Ghost, PostgreSQL and Dokku

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There are a couple existing tutorials that cover Ghost and Dokku. Unfortunately the two I referenced were outdated and missing important details in setup decisions.


Ghost: 0.4.2 Dokku: 0.2.3 Ubuntu: 14.04 PostgreSQL: latest

Dokku Setup

This tutorial assumes you already have a Dokku installation running. If you are not familiar with Dokku I highly recommend using Digital Oceans Dokku image to get up and running. If using Digital Ocean, be sure to start off with a 1GB droplet. I have noticed 512MB boxes do not have enough memory for installation requiring you to setup a swap file.

Ghost Package

I had issues building the project properly for Dokku using source. The build would boot locally but not on a Dokku deploy. I am sure I missed something on the build. The current packaged release, Ghost 0.4.2, did work. Download the zipped full package, it includes all requirements that are downloaded via bower.


A handful of existing PostgreSQL plugins are available. I prefer Jeff’s mainly because it only uses a single Postgres container and multiple databases within.

  • Before installing plugins be sure to finish your Dokku installation by visiting the root address via browser. If you dont there will be permissioning errors.
  • On your Dokku box go to the plugins install directory cd /var/lib/dokku/plugins
  • Clone the repo git clone postgresql
  • Install plugin dokku plugins-install
  • Start the container dokku postgresql:start

Entire code snippet:

cd /var/lib/dokku/plugins  
git clone postgresql  
dokku plugins-install  
dokku postgresql:start  

You should now have a working PostgreSQL container!


A few changes are necessary to get Ghost working properly with both PostgreSQL and Dokku.

  • First we want to confirm the local download of Ghost works properly.
  • In your local Ghost folder run npm install to install all dependencies.
  • You should now be able to start Ghost npm start

Jeff’s PostgreSQL plugin requires an app present when creating a new Database. We can deploy the current state of Ghost to create the initial Dokku app. Dokku requires a git repo for deployment.

  • Create a new git repo in your local Ghost folder git init
  • Add all files to the repot git add .
  • Commit changes git commit -am ‘init commit’
  • Add Dokku remote git remote add dokku dokku@:
  • Deploy Ghost git push dokku master

Now that we have a valid Ghost app we can create the PostgreSQL DB. Its important that your DB appname matches the appname we deployed for Ghost.

  • On your Dokku box create a new database dokku postgresql:create
  • Copy the connection string that is returned. It should look something like this postgres://:@:/

Now that we have database lets modify Ghost to work!

  • In your local Ghost folder open package.json and add ““pg””: ““latest”” to your dependencies.
  • Open config.js and make the following changes in your production settings. I have included an example of what the settings should look like.

    • Update all connection settings from the connection url provided from PostgreSQL setup.
    • Update server settings to work properly with Dokku.
    • I highly recommend setting all the connection string variables as env vars. For testing it is fine to hardcode these values.

      production: {  
      url: '',
      mail: {},
      database: {
      client: 'postgres',
      connection: {
          host: <host>,
          user: <user>,
          password: <password>,
          database: <database>,
          port: <port>
      debug: false
      server: {
      host: '',
      port: process.env.PORT

Lastly we need to tell Dokku what to run to start the server.

  • Create a file Procfile
  • Add the following to the file to tell Dokku the specific file and method to launch the server web: node index.js

Now we need to commit all changes and deploy!

  • Add new files git add .
  • Commit changes git commit -am ‘ghost setup’
  • Deploy! git push dokku master

After deploy we have one final change. We need to tell Ghost to run with production settings. On your Dokku box create a new env var dokku config:set NODE_ENV=production. This will set the env var and restart the app.

You should now be able to go visit your Ghost blog!