Growing Veggies in Cat Litter Buckets. Is it Possible?

Introduction

Repurposing cat litter buckets for gardening has become an increasingly popular way to recycle plastic containers that would otherwise end up in landfills. The concept involves taking empty plastic cat litter buckets and transforming them into planters or containers to grow vegetables, herbs, and other plants. There are several benefits to this upcycling project:

Cat litter buckets are inexpensive and readily available. After use, most households have these plastic buckets on hand and are happy to donate them for gardening reuse rather than sending them to trash. The durable plastic construction also makes cat litter buckets ideal for repurposing into planters.

Reusing cat litter buckets is an environmentally-friendly way to reduce waste. Plastic can take over 400 years to decompose in landfills, so finding ways to repurpose and recycle cat litter buckets has sustainability advantages.

The sturdy plastic material is weather-resistant and provides insulation for plant roots. Drilling drainage holes in the bottom can transform a cat litter bucket into an effective container garden for a variety of vegetables and herbs. With some simple modifications, cat litter buckets can be successfully repurposed as inexpensive, reusable planters.

This content will examine the feasibility of repurposing cat litter buckets for gardening. By considering bucket selection, planting preparation, optimal vegetables, and care requirements, the viability of cat litter bucket gardens can be assessed.

Selecting the Right Bucket

When selecting a bucket to grow vegetables, it’s important to choose one made from food-safe, durable plastic that won’t leach chemicals. The best option is a bucket made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) #2 plastic. According to this source, HDPE #2 plastic is commonly used for food containers and has been deemed safe for edible plants.

Avoid buckets that are damaged, cracked, or warped, as this could allow contaminants to leach into the soil. Also, steer clear of buckets made from recycled plastics, as you won’t know what materials they contain.

Look for sturdy 5+ gallon buckets, as smaller containers won’t allow proper root development. The larger capacity provides more soil volume for plants to establish strong roots. Just make sure the bucket is large enough to accommodate the vegetable’s expected mature size.

Preparing the Bucket

Before planting vegetables in a used cat litter bucket, it’s important to thoroughly clean and disinfect the bucket first. Here are some tips for preparing used cat litter buckets for gardening:

First, clean the bucket thoroughly with dish soap and hot water, scrubbing all surfaces to remove any remaining litter or residue. Rinse well after cleaning. According to one source, “Simply follow container planting instructions online. The previous kitty litter is clay and wont hurt a thing, just rinse with hot water before planting” (source).

Next, disinfect the bucket with a bleach solution. Make a 10% bleach solution by mixing 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Scrub the bucket with the bleach solution, then rinse very thoroughly with plain water. Let the bucket air dry completely before planting.

Finally, use a drill with a 1/4″ drill bit to make several drainage holes in the bottom of the bucket. According to one gardening site, “The container needs drainage holes to ensure plants don’t rot from excessive watering” (source). Add enough drainage holes to allow excess water to drain out.

Once the bucket is thoroughly clean, disinfected, and outfitted with drainage holes, it will be ready for planting vegetables.

Choosing the Right Vegetables

When selecting vegetables to plant in cat litter buckets, it’s important to focus on shallow-rooted crops that don’t require much depth to thrive. Leafy greens like lettuce and spinach are great options since they don’t have extensive root systems. Herbs like basil, thyme, oregano, chives, and parsley are also perfectly suited for container gardening in a 5 gallon bucket.

Consider the mature size of any vegetables you want to plant. Plants like tomatoes and eggplants can grow quite large, so cherry tomato varieties are better suited for a cat litter bucket than beefsteak tomatoes. Make sure to leave enough room for the plants to grow without becoming overcrowded.

According to https://www.foodstoragemoms.com/how-to-garden-with-5-gallon-buckets, some great vegetables for 5 gallon buckets include lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions, carrots, peppers, beans, cucumbers, and dwarf tomato varieties.

Filling the Bucket

It’s important to use a high quality potting mix rather than garden soil when filling your cat litter buckets for vegetables. Potting mixes are specially formulated to provide drainage and aeration for container plants. According to Gardening Know How, you’ll want to use an even mixture of peat moss, potting soil, and compost to fill your buckets. Be sure to mix the soil well before planting.

You may also want to mix in a slow-release granular fertilizer when filling the buckets, as recommended by Food Storage Moms. This will provide a steady supply of nutrients to your vegetables over time. Choose a fertilizer balanced for vegetables and follow package directions.

When adding soil, avoid packing it down too tightly. Vegetables need loose, porous soil to expand their roots and access air and water. Lightly fill buckets in stages, gently pressing soil in between additions. Leave a couple inches of space at the top for planting.

[1] “Vegetables In A 5-Gallon Bucket: How To Grow Vegetables In Buckets,” Gardening Know How, June 15, 2021. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/containers/growing-vegetables-in-buckets.htm

[2] “How to Garden With 5-Gallon Buckets,” Food Storage Moms, https://www.foodstoragemoms.com/how-to-garden-with-5-gallon-buckets/

Planting and Caring

When it comes to planting and caring for vegetables grown in cat litter buckets, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

First, be sure to follow the instructions on the seed packets for planting depth, spacing, and any other specifications. Vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers need adequate space for their root systems, so don’t crowd too many plants into one bucket.

Second, water the vegetables regularly. The bucket containers will dry out faster than garden beds, so check soil moisture daily and water when the top inch becomes dry. Use a general purpose fertilizer every 2-3 weeks per instructions.

Lastly, provide support for vining crops like cucumbers, peas, beans, and tomatoes. Use a trellis inside the bucket or on the outside that vines can be trained up. This will maximize vertical space and prevent the heavy vines from toppling the bucket.

By planting properly, watering consistently, and giving climbing vegetables adequate trellising, you can grow a productive vegetable garden in cat litter buckets. Just be sure not to overload each container and tend to plants daily.

Dealing with Issues

When growing vegetables in a plastic bucket, there are a few common issues to watch out for:

Prevent Overheating – Plastic buckets can get very hot in direct sunlight, which can cook plant roots and stunt growth. Make sure to monitor soil temperatures and move buckets into partial shade if needed. Adding mulch on top of the soil can also help insulate plant roots. White or light-colored buckets will stay cooler than dark buckets.[1]

Watch for Pests – The confined space of a bucket can allow pests like aphids to rapidly multiply. Check plants frequently for signs of insects and treat organically with neem oil or insecticidal soap if an infestation occurs. You can also add a thin layer of sand on top of the soil, which can deter crawling insects.[2]

Manage Irrigation – Plastic buckets will dry out more quickly than garden beds. Monitor soil moisture carefully and water when the top inch becomes dry. Adding mulch will help retain moisture. Make sure the bucket has drainage holes so excess water can escape. Allowing plants to sit in overly wet soil can cause root rot.

Maximizing Space

When using cat litter buckets for gardening, it’s important to maximize the planting space. One technique is to use vertical gardening methods like trellises, cages, or stakes to support vining crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and peas (https://www.foodstoragemoms.com/how-to-garden-with-5-gallon-buckets/). This allows you to grow upwards rather than just horizontally. You can also intersperse the buckets among beds or borders of other ornamental plants, herbs, and flowers. Grouping the buckets together in a defined space creates a unique vertical veggie garden.

Other ideas include stacking smaller buckets on top of larger ones to double your planting area. Or, use hanging buckets attached to walls, fences, or balcony railings. Get creative with vertical spaces! The key is finding ways to plant densely while still allowing enough sun exposure and air circulation for the vegetables.

Other Considerations

When choosing a bucket for vegetable gardening, you’ll need to consider the limitations around bucket choice and size. Plastic buckets come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but generally have a capacity of 1-5 gallons. This restricts the size and number of plants you can grow compared to in-ground gardening. For example, a 5 gallon bucket may only have space for 1-2 tomato plants versus 4-6 plants planted directly in the ground. You’ll also be limited by root space and may need to water and fertilize more frequently. [1]

Compared to traditional in-ground gardening, container gardening in buckets has reduced yields and requires more frequent maintenance. However, it can be a good option if you lack yard space for a garden bed. The restricted space does mean you’ll need to carefully select compact vegetable varieties suitable for containers. With proper care though, it’s certainly possible to grow a productive container veggie garden in buckets. Just keep the size constraints in mind when planning which plants to include.

Conclusion

Growing vegetables in cat litter buckets can be a fun, rewarding way to garden. The buckets are inexpensive, portable, and flexible – allowing you to move plants easily to get the sun and spacing they need. Most leafy greens and herbs will thrive in a 5 gallon bucket, as well as some fruits like strawberries.

The most important considerations are preparing the bucket properly with drainage holes and quality potting mix, choosing appropriate compact vegetable varieties, and providing consistent watering and fertilization. With a little trial and error, it’s certainly feasible for many gardeners to get a productive harvest from a bucket garden.

Overall, bucket gardening with cat litter buckets is a great option for those short on space, funds, or gardening experience. The ability to move plants and customize your setup makes it an adaptable approach. As long as you follow the basic guidelines, your bucket garden can provide a fun, fulfilling way to grow your own produce.

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