a 5 gallon bucket is not simply a case of bunging some growing medium into one and sowing your seeds and planting it up.

There are a number of different container solutions for growing plants – and a 5 gallon bucket can be perfect for a number of them. Some ways to grow plants in a 5 gallon bucket include using it:

1. For Growing Tomatoes Upside Down

Upside down tomato plants

This space-saving idea involves cutting a hole in the base of your bucket and hanging it up on a fence, wall, or from the crop bars in a greenhouse or polytunnel.

Filling your bucket with growing medium, you can then place your tomato plants so they grow out from the base – pointing downwards rather than up.

Planting up the top of your bucket or buckets with companion plants like basil or oregano will really help you make the most of all the space you have available for growing food.

Upside Down Tomato Plants @

2. As a Simple 5 Gallon Bucket Hanging Planter

The handle on a 5 gallon bucket also makes it ideal for using as an alternative to a hanging basket.

By planting trailing plants around the rim of your bucket, you can cover the bucket itself and create something that looks great from something that might otherwise have been thrown away.

Attach these hanging planters to sturdy hooks, or string them along sturdy wires as part of a vertical gardening scheme to make the most of your space, inside or out.

Hanging Basket @

3. To Create a Simple 5 Gallon Bucket Windowsill Garden

5 gallon buckets are ideal for those who want to grow food indoors on their windowsills.

Since they are waterproof, they will catch all the drips, and as long as you do not over-water, herbs, salad leaves and other plants can do great in them.

Inside your home, you might not like the look of a plain bucket. But you can disguise them with burlap or other materials, raffia or rope work, or by painting them with an eco-friendly chalk paint.

If you are a whiz in the kitchen and serious about your culinary herbs, 5 gallon buckets could give you all the space you need for your ideal indoors herb garden. By adding a pipe coming up out of the growing medium, and a lower reservoir, you can even make your windowsill garden a sub-irrigation planter.

Sub-irrigated buckets @

4. To Make a Mini Hydroponic Garden

With a 5 gallon bucket, you could also consider growing plants without any soil or compost at all.

Hydroponics is growing plants in water and a 5 gallon bucket hydroponic system is the easiest and cheapest way to get started with this growing system.

You will need to customise the lid of the bucket with mesh sections to allow plants to poke through, or buy a special lid for the purpose. You will also need a grow medium, such as expanded clay, an air hose, aquarium pump and check valve. You’ll also need to add a nutrient mix to the water.

Once you’ve set up your system, you will be amazed by how quickly plants will grow. Note: a dark colored bucket is better for this, as light could encourage algae to grow.

Hydroponic buckets @

5. Make Wicking Grow Buckets for a Greenhouse

In a greenhouse, you could grow tomatoes and many other plants in 5 gallon buckets that have been plumbed into an irrigation system. (This can be fed with rainwater collected from the top of the structure.)

Reservoirs of water joined with pipes at the base of a row of 5 gallon buckets are topped with mesh or colanders and the growing medium is then added. When planted up, water will wick up through the soil and be taken up by plant roots. This is a great way to keep greenhouse plants well watered.

6. Make a Strawberry Tower Vertical Garden

Strawberry tower vertical garden
Image credit: Lena Wood @ Flickr

Five gallon buckets can not only be used joined up side by side in a greenhouse or elsewhere in your garden. They can also be stacked vertically to increase your growing area.

Saw the bottoms off two 5 gallon buckets and drill two inch holes at regular intervals around the edges of both buckets.

Place the first bucket upside down and wedge the other bucket upright onto its base. Line this tower with burlap sack or another material and fill it with soil and compost. (You could also include a drip irrigation system.) You can then slit open the lining at each of the holes and plant up your strawberries (or salad, or other crops).

7. To Contain Spreading Plants in Beds or Borders

Five gallon buckets can also be buried almost completely in the soil of a garden bed to contain the roots and prevent the spread of a fast-growing, quick spreading plant that might otherwise take over the whole area.

For example, you could use a bucket as a planting area for mint in a herb garden, so you can get the benefit of the mint without it taking over and outcompeting other plants grown nearby.

5 Gallon Bucket Ideas to Keep Your Garden Growing

There are plenty of ways to grow plants in 5 gallon buckets. But using them as plant containers or planters is not the only way that they can be used to keep your garden growing.

You can also consider using them:

8. To Make a Self-Watering Garden

By placing a ball valve (like that in a toilet cistern) into a 5 gallon bucket, and linking that to your rainwater harvesting system, and a garden irrigation system, you can create a regulating valve for a self-watering garden.

This means that (as long as rainwater where you live is sufficient) your garden will receive a consistent flow of water even while you are away from home.

Self watering container garden @

9. As a 5 Gallon Bucket Compost Container

A 5 gallon bucket with a lid can be the perfect place to stow fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen. What is more, the handle makes it easy to carry your container of food scraps out to a compost heap, compost bin or other compost container in your garden.

DIY compost bin @

10. To Make a DIY Compost Tumbler

A 5 gallon bucket can also help you with your compost in other ways.

For example, by affixing a bucket on its side onto a frame, and affixing a handle for turning it, you can create a small-scale compost tumbler.

Tumbling compost can speed up the process of decomposition and help make sure that you get a high quality end product.

11. To Make a Compost Sifter

You could use 5 gallon buckets and mesh on a similar frame and with a turning handle to make a compost sifter.

Good quality compost will fall out through the holes, leaving less well composted material, twigs and any stones etc. behind. This fine, sifted compost will be ideal for sowing seeds.

12. As a Small 5 Gallon Bucket Wormery

Starting a worm bin in a five gallon bucket

You can also use 5 gallon buckets to establish a composting system using worms.

This is a simple vermiculture system and one which can be perfect for inside smaller homes or in a small garden.

Extra 5 gallon buckets with holes drilled in the bottom can be placed atop your bucket wormery. Worms will migrate to the higher chamber, so you can then harvest the vermicompost from the bottom.

5 gallon wormery @

13. To Make Bokashi

Things like meat, fish etc. that cannot be added to a traditional compost heap or wormery could be composted using the bokashi method.

Placing layers of special bokashi bran and food scraps into a bokashi bucket can accelerate the speed at which they break down and provide a valuable fertiliser for your plants in your garden.

A simple 5 gallon bucket is perfect for making your own bokashi.

Add a tap to drain off the bokashi tea near the base of the bucket, and consider a second bucket so you can always have one to add to while the other is fermenting and you could reduce food waste even further in next to no time.

Bokashi bucket @

14. To Make a Liquid Plant Feed

A 5 gallon bucket can also be the perfect container in which to make a liquid plant feed.

One with a lid will mean that you do not have to contend with unpleasant smells during the process. Adding plant material in a mesh bag or sack within the bucket, and a tap at the base to drain off the resultant liquid plant feed will make the process easier.

Homemade liquid fertilizers @

15. To Make Leaf Mold

Drill holes into 5 gallon buckets and these can also be ideal for making the valuable soil fertiliser, leaf mold, for your garden.

Simply collect your garden leaves (and shred them if you wish to speed up the process) then pack them into your aerated buckets, wet them a little if they are very dry, and stack and store them for a couple of years.

Buckets make ideal containers for this as once ready, the leaf mold will be easy to move to the planting areas where it is required. This is a great solution for making leaf mold where space is limited.

Making and Using Leaf Mold @

16. To Collect Foraged/Harvested Food or Materials

Collecting plums into five gallon bucket

Five gallon buckets are also simply handy to have around in your garden or on your homestead because they can be used to easily transport a wide range of produce from your garden, or other materials.

Keeping a 5 gallon bucket in your vehicle while you are out and about will also make it easier for you to stop and gather materials from the wider area. For example, you might be able to collect wild fruits from nearby hedgerows or woodlands, or fungi (if you are confident of your identification skills).

It could also be handy for collecting logs/ kindling for a fire, for example.

Using a 5 Gallon Bucket to Increase Biodiversity & Attract Wildlife

You can also use a 5 gallon bucket to keep your garden or homestead thriving and productive by creating items that will help to increase biodiversity and attract wildlife.

There are plenty of 5 gallon bucket projects that you could try. For example, you could use one:

17. For a 5 Gallon Bucket Mini Wildlife Pond

In a small garden, or even in a tiny outside space, a 5 gallon bucket can be buried in the ground, decorated with stones etc. and planted up with aquatic plants.

Where there is not space for a full-size pond, even such a miniscule wildlife pond could be great for attracting beneficial wildlife. Just be sure to fill the pond with rainwater, not tap water, and leave a stick propped up against the edge so creatures can climb out if they fall in.

18. To Make a Garden Water Feature

There are plenty of different ways to incorporate water in your garden. You could also consider using 5 gallon buckets as the reservoirs for, and to hold a pump for, a small garden waterfall, fountain or other water feature.

Not only will the flowing water sound and look lovely, the water might also attract and provide a drink for birds and a range of other wildlife. Water feature projects using 5 gallon buckets can range from the super simple to rather complex and elaborate.

19. To Make a Bucket Bird House

An upcycled bucket could make a great bird house – to give garden birds a place to nest.

Simply take your lidded bucket and drill holes or cut openings of a suitable size for the birds you wish to attract. This could be affixed to a plinth or hung from a tree. You can add to or decorate your bird house however you see fit, to make it better for birds and to make it fit in attractively with the rest of your garden.

Bucket bird house @

20. To Make a Bug Habitat

Drill some holes in a lidless 5 gallon bucket and place it on its side, half sunk in soil, in a shady and protected corner of your garden.

Fill the part of the bucket that is above the soil with brush, twigs, leaves and other organic material, and it will be a great habitat for a wide range of bugs and beetles.

You might even find that other creatures, like toads for example, make this bug habitat their home.

21. To Make a Bee Hotel

Bee hotel

By affixing a 5 gallon lidless bucket securely through the base onto a garden wall or fence, and filling it with logs with holes drilled in them, hollow reeds and/or bamboo canes, facing outwards at the open end, you can also make a bee hotel, which will help ensure that plenty of pollinators make their home in your garden.

Uses For a 5 Gallon Bucket For Food & Drink Preparation

Moving from the garden into your home, a 5 gallon bucket can also be useful in different ways as you prepare food and drink in various ways.

For example, you might use one:

22. To Make a DIY 5 Gallon Bucket Salad Spinner

If you grow a lot of salad and other fresh produce, you could consider making your own salad spinner with a 5 gallon bucket.

There are plenty of commercial salad spinners out there but you can consider making your own with a bucket, a basket and a crank handle.

23. For a 5 Gallon Bucket Honey Strainer System

A couple of 5 gallon buckets along with some bungee cord, 5 gallon paint strainer netting, and a honey gate can be used to create a system for straining honey from natural comb.

Such a DIY system is just a fraction of the cost of a commercially available solution.

Honey strainer @

24. To Brew Some Home-Made Beer

Another use for a 5 gallon bucket is as a fermenter vessel for a batch of home brewed beer.

Your bucket should have a tight-fitting lid and you should also fit a spigot, and an airlock on top.

Another 5 gallon bucket could also come in handy to hold your sanitizer, to make the process of preparing all of your equipment easier.

How to brew beer at home @

25. To Make Some Apple Cider (Soft or Hard)

If you want to press apples for home-made apple cider (non-alcoholic or alcoholic), you do not necessarily have to purchase an expensive apple press to process a few apples.

People have been successful in making a small apple press using a 5 gallon bucket, reclaimed wood for a frame, and a simple car jack. Again, buckets can also be used at the fermentation stage.

How to make apple cider at home with a DIY press @

26. To Make a Wine From Home-Grown Produce

Buckets are also ideal for using in making a wide range of wines from home-grown produce. There are many different ingredients that you could use, from pea pods to summer fruits, to elderberries and, of course, traditional grapes.

Hillbilly wine @

DIY Projects Using a 5 Gallon Bucket

Branching out from food production and preparation, there are also a range of other DIY projects for which a 5 gallon bucket can be handy. For example, you might use one:

27. To Separate Clay From Garden Soil

Clay can be an incredibly useful resource around your homestead. But you might not be lucky enough to have pure clay deposits on your land.

Nonetheless, you may be able to separate the clay from your garden soil, so that you have a purer material that can be used, for example, in a range of craft projects.

Dig deep and grab some subsoil. Pound it with a rock or hammer then add it to a bucket with an equal amount of water, removing any larger debris. Leave it to stand at least overnight, then filter it through a ¼ inch screen. Let the mix settle, then pour off the excess water from the top. Repeat this process until you have a smooth mud, then hang it in mesh bags to dry to moldable clay consistency.

Processing clay the easy way @

28. To Mix Natural DIY Soaps & Cleansers

A 5 gallon bucket could also be useful to mix natural, cold-process soaps and cleansers. There are a huge range of different recipes that you could consider making, to reduce your reliance on commercial products and to make the most of natural produce from the area on and around your homestead.

Laundry soap @

29. To Pulp Paper & Card for Home Recycling

Another cool DIY project involves pulping down paper and card to make your own recycled paper for wrapping presents, for letter writing, or for other purposes.

A 5 gallon bucket can be handy to pulp down the shredded paper and card in water to create pulp, that can then be strained and dried to create your new recycled paper.

How to pulp paper at home @

30. To Clean & Pulp Plant Fibres for Cloth or Paper

A 5 gallon bucket could also be used as a receptacle for cleaning and pulping plant fibres for use in the making of cloth or paper. It could be used in the retting process, and for pulping the fibres.

Nettles, for example, provide one common plant fibre that you could consider making use of around your homestead.

31. To Dye Fabrics With Home-Made Plant Dyes

A recycled bucket could also be the perfect receptacle for using home-made plant dyes to dye natural fabrics. There are a range of traditional plant-based dyes that you could consider using to dye natural fabrics – whether these are purchased or you have made them yourself.

Uses For a 5 Gallon Bucket For Backyard Chickens

If you keep backyard chickens, or other poultry, there are plenty of other uses for a 5 gallon bucket.

For example, you might use one:

32. To Breed Mealworms

Breeding mealworms could be a sustainable way to supplement the diet of your poultry, or to use as fish food in an aquaponics system, or as a treat for garden birds.

One cheap and easy way to build a small-scale mealworm colony is by using buckets. By providing the mealworms with a suitable substrate within these containers, you can quickly develop a thriving and expanding mealworm population.

Mealworms @

33. To Create a Chicken Waterer System

You can also use a 5 gallon bucket to create a cost effective chicken waterer. You can create a system with a tray around the base that chickens can drink from, or a hanging chicken waterer with nozzles or chicken drinking cups.

5 gallon chicken waterer @

34. To Make a Simple 5 Gallon Bucket Chicken Feeder

There are also a number of different ways to turn a 5 gallon bucket into a simple and effective chicken feeder, so chickens can access their food but it is kept away from other creatures such as rodents.

A bucket of this size will hold around 25lbs of food, which will feed 10 hens for around 10 days.

Chicken feeder @

35. To Wash Eggs From Your Backyard Flock

You could also use a bucket to create a bubble egg cleaner that will make it easier for you to clean all your eggs. With a 5 gallon bucket egg washer you can wash dozens of eggs at the same time and shave minutes off the time it takes you to undertake this chore.

Chicken egg washer @

More Practical 5 Gallon Bucket Ideas for Your Home

There are plenty more ways to use a 5 gallon bucket around your home. Here are just a few more intriguing ideas that you might like to consider:

36. To Make a DIY Water Filter

By filling three 5 gallon buckets with gravel, sand and charcoal, you can create a simple yet effective water filtration system for your homestead.

This could be extremely useful in an emergency situation, and might also have potential for use in a greywater system, so you can use greywater from your home in your garden.

Emergency water filter @

37. To Create a Compost Toilet

For situations where you are off-grid and don’t have access to flushing toilets, you could consider making a simple compost toilet with nothing more than a bucket, a comfortable seat and lid, and some sawdust.

In a home, you could incorporate a simple bucket composting toilet into a wooden box, for a more comfortable and attractive solution.

Basic composting toilet @

38. Create a DIY Portable Air Conditioner

A 5 gallon bucket can also be used to make a DIY portable air conditioner with ice. While this will not be powerful enough to cool a whole room, it can be ideal to keep you cool in your home, or – providing a directed flow of cool air that can make things more bearable when temperatures rise. It is possible to power your portable air conditioner with a small solar panel.

DIY portable bucket air conditioner @

39. Make a Home-Made Evaporative Cooler

You can also consider making a DIY evaporative cooler, without ice. Also known as ‘swamp coolers’ these can be ideal for camping, or perhaps even for providing some cooling for a greenhouse or polytunnel. These too can be made relatively cheaply, and can also be powered with solar energy.

No Ice 5 Gallon Cooler @

40. Make a Bucket Water Heater

In addition to using solar energy for cooling, you can also utilize a 5 gallon bucket when making use of solar energy in other ways. For example, you can use one to make a solar water heater simply by using an insulated black bucket, which will heat up in the sun.

Very simple DIY Solar bucket water heater @

41. To Make a Solar Shower

In warmer, sunnier climes, you could also consider suspending a dark-colored bucket on a frame or other support, and using it to feed a solar shower. You could affix a shower head to the base of the bucket, and attach it to a solar powered pump for re-fill if you wish.

Solar hot water shower @

42. To Make a 5 Gallon Bucket Solar Cooker

You can make your own simple solar oven to slow-cook food in sunnier climes using just a 5 gallon bucket, bricks or rocks to keep it upright, a sun-visor reflector, a round rack, dark cook wear and oven bags.

This could be an interesting and eco-friendly alternative to the traditional barbecue when cooking outdoors.

Bucket solar cooker @

43. To Make 5 Gallon Bucket Stools

For your patio or outdoors seating area, or for camping, 5 gallon buckets can make surprisingly comfortable stools to sit on. Affixing a plywood base, padding and a heavy-duty fabric to the lids of your buckets can make them much more comfy and long-lasting.

Bucket stools @

44. To Store Emergency Items

Whether they are used as stools, or just as-is, 5 gallon buckets can make very useful containers for a range of must-have emergency items. For preppers, packing emergency buckets stocked full of all the things that you will require in an emergency could make bug-outs a lot easier.

DIY emergency kit @

45. To Make a 5 Gallon Bucket Backpack

No matter what you keep in your buckets, you could also consider making them even more portable by turning them into backpacks that you can port out easily in any situation.

You can sew your own fabric cover that will fit a 5 gallon bucket inside, or make your own straps to support a bucket carried on your back. You could consider upcycling the straps of an old backpack for the purpose.

46. To Make a 5 Gallon Bucket Dolly

Another idea to make it easier to transport 5 gallon buckets is to make your own wheelable bucket dolly. A circular plywood or wooden base with wheels can be used to make a wheeled base for your 5 gallon bucket. By affixing the bucket firmly to this base, and adding a long handle to make it easier to move, you can create a dolly that will be useful in a range of situations.

Bucket on wheels @

47. To Make Bike Storage and Bike Rides Easier

By cutting a 5 gallon bucket in half and shaping it to accept the forks of your bicycle, you can create a simple, cheap yet effective bike rack. By affixing metal support brackets to a 5 gallon bucket, you can also consider making some simple panniers to carry things while you are cycling.

Bucket bike rack @

48. To Create a Storage Spot for a Garden Hose

By firmly affixing a bucket by its base to a wall outside or in your garage, you can create a simple storage space. Not only can items be placed within the open end of the bucket, you could also use the bucket as a space to store a garden hose – as the hose can be wound around the outside of the bucket.

49. To Wash Clothes

By drilling a hole in the top of a bucket, and inserting a cheap plunger (also with a couple of holes drilled in it to prevent it from affixing too firmly to the base of the bucket), you can make a simple DIY washing machine to agitate and clean your clothes off grid.

Hillbilly washing machine @

50. To Make a 5 Gallon Bucket Hand-Cranked or Cycle-Power Washing Machine

If you want to go one step further, you could also consider making a small human-powered washing machine by placing a bucket on side on a frame that can allow it to turn, then linking the mechanism to a hand-crank or even a stationary bicycle that will allow you to turn the machine with your own human power.

When you use your imagination, you will find that there are almost endless ways to make use of a 5 gallon bucket in your home and garden.

The ideas above are just the tip of the iceberg. But they should give you a good place to start when developing your next upcycling scheme.

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a writer, permaculture designer and green living consultant. She is a practical, hands-on gardener, with a background in philosophy: (an MA in English-Philosophy from St Andrews University). She has long had an interest in ecology, gardening and sustainability and is fascinated by how thought can generate action, and ideas can generate positive change.

In 2014, she and her husband moved to their forever home in the country. She graduated from allotment gardening to organically managing 1/3 of an acre of land, including a mature fruit orchard,which she has turned into a productive forest garden. The yield from the garden is increasing year on year – rapidly approaching an annual weight in produce of almost 1 ton.

She has filled the rest of the garden with a polytunnel, a vegetable patch, a herb garden, a wildlife pond, woodland areas and more. Since moving to the property she has also rescued many chickens from factory farms, keeping them for their eggs, and moved much closer to self-sufficiency. She has made many strides in attracting local wildlife and increasing biodiversity on the site.

When she is not gardening, Elizabeth spends a lot of time working remotely on permaculture garden projects around the world. Amongst other things, she has designed private gardens in regions as diverse as Canada, Minnesota, Texas, the Arizona/California desert, and the Dominican Republic, commercial aquaponics schemes, food forests and community gardens in a wide range of global locations.

In addition to designing gardens, Elizabeth also works in a consultancy capacity, offering ongoing support and training for gardeners and growers around the globe. She has created booklets and aided in the design of Food Kits to help gardeners to cool and warm climates to grow their own food, for example. She is undertaking ongoing work for NGO Somalia Dryland Solutions and a number of other non governmental organisations, and works as an environmental consultant for several sustainable companies.

Visit her website here and follow along on her Facebook page here.