using plastic drums

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by sleeps723, Nov 22, 2006.

  1. sleeps723

    sleeps723 Well-Known Member

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    i wanna use drums, cut in half length wise, to grow onions potatoes garlic n stuff. has anyone done this/ i am hoping to get a months head start on some of my favs. i tried one so far, drilled 6 1/2 holes in the bottom but its not draining fast enough.
     
  2. Marcia in MT

    Marcia in MT Well-Known Member Supporter

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    A couple of things to consider:

    The drums need to be opaque, as roots are photophobic, and translucent sides let algae grow on the outside of the root ball. Not good.

    Check that your *soil* drains well enough -- 6½" holes should give plenty of drainage, so it could be that your soil is too tight. Loosen it up with coarser-type organic matter (unfinished compost, shredded leaves, peat/sphagnum moss), or use part or mostly soilless mix.

    Beware weeds and other problems coming in with garden soil, too.

    Best of luck, the half barrels sound like a great idea!
     

  3. sleeps723

    sleeps723 Well-Known Member

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    the drums r dark blue, no light. i have six holes evenly spaced across the bottom. i am going to raise the barrells off the ground this weekend and if that doesnt work then more holes maybe?
     
  4. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    I have five rows of plastic drum containers.

    Two rows are half barrels that my husband cut longways, providing me with three feet by about a foot and a half of growing surface per half barrel. There are eight half barrels cut like this on each of the two rows.

    For those two rows, I built a simple structure to mount the half barrels on so that the soil surface would be a comfortable height for me to work. What I did was I bought six cinder blocks, the kind with two holes in them for each section. Also, I bought two landscaping timbers per section. I build two towers out of three cinder blocks that are nearly 8 feet apart (the length of the landscaping timbers). Then I stick the two timbers through the holes in the cement blocks. I then screw two barrel halves, cut longways, onto the timbers, drill about 5 half inch holes on each side near the bottom of the half barrel container, fill it with soil, and plant strawberries. There are five sections of these structures per row, each containing two barrel halves cut longways. So that means that, in the end, the two strawberry rows have a combined count of 20 half barrels, cut longways, each planted with two strawberry plants each.

    In two other rows, my husband cut the half barrels in the more traditional way, where you have 18 inches of surface soil and 18 inches of depth to the soil. For these two rows, I turn one half barrel downward so that it forms a "table" upon which I can place the top half of the barrel. The top half, of course, is placed so that soil can be placed inside of it and crops grown out of that soil.

    In these two rows (last year) I grew yellow squash and Sugar Baby watermelons. Yes, you really can successfully grow squash and Sugar Baby watermelons in half barrels. What happens is that the vines fall down from their three foot high perch down to the ground and then sprawl around. Meantime, sugar baby watermelon and squash are light enough that it is no problem if they are growing on the vine that is hanging down. Next year I will grow bush beans in these containers, using the same soil.

    By the way, ALL of these half barrels are white, and yet I have had no problem with growing in them.

    The final row is half barrels cut in the traditional way but they are blue instead of white, and I have them screwed onto landscaping timbers suspended between cinder block towers the way that the two strawberry rows are done. I grow potatoes in these barrels every year, and at the end of the year I pull the soil out (to recompost for a different garden location next year), clean with bleach water, and then I put potatoes back in the next year. Potatoes DO need a dark growing area, hence my reserving my few blue barrels for the potatoes.


    I have grown lettuce, bell pepper, onion, carrots, squash, sugar baby watermelon, strawberries, potatoes, bush beans, and even medium sized tomatoes in half barrels with great success.


    I even teach a class in the springtime at the local extension service in how to use food grade plastic half barrels to grow food organically.
     
  5. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    What sized holes have you drilled into the barrels?


    I use a half inch diameter hole, and -- for those half barrels cut the normal way where there is 18 inches diameter soil surface when you finish -- I drill only about 7 holes per half barrel. BTW, I do NOT drill those holes at the bottom of the drum, but on the sides about an inch from the bottom of the drum.

    (As I mentioned in the other post, above, I also have some half barrels cut long ways so that there is a more shallow growing area that is three feet by 1 1/2 feet in surface soil, but quite shallow. With that kind of half barrel, I drill five holes on either side of the curved half barrel bottom a few inches from the center of the bottom. That is 10 holes in total, all 1/2 inch in diameter.

    The reason I no longer drill holes on bottom is that, the first year that I was experimenting with growing in these half barrels, I made the mistake of putting the holes on the bottom of the drum, and all of the water I poured into the drum just ran right out again. I had great grass growing underneath the drum, but my plants had to be watered every day, religiously. Miss one day in the heat of the summer and the strawberries were dead.

    Now that I no longer put the holes at the bottom of the half barrel, I have a bit of a grace period if I cannot get out there to water every day. I can go two, maybe even three days without watering, though I normally do get out there every other day to water in the summer.


    Now you have to understand that the soil I use in the drums is 50% WalMart topsoil (NOT potting soil, mind you, but their top soil) and 50% aged cow, goat or else horse manure. (BTW, you can buy aged manure bagged and ready to use at any plant nursery and sometimes even at Lowes or WalMart). That makes for a soil that is much easier for water to go through than the heavy clay soils that we have here in west Tennessee.


    BTW, don't forget to add a good ORGANIC fertilizer, like Garden Tone from www.espoma.com. Chemicals fertilizers are no where near as good as the organic, soil building fertilizers are.
     
  6. sleeps723

    sleeps723 Well-Known Member

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    my holes r 1/2 inch. i think i`ll try it the way u mentioned. i have been using dirt from a patch of woods mixed with horse poo. its been composting back in the woods for a long time now and has worked well with my other projects. just had to figure my drainage problem. thanks mspacman
     
  7. Marcia in MT

    Marcia in MT Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It really doesn't matter what color the plastic is, as long as it's *opaque*. If you hold it up to the sun and light comes through, then it's translucent and will need to be dealt with. Darker colors will absorb more heat though, which can be good or bad depending on the situation.

    As MsPacMan mentioned, the barrels should be food grade plastic and not have held anything else. Plastic is porous and other substances can absorb into it, being released later when you don't want them in your soil.

    We grow most of our stuff in large half barrels, but MsPacMan is the obvious expert!
     
  8. sleeps723

    sleeps723 Well-Known Member

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    any help is good, dont care where it comes from. does water standing in the bottom of the drum damage or kill roots or maybe rot the potatoes? i get all the drums i want for free.
     
  9. annie716

    annie716 Well-Known Member

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    "I even teach a class in the springtime at the local extension service in how to use food grade plastic half barrels to grow food organically."


    MsPacMan, where do you get your barrels? Are they used or do you have a source for new. We have plenty of barrels available from farms in the area, white & blue but they have previously held iodine (teat dip), and sanitizers for milking equipment, not sure how that would affect the plants or soil?
     
  10. sleeps723

    sleeps723 Well-Known Member

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    look for soda pop factory, they give drums away and they contain syrup. makes ur dirt sweet
     
  11. Marcia in MT

    Marcia in MT Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I've also gotten them from the city water treatment plant; their water treatment chemicals come in them. I would imagine the dairy sanitizer barrels would be ok -- isn't there some agency or whatever to call and check on what chemicals are safe for this use? (Extension agent? Dept. of Agriculture?)
     
  12. RoseGarden

    RoseGarden Well-Known Member

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    A suggestion about the white food grade barrels.... I use some cut in half lenghtwise, but not to plant in. I use mine as little greenhouses for rooting cuttings under. One half of a barrel will hold about 3 or 4 rows of 4" pots of cuttings. The barrels that are white/translucent let in enough light to root the cuttings but not enough to cook the plants. Make sure you cut through the plug hole and make another hole on the other end for ventilation. I use them for rooting rose cuttings, mainly.
     
  13. Zebraman

    Zebraman Well-Known Member

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    Hey Guys;I use the large Plastic barrels(tubs) that people buy for keeping softdrinks or beer in ice at outdoor parties.The ones with two rope handles(from Smart & Final).I plant in the bottom third and as the plant grows I fill with compost until about 3-4 inches from the top.I also mix in bone meal w/compost.I do 3 plants per tub.-
     
  14. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    I make sure that I plant the potatoes above the line where I drill holes in the barrel. Then, of course as the vines grow up, I'm filling the barrel in wiith -- in my case -- straw.


    I have not yet had any root rot from rain, but I have had times when it rained too much and I found myself putting plywood squares on top of the barrel halves to block more water from going into the barrel. That is not something I've done often, just a few times when the rain just did not seem to let up.


    On the other hand, I don't water the potatoes anywhere near as much as I do other crops, and yet they seem to do just fine.


    BTW, I have read in some places that putting gravel down at the bottom of a container is supposed to help with the drainage, but that has never been the case with anything I planted. I do not put gravel down at the bottom.


    HOwever, I forgot to mention that I mix some perlite in with the soil I put into the barrels. This helps lighten up the soil some, and helps with the drainage. I put in about the same amount of perlite that nurseries put in their vegetable transplant's soil.
     
  15. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    I have always gotten my barrels from Pepsi Cola bottling plants. They are food grade, and I take them home, wash them well with 1 part bleach, 10 parts water, let them dry out, and they do just fine.


    The problem is that Pepsi has undergone some management changes recently, and I was told about 6 weeks ago that they will no longer release barrels to the public.


    So I guess I'm going to have to find another source for my barrels. Our master gardener's group was planning a big program next year to help local senior citizens set up container gardens to supplement their diets with homegrown veggies. We have donated 2006 seeds from the local coop, a promise from WalMart for all their busted bags of soil in the springtime, and an agreement with the local private prison to grow transplants for the project in the prison greenhouse (they have a program there to teach prisoners horticulture).


    Plus we're currently running a huge composting project, composting 1 part Starbucks coffee grounds, 3 parts shredded autumn leaves, plus some powdered lime, powdered rock phosphate, crushed egg shells, greensand and epson salts so we can provide a healthy, mineral rich compost to add to that WalMart top soil for the seniors containers.


    But my barrel source has dried up.




    Any suggestions?