Is It Safe To Grow Vegetables in Galvanized Tubs?

Galvanized tubs are large zinc-coated steel buckets that resist corrosion. If you have some at home, you might wonder if you can use them to grow your vegetables. These tubs are convenient because they can hold a lot of plants and help you save space so that you can have a garden anywhere.

It’s safe to grow vegetables in galvanized tubs. While the tubs have a zinc coating, they shouldn’t break down with regular use. As long as you get your galvanized tubs from a recognized brand, they shouldn’t leach toxins into the soil. 

This article will detail why it’s safe to use galvanized tubs to grow food. You’ll want to keep reading if you plan on turning one of these tubs into a planter soon. Let’s get started! 

Why Galvanized Tubs Are Safe for Growing Vegetables

Most galvanized tubs you buy today will be perfectly safe for growing vegetables. These tubs consist of steel with a durable zinc coating on the outside. It’s this zinc coating that many gardeners worry about “contaminating” their vegetables.

While the zinc can break down and leach into the soil, it’s a prolonged process and only happens if there’s high acidity in the ground or water. Since your municipality keeps your water at a neutral pH, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Even if some leaching occurs, it will only be a very tiny amount. You can already find zinc in soil; plants need some to grow. So, even if a small amount of zinc leaches into the soil, it won’t harm your plants. 

Plus, zinc is a mineral that humans need to function. The vegetables you eat already contain zinc. Getting more of the mineral from your homegrown veggies from a galvanized tub shouldn’t harm you.

While the zinc coating in galvanized tubs isn’t a problem, zinc can sometimes contain impurities, such as lead. Lead leaching into your food would be harmful. Although, modern manufacturers must use pure zinc or aluminum coatings to prevent lead pollution. That means your galvanized tub should still be safe.

Overall, galvanized tubs are very safe for growing vegetables. Leaching shouldn’t occur if you use neutral pH tap water to take care of your plants.

Avoid Planting Acid-Loving Veggies in Galvanized Tubs

While it’s generally safe to plant vegetables in galvanized tubs, you’ll still want to take care not to plant anything that needs acidic soil in the containers. Acidic soil and water can slowly break down the outer coating on the tub, causing it to leach zinc into your vegetables. 

Some extra zinc in the soil shouldn’t be a problem. However, it’s still best to reduce leaching when you can. Some plants dislike high amounts of zinc and will wilt in these conditions. Plus, it’s much safer to use galvanized tubs when they aren’t giving off chemicals.

These are some acid-loving vegetables that you’ll want to avoid putting in these tubs:

  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Chili peppers
  • Radishes
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Check Your Soil’s pH Level

If you’ve been growing plants in your galvanized tubs for a while, you might want to check the soil’s pH level. Since acidic soil can cause the outer coating on the tub to break down, it’s best to be aware of it happening.

You can test the soil’s pH in a few different ways; the most convenient option for most people is a home pH testing kit. I recommend using the Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Kit from The kit can get you accurate results in just one minute. It also comes with 100 test strips, so you can check the pH whenever necessary.

However, a few DIY methods also give you an idea of your soil’s pH level. According to Almanac, you can test the soil using a few ingredients from your pantry. Here’s what you do:

  1. Scoop two tablespoons of earth out of the tub and place it in a bowl.
  2. Add ½ cup (118 ml) of vinegar. 
  3. If the soil starts to bubble and fizz, the soil is basic.
  4. Scoop two more tablespoons of dirt into a separate bowl.
  5. Mist the soil with distilled water.
  6. Add ½ cup (100 grams) of baking soda. If it fizzes, the soil is acidic.
  7. If the soil doesn’t react to either ingredient, it is neutral.

This DIY method works in a pinch, but consider using reliable pH strips for more accurate results. You should get a number, allowing you to know how much you need to lower the acidity if it’s too high.

Galvanized Tubs Don’t Overheat Plants

There’s a common misconception that metal tubs can overheat the soil and cause your plants to die. However, that isn’t what happens. While the dirt may warm up near the sides of the container, it usually isn’t enough to hurt your plants.

The soil can dry out faster in those areas, especially on a hot day. So, you’ll need to give your vegetables enough water. The damp soil will also help keep the plants’ roots at a suitable temperature.

Plus, the galvanized tubs should reflect some heat, so they may not be as hot as expected. They may still feel warm to the touch, and you’ll want to take care in handling them if they’ve been in the sun for a long time.

In short, you shouldn’t have to worry about the tubs overheating your plant’s roots. They’re great for growing all kinds of vegetables in many different conditions. You can always bring them inside on extremely hot days since these containers are portable if you need to.

How Do You Prepare a Galvanized Tub for Planting?

You prepare a galvanized tub for planting by removing the outer coating, adding drainage holes, and adding gravel or wood chips to the bottom. Following these steps will help your plants thrive in the galvanized tub.

I’ll break down preparing the galvanized tub in more detail below:

  1. Remove the Outer Coating (optional): Removing the outer coating on the tub reduces the odds that it leaches soil. You can do this easily by pouring warm salt water into a spray bottle and spraying it all over the inside of the tub. Let it sit, then scrub it with a steel brush. It works outside the tub, too, so you can do this if you want to remove the shine to change how the tub looks. 
  2. Add Drainage Holes: You’ll need to add drainage holes to the galvanized tub to prevent your plants from getting root rot. Put on protective glasses, turn the tub upside down, and drill small holes along the bottom. These holes will drain water.
  3. Add a Drainage Layer: Finally, for better drainage, you can add a layer of rocks, gravel, or wood chips to the bottom of the tub before putting soil over the top of it. These materials can aid in drainage.

After completing these steps, you can plant your vegetables in the tubs like normal. You wouldn’t want to skip adding the drainage holes, although you may not need to remove the outer coating. Those using acidic soil or water may wish to remove the zinc.

It’s also worth mentioning that removing the zinc coating from the galvanized tub will cause it to lose a lot of durabilities. It won’t last you nearly as long and could even rust. Still, some gardeners prefer to remove it when growing acid-loving vegetables.

No matter what, you will need to add drainage holes. Most galvanized tubs aren’t made for planting, so they won’t include them. You could kill your plants through root rot if you don’t take the time to add them.

Benefits of Growing Veggies in Galvanized Tubs

These containers are safe to grow food in and have some benefits you’ll want to know about. These benefits include:

  • The containers are light and easy to move.
  • They’re cost-efficient planters.
  • They’re very durable, long-lasting, and resist rusting.
  • They come in a variety of sizes.
  • They keep moisture in the soil.
  • They look nice.

When choosing galvanized tubs as a planter, you’ll also want to know if the plants will do well inside them. While they come with all these benefits, some plants don’t like their roots to be wet for very long. Galvanized tubs aren’t breathable, which causes the soil to remain wet for extended periods.

These benefits allow many gardeners to find uses for these tubs. You can use them indoors or outdoors, no matter how much space you have.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, galvanized tubs are safe to grow vegetables in. The zinc coating can leach into the soil only when using acidic soil or water. The zinc leaches very slowly, so not much will make it in before harvesting the veggies.

Plants also use zinc as a mineral to grow, so it’s not harmful to them. It’s also not harmful to us to eat zinc in specific amounts since our bodies also need it. All these factors make using galvanized tubs safe. If unsure, you can test the soil’s pH or move the vegetables to a natural planter.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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