Due to popular demand, I give you The Bottomless Tomato Buckets:
As I explained earlier, I use the five gallon sized BOTTOMLESS buckets for my tomatoes, simply to raise them up off the ground. That way I can plant crops (like lettuce, spinach, carrots, bush beans, etc) in the same bed, and they're not smothered by tomato foliage. In other areas of the yard, I use them to raise the tomato plants high enough that they aren't hit by the lawn sprinklers. I do fill the buckets with fresh compost rich soil and several amendments before planting my home grown plants. The buckets also make the plants really easy to hand water with the hose. I do build a trellising system for them, as the buckets alone would topple from the weight of the mature plants.
five gallon bucket
6" plate or bowl, or a steady hand, for drawing a circle
jigsaw (coping saw or keyhole saw would work)
2 heavy duty cone type tomato cages (no wimpy ones, please)
1"x2" stakes 8' long for indeterminate tomatoes
Turn your bucket bottom side up. Draw a circle, about 6" in diameter, on the bottom of the bucket, leaving about a 2" rim around the edge.
Using a good sized drill bit, drill a couple of holes side by side on the circle, so they make one oblong hole large enough to insert the blade of the jigsaw.
Insert the jigsaw blade and cut out the circle.
Turn the bucket upright, and insert the legs of your tomato cage into it. Mark where the legs touch what is left of the bottom. You might have to bend the legs out a bit to fit snugly on the bottom rim. Mark where they touch. Remove the cage and drill holes where you've marked. I also drill small drainage holes all around the rim.
Set the bucket in its permanent place in the garden, and insert the legs of your first tomato cage into the holes you drilled. Push the cage firmly into the ground, preferably until the bottom ring of the cage rests on the top of the bucket.
Fill the bucket just over a quarter of the way with a mixture of soil and compost. Dig in whatever amendments you want to use for good tomato growth. I dig in a mixture of egg shells, a couple of aspirin (because I read it somewhere), and some old calcium tablets and multi-vitamins/minerals that are past their use by date (can't hurt!). I pulverize everything together in a coffee grinder and sprinkle the powder into the planting hole. I also dig in a bit of fertilizer. I buy whatever I can find at Lowe's or Ace Hardware, and I'm not too picky about it, but try to keep it at least semi-organic. Last year it was some stinky Lily Miller stuff that was mostly chicken manure. Then I add more soil/compost mixture to the bucket, filling it up about 1/2 way. I leave mine at a level where my seedling, when planted, is just below the top of the bucket. The bucket protects the (already hardened off) seedling from wind damage, which is a problem where I live. As the plant grows, I remove the bottom leaves and add soil to the bucket, which gives the plant a really sturdy root system. I end up with about a 2" space at the top of the bucket for watering.
After you plant the tomato seedling, drive the stake in next to it.
At this time, I place another heavy duty cone shaped cage upside down on top of the bottom cage, and wire them together. I forgot to add the second cage to some of mine last year. I had the stakes all screwed to the eaves when I discovered my error, and instead of taking them back down, I ended up pruning and tying those tomato plants. Lash the ends (legs) of the top cages to the stakes, tepee style.
Secure the stakes to something rigid! The setup I have in my garden is not the best. I didn't want to have those steel posts in an X shape, but this bed is sitting over the spot where our maple tree was removed, and we couldn't pound the posts straight down due to big roots underneath. They had to go in at an angle, then be attached to the bed. The 8-foot 1"x2" crossbar was wired to the posts, then the stakes were screwed into it.
Here I have mature lettuce, with newly seeded carrots (under the board) replacing the earlier harvested lettuce. The other side of the buckets is planted with bush beans. The boards over the carrots keep them moist until they germinate. They MUST be checked daily, and removed as soon as you see some green carrot tops emerging.