This Garbage Can Hack Will Keep Your Tomato Plants Happy And Healthy

There are few gardening triumphs as flavorful as a fresh tomato. Although tomatoes are not particularly difficult to grow, it does take the right balance of nutrients, sunlight, and water to get the best harvest. Too much nitrogen in synthetic fertilizer can help you grow large, beautiful plants that produce very few fruits, while lean soils lead to weak plants. Compost is an excellent way to feed your plants a slow and steady diet of the macro- and micronutrients they need but hauling in loads of compost for your entire garden is laborious. This simple gardening hack uses a garbage can with compost to feed and water your tomato plants all season.

If you have already added compost to your garden and fertilized your plants regularly, you can use a small garbage to water your garden like an Olla. These typically expensive but efficient terra cotta systems deliver a steady supply of water under the soil, where it is more accessible to the plant's roots. Whether you are installing this as an all-in-one feeding and watering system, or just an easy way to keep your tomato plants watered, here's how to use it.

Preparing a garbage can

Since the purpose of this project is to provide slow and steady access to water and nutrients, you will need to add holes to your garbage can. The holes should be large enough for water to flow freely through. The kind of container you use is up to you. Small bathroom-sized plastic trash cans from the dollar store will work as well as a metal option, although the process of making holes might be different. You don't even need to use a garbage can. A plastic planter, bucket, or other small container will work. Check your recycling bin for large plastic laundry detergent or cat litter containers for a completely free project. The only requirements are that they are plastic or metal and you must be able to make holes in them.

Use a power drill for metal or thick plastic garbage cans. For softer plastic, like cheap trash cans from the dollar store, you may need to use a soldering iron to melt holes. Make drainage holes in the bottom and sides of your chosen container about 4 to 8 inches apart. If you are using this container for fertilization, add two shovel-fulls of high-quality compost or a manure/compost mix to the container.

Planting tomatoes

Once you know where you are planting your tomatoes, dig a hole deep enough to bury most of your garbage can, leaving at least a 4-inch lip above ground to make sure it doesn't fill with soil and other debris during heavy rains. The distance you will need between your tomato seedlings will depend on the variety. For example, determinate tomatoes only grow to a specific height and width, while indeterminate tomatoes keep growing until the weather gets too cold. 

Plant your tomatoes as far apart as the instructions indicate around your garbage can. If you are growing a lot of large varieties of tomatoes, you may want to bury a few prepared garbage cans to make sure your tomatoes get plenty of space, sun, nutrients, and water. With your plants in place around your garbage can, fill it with water to let it slowly seep into the soil around your tomato plant's roots. Refill the container any time it is dry a few inches below the soil's surface.