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Ideas for home gardening containers

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by wahoowad, Feb 17, 2008.

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  1. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    I'd like to have my first garden this year but don't have enough sunlight in places I could cultivate. Instead my best sunlight (about 3/4 of the day) hits the end of my driveway, which is graveled. My first instinct is to buy several whiskey barrels but they are usually costly (maybe $25 apiece?) and I'm looking for enough plantings to use 3 or 4 of them.

    I can get similar sized 55 gal. plastic barrels for free from my local car wash. I would cut them in half and use like a whiskey barrel. I used one for a portable bait fish tank after several thorough washings to remove the soap residue. I'm worried I may not be able to reliably get it clean enough for growing vegetables though. I'll need to go look at one again and see what warnings are on the label.

    I would get more growing space with a rectangular box than 4 round barrels. Short of buying 1x10 or similar sized untreated lumber (starting to sound expensive) what else might I use? I was thinking of maybe a 4'x'5' box 18" deep but that starts to hit $100 to buy the necessary board feet from Lowes.

    What are some less expensive options? 5 gallon buckets?

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  2. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Five-gallon buckets with holes drilled in the bottoms work pretty well for bigger plants (tomatoes, etc.), though they're not the prettiest container you can use. Shallower boxes or pots work well for smaller plants. If you wait until spring, you can probably drive around town and pick up the plastic pots that people toss out when they've transplanted the sets they bought from the nursery. They usually come complete with the trays. Or, go to Home Depot or Lowe's and ask for their used plastic planting pots. They're expensive if you buy them from nursery supply houses, but often free for the asking or taking everywhere else.

    Buy a good-quality potting soil. If you decide to make your own, a mixture of Canadian spagnum peat moss (50%), perlite (30%) and worm castings (20%) makes a good versatile mix for container growing. You can buy all three at any good, organic gardening supply store. Or online.
  3. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    If it comes to it I'll go with the buckets, although I'm hoping to find a larger planter concept if possible. I'm also going to have to wrap this with chickenwore or deer fencing to keep the deer out.
  4. annette

    annette Member

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    I think that if fish were healthy in your washed-out barrel, your plants should be ok, too. But maybe you just kept them in there for a day or two at a time? And it's good that you want to check on that.

    You may be able to scavenge the lumber to build your huge container/raised bed. Craigslist or freecycle would be good to try. If you have cottonwood or other "junk" wood in your area, you could try taking log sections and tying them together into the perimeter of your raised bed, then filling it with soil. So, you have a few dozen logs, each about 10-12 inches diameter. 20 inches long, cut off pretty flat on one end. Put the flat end on the ground, put another one on the ground next to it, and lock it together from the inside with...chain, wood screws and washers? Something that will keep it from bowing out. Lengths of cedar or treated wood, and wood screws? And do a wood strip on the outside as well. I've never done this, I'm just trying to think of what will hold those logs together against the weight of that wet soil. I think there will be enough contact between the round edges of the log sections, so your soil won't leak out, but maybe you should split off a bit so there are 2 flat edges? Or line it with landscape fabric, or even old poly/cotton sheets, whichever's cheaper. (Cotton, cardboard or newspaper will break down in a few years)

    How deep is your gravel? Is the dirt under there halfway decent? A lot of herbs and other plants do well in gravelly soil, as I saw at an example garden in Chicago. They were emphasizing how it's possible to garden in a very urban environment. Thyme and oregano are very tough plants and would do well. Rosemary is too, if you're in zone 7 or warmer.

    If you use the half-barrels, you could make them aesthetically pleasing if you build a little bit of a corral for them, using inexpensive wood like 2x2s. Just a few horizontals and verticals, possibly some landscape fabric stapled behind it to block the view of the (bright blue?) barrels.

    Another idea is home-made Earth boxes, which have the benefit of being self-watering. They have a reservoir in the bottom. Some use a wick to draw up the water, some use a perforated dirt-filled "cup" to soak up the water. Usually these are made in the 5-gallon or rubbermaid tote size, so you'd end up with quite a few in your proposed garden area. It can be expensive to buy or make these if you just buy everything new, but a lot of the items can be scavenged or bought used. Here's a link to some directions, there are other instructions out there:
    http://www.instructables.com/id/Building-your-own-Earth-Box/
    I did turn a ~5-7 gallon ceramic pot into a self-watering pot, that was pretty fun.

    What are you planning to grow?
  5. pegdot

    pegdot New Member

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    I use the blue 55 gal drums cut in half as water troughs for single horses in paddocks. Mine also come from a car wash and I've never had any problem with contamination but I know that what was in the barrels was basically just soap. A good scrub and LOTS of rinsing will get them ready to go. I hate that awful blue color so I paint the outside of mine. I've tried various paints but found that the Krylon Fusion made for plastic really does hold up the best.

    Instead of fencing or wire to keep the critters away you might want to check out the motion sensor water sprinklers. The deer around here really hate getting squirted in the face. You DO have to remember to cut the hose off before going to work in your garden though! lol
  6. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I have grown hot peppers in raised beds made from old tires... Either cut off the sidewall on one side or drill a few holes in it with a good hole saw and stick plants into the holes. Put a sheet of black plastic down, then throw the tire on top of it, and fill with your potting mix

    Gooserider
  7. Laundry Broad

    Laundry Broad New Member

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    I know you can get wood shipping boxes at some warehouses. Or you can tear apart used skids and use them to make a box. We are forever trying to get rid of skids and wood boxes. I'd recomend checking with you local plants and factories. Even Craigslist sometimes had skids for free.
  8. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    thanks, Annette, I hadn't considered storage bins. I can get some decent sized ones for $5 apiece at Lowes.

    I'll probably grow some basics - tomatoes, cukes and peppers.
  9. Cazimere

    Cazimere Member

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    Chop up a couple bars of herbal soap. Put the pieces in old nylons and hang them
    among your plants to keep the deer away. I live in the woods and use it to keep
    deer from eating my fruit trees.
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