Here are the ingenious tips to DIY this vegetable planter straight from my parent’s garden…
My parents are great grandparents, if that gives you an idea of their age, but they prove over and over that age is relative to one’s mindset. They are always learning and trying new things. It’s that active mind and body that keep them so young.
I’ve shared with you before how much my Dad loves to garden. I was raised on a farm in Wisconsin. This picture was taken of the farm just after my parents purchased the 100 year old farm… before they started cleaning it up and actually farming:
Though we had the typical animals of a hobby farm… a few pigs, cows, chickens, ducks and a couple of ponies, not to mention the all important farm dogs and cats, our farm wasn’t a hobby farm. It was how my Dad provided for our family. We grew vegetables… acres and acres of vegetables. He has an amazing gift at it. That was so many years ago, but he still is gardening… now just in the back yard at their retirement home in Arkansas. Every time I talk to them on the phone, they tell me about another ‘planting’ Dad’s working on. I’m excited to share a few posts this Spring with you about some ingenious engineering he’s implemented into his garden.
Here are the details to create these amazingly creative planters, (repurposing at it finest!) straight from my parents:
Barrel: Be sure to get your barrel from one that hasn’t had harsh chemicals in it. Ours were from a car wash soap distributor – the soap comes out easy, and from some that had vinegar in them.
Dad got heavy paper to make a full sized jig before starting on the actual barrels. The jig for his 55 gallon barrel is 33” high by 72” long. On the paper mark out where you want the three rows: draw a line 4” from the top across the 72” length of the paper; draw the 2nd line 14” from the top (10” below the first line) across the length of the paper; draw the 3rd line 25” from the top again across the length of the paper.
Now that you have 3 lines drawn completely across the length of the paper, you want to mark 12 dots where you will put small holes in those lines. They will be the same measurement one above the other on all three lines. Starting on the top line draw 12 dots that you will make into small holes to put a pencil or marking pen through to mark the barrel. Our dots were 6” apart and there were 12 of them per line, each dot lined up directly one above the other.
Dad used a sharp nail to make the dots into small holes (36 holes total – 12 dots/holes per line). Tape the jig to the barrel and make sure the jig won’t move. Use a sharp point marker to mark the barrel at each dot, make a good dot so you can easily see it when you remove the jig. After you get all 36 dots marked on the barrel you can remove the paper jig.
Now take painters edging tape and tape just below the dots on the top row around the entire barrel, put the tape on straight. Do the same for all three rows. Then take a pencil and draw a line on the barrel using the top of the painters tape as your guide. Do the same for all three rows. (I used a pencil so Dad could erase it after cutting the slots.) After drawing all three lines around the barrel. Remove the tape.
Drilling the holes: Dad used a sawzall (you can use a jigsaw but it take a LOT longer), you need to decide what you will cut the slots with and how wide the blade is before drilling the holes. Your drill bit has to match the widest part of the saw blade you will using. ie: ¾” inch blade = ¾” drill bit. Now you are ready to drill your holes. Drill each of the 12 dots in each row – 36 in all.
Cutting the Slots: Be careful when cutting the slots – you need the uncut spaces between slots. One way to make sure you don’t cut in the wrong place – erase the pencil line between the holes where you will NOT be cutting.
Cut the slots in a pattern – TOP ROW – cut between Hole #1 and Hole #2 on the straight pencil line. Make sure you stop cutting at hole #2 it is easy to cut beyond it. Then do NOT cut between Hole #2 and Hole #3 which will be your space between planting slots.
Cut between Hole #3 and Hole #4 on the straight pencil line. Then do NOT cut between Hole #4 and Hole #5 to make your space between planting slots.
Cut between Hole #5 and Hole #6 leave an uncut space; cut between Hole #7 and Hole #8 leave an uncut space; cut between Hole #9 and Hole #10 leave an uncut space ; cut between Hole #11 and Hole #12.
2ND ROW: This row is offset from the Top Row. Start your cut between Hole #2 and Hole #3 on the straight pencil line. Then do NOT cut between Hole #3 and Hole #4 for the space between planting slots .
Cut between Hole #4 and Hole #5 leave an uncut space; Cut between Hole #6 and Hole #7; Cut between Hole #8 and Hole #9 leave an uncut space; Cut between Hole #10 and Hole #11 leave an uncut space; Cut between Hole #12 and Hole #1 leaving an uncut space between Hole #1 and Hole #2 leave an uncut space.
3rd ROW (Bottom Row). Follow the cutting pattern for the TOP ROW. These planting slots will line up with the planting slots in the top row.
Bending the slots out. Get a good 2×4 about 3 feet long, Cut one end in a wedge along the wide side so it will more easily pry into the slots after they are heated to pry them out into a pocket form.
Use a propane torch to heat the slot, feathering it a couple of inches above and below the slot and around it to soften the plastic so it will bend out. Making sure NOT to hold the torch in one place too long. Heat the area around the slot until the shine is off the plastic and it looks dull.
Then cram the 2×4 into the hot slot entering from the top at an angle. Don’t push the 2×4 straight in as you want to make a lip for the plant. Hold the 2×4 at a 90 degree angle until the plastic cools enough to hold that shape.
You can water the barrel from the top or if you want to get fancier you can make two watering pipes. Take two 2” or larger PVC pipes, one to water the middle row and one to water the bottom row. Cut one long enough to reach the bottom row of plants plus 12” more – the extra foot of length will give you a place to pour water into at the top of the barrel.
Cut the 2nd PVC pipe long enough to reach the middle row of plants plus 12” more.
Close off/plug the bottom of each pipe and drill a couple rows of small holes around it near the bottom. Wrap it in landscape fabric so it doesn’t get clogged up.
Planting Mixture: No soil, use equal parts peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite and then compost and worm castings mixed in with organic additives, kelp, alfalfa, fish emulsion, neem seed meal, or fertilizer and humus.
Add planting mixture up to the first row of slots, if you are using watering pipes position the longest one in the middle of the barrel now. Plant young plants in the slots, water.
Add planting mixture up to the middle row of slots. If you are using watering pipes position the shorter one in the middle of the barrel now. You can tape the two watering pipes together to help stabilize them. Plant plants in the slots , water.
Add planting mixture up to the top row of slots. Plant plants, water. Fill barrel to top with planting mixture.
Pretty amazing, huh?! They have strawberries, tomatoes and lettuces planted in the barrel planters, and they grow really well in them.
Once more tip from my parents: The barrels are very heavy when filled up, so you’ll want to have them in place before filling… or, do like my dad did and make some wheeled platforms from scrap wood to easily move the planter barrels around. (as long as they’re on a hard flat surface like this back patio, that works great to wheel them around rotating each side towards the sun)
Do me a favor… if you DIY this vegetable planter, tell me about it! I’d love to share it with my parents. 🙂
My parent also raise worms! The effects of the worm castings in the soil of their vegetable plants has an unbelievable positive effect. You can either mix the castings directly into the planting mixture, or make the casting tea to water the plants with.
Click here to read all the gardening posts I’ve published.
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