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Discussion Starter #1
I want to raise fruit/vegetables using half-55 gallon barrels on stands. What should I buy? Any help/advise in this project would be greatly appreciated :thumb:.
 

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Dog Lives Matter
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Do you know what was in the barrels before cutting them in half? If it was something toxic, some of it is likely still in the barrel. Even plastic barrels can retain former toxic contents in the plastic.

If they are half of an oak whiskey barrel, they should be okay.

Make sure you have drain holes in the bottom. I usually cover the holes with 1/4" hardware cloth and then cover that with an inch of pea gravel on the bottom.

You can buy any type of soil made for raised beds or container gardens. Home Depot and Lowes sell several varieties. Make sure it is intended for vegetables. Lower grades of soil are intended for grass or flowers and may contain contaminants.

Raised Bed and Potting Mix

If you live in a dry or desert area (I live near Phoenix), mix 1/3 native soil with the garden soil. In Phoenix, our native soil is clay. Clay holds moisture better than garden soil.

Plant your seeds to the proper depth. Make sure you water them every day until the seeds sprout.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
They are clean unused food grade plastic barrels.
I live in Enid, Oklahoma. Is compost/manure needed too?
 

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I'd poke holes in them from drainage. Raised bed soils can dry out quicker so stay ahead of it and mulch well.
I can get 2 yrds of 1/2 top soil and the other 1/2 mushroom compost in my trailer from the nursery a few miles away.
I use untreated(chemical free ) lawn grass clippings and tree leaves mostly.
Worms love it .
My raised beds are good sized from 2x lumber(not treated so they need repair about every 4 yrs).
Some are in recycled cedar which will last long while.

Plan on building 4-6 more this year ..should help keep me busy when I retire next year.

Good luck
 

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Dog Lives Matter
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They are clean unused food grade plastic barrels.
I live in Enid, Oklahoma. Is compost/manure needed too?
You can mix in some compost if you want. Do not use steer manure. It's too hot for a vegetable garden. A little chicken manure can be good. Steer manure is good for grass.

The raised bed soil I linked to already has chicken manure in it.

If your local nursery sells topsoil for gardens, follow Hoka-key's advice.

The best garden soil I ever used was sold in bulk by a local nursery when I lived in Minnesota. It was the silt from river dredgings. I tilled that into my gardens with good results.
 

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I'd poke holes in them from drainage. Raised bed soils can dry out quicker so stay ahead of it and mulch well.
I can get 2 yrds of 1/2 top soil and the other 1/2 mushroom compost in my trailer from the nursery a few miles away.
I use untreated(chemical free ) lawn grass clippings and tree leaves mostly.
Worms love it .
My raised beds are good sized from 2x lumber(not treated so they need repair about every 4 yrs).
Some are in recycled cedar which will last long while.

Plan on building 4-6 more this year ..should help keep me busy when I retire next year.

Good luck
I can verify on the lumber part of your post. We have 8'x4' boxes built of untreated wood, and we've had these for two years now. Last week we disassembled all of them and moved them to a new location.

Once disassembled we noticed a fair amount of rot, especially the lower (wetter) half of each board. We know we can get a third year out of them but a fourth year may be iffy.

Since treated wood is inadvisable, we'll replace the rotting boards with cedar when the time comes. It's very expensive compared to the untreated stuff but replacing a board here and there may absorb the blow and not hit us all at once.

Also, here is the book that helped us decide a few things about raised bed gardening. It's called Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.

https://www.amazon.com/Square-Foot-...=1582582301&sprefix=square+foo,aps,242&sr=8-3
 

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I did square foot gardening up in new England for years. I was ambitious and did 3 10x4 beds. One was everbearing strawberries and 1/3 lettuce. middle was asparagus and back one was climbing veggies and zucchini etc. I spent at least $125 on the soilless mix and used untreated wood but after 6 years it was still holding together. No luck w/ the asparagus and I never figured out why but the rest of the stuff.. omg. Neighbor started calling me zucchini boy after the first year when I had 8 plants growing in the garden and in the ground outside of it. lotta zucchini. I also had a state run 'farm' down the road that let me take a truck load of organic chicken manure every year... that helped a lot.
 

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Hank Hill in Lingerie
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OldSoul <---- LAZIEST. GARDENER. EVAR.

We've done container gardening forever, BECAUSE I AM LAZY.

Advantages:

Manageable
Little to no weeding
Up off the ground
Space efficient

Disadvantages:

Unless you can get super creative with soaker hoses or drip systems, you'll spend a surprising amount of time with the garden hose in your hand. Pro tip: just leave the ^*%%*%&&!!! hose out, alongside the containers. It's easier that way. Drain it in cold weather if you are cold weather planting. You may even have to unscrew it from the faucet if you think you're gonna have a hard enough freeze, so the faucet won't freeze. Be careful not to trip over the hose. But my gardening life got that much easier (AND MOAR LAZY!) when I gave myself permission to just leave the %&*%&&$!!! hose out.

We just put in our first garden of the season. I thought about this thread as we were doing it, so I came back to contribute. :)

Here's our set up:

We have several large planters, think the kind of half barrel and deep patio planters that you see at Costco. They have held up for us for YEARS. We drilled additional drain holes in the bottom of each. They are sitting on a portion of our yard that has a deep bed of gravel. When we had the driveway run we simply extended to this portion of the yard. So, our drainage is sort of backwards in that our gravel bed is under the planters, but with additional holes drilled in the bottom, it works.

We keep a tumbling composter for non-dairy, non-meat kitchen waste: egg shells, coffee grounds (you can leave the grounds in the paper filter if you use one) tea bags (ditto paper tea bag and string, I remove the tag with the staple because I don't want to stab myself with a rusty staple later) vegetable and fruit trimmings. It's probably too late for your own compost this season but you can certainly start it now. Throw a shovel full of moist dirt from your yard into the bin to get some worms/worm eggs in there. Or, you can buy some red wrigglers and put them in there, once you get some food (kitchen waste) in there for them. The worms are essential- they break down the components and their poop is the best fertilizer on earth.

We keep the same potting soil in our containers every year, but we do top off with mature compost from our composter and with more potting soil if needed. The mixture of compost and potting soil should look more like dirt than compost, if that makes sense.

For your first fill or topping off, find potting soil that contains slow release fertilizer to make your life easier. If you are using last year's soil, add compost and slow release fertilizer to the soil. Make sure it's slow release fertilizer only; you do not want products with insecticide or weed prevention in them. If you *must* use insecticide (sometimes it can't be helped, our fauna here is remarkable) you'll want the spray on or dust on kind that can be washed off, not the kind that's absorbed into the food you are going to eat.

SO- this year we didn't need more potting soil. We weeded out our containers, turned the soil with a shovel, just about emptied our composter to add compost to each container (a child's red wagon is just about perfect for this application!) then turned the soil again. Work the compost into the soil thoroughly to prevent "hot spots" from forming as it further decomposes.

Then, this is somewhat controversial, but it's a personal practice of mine for seed starting in containers, I sprinkled just a bit of granular Miracle Grow over the top of the soil. This is the stuff you mix with water or put in the garden feeder that you attach to your hose. I don't dump a ton into the planters but I sprinkle a light coat over the top of the dirt, kinda like you'd put sprinkles on a cupcake- about that much. Then I turned that under just the top layer of dirt.

Why do I do it that way? BECAUSE I'M LAZY. We start this season's vegetables from seed, so I'm going to be out there lightly watering the seeds every day anyway. The soil will stay moist- essential for starting seeds. Adding a little bit of granular Miracle Grow leaves it in the soil, and liquidates it gradually. It'll be there when the seeds germinate.

I will also add slow release fertilizer at the same time I add granular Miracle Grow, and work it into the top layer of dirt at the same time, if we are reusing dirt/not topping off with a substantial amount of new potting soil with fertilizer in it. (I forgot this step this year and didn't think about it until after I planted the seeds, so I just sprinkled the slow release fertilizer on top of the soil when we were done. That works too.)

Per above, turn the fertilizer in lightly, then plant seeds.

For leafy green vegetables, which we planted today, I sprinkle the seeds over the top of the soil, then rake them in lightly using a three prong hand cultivator. Lettuce seeds especially need light to germinate, so don't plant them too deeply. Spinach seeds don't need to go too deep either.

We planted five containers of spinach, two containers of spicy mesclun and two containers of gourmet lettuce blend.

BONUS ROUND:

When planting in containers (or even in the earth!) think in layers. We have five obelisks that we use in our planters for vegetables that want to grow on trellises like cucumbers, pole beans, etc.

We put the obelisks in the planters with the spinach and planted snow pea seeds around them. Poke the pea seeds into the soil a couple of inches with your finger around the base of the obelisk.

I used a half packet of spinach seeds for each container, a pack of lettuce seeds for each container, and about a half dozen pea seeds around each obelisk. I tend to pack my containers pretty full.

I planted more spinach than lettuce because we can freeze spinach, not so much with lettuce.

Potatoes of all types also grow well in containers, and can be paired with obelisk planting as well.

In the past I also used a cold frame in a garden bed in between my containers. It was a Juwel cold frame and it was really nice. We grew spinach and lettuce all winter long.

I no longer have the Juwel cold frame. It's so windy out here in the winter that the little Juwel cold frame wouldn't have made it. I'd love to construct a cold frame type of structure for some of the containers. Or, just break bad and get a greenhouse. :)

As the season turns, we'll sacrifice the containers one by one to summer veggies. We've grown tomatoes, peppers, peas, spinach, and squash in these containers.

The absolute best yield we ever had was a surprise! I played with bona fide full on vegetable hydroponics indoors for a while in our previous home. Because we used our cold frame for spinach and lettuce, the containers were empty over the winter and into the spring. We'd used our household compost in the containers, as usual. When I changed the water in the indoor hydroponics trays, I took the used water outside and poured it into the cold frame, and into the containers, just to put whatever nutrients were left into that soil. Two of our containers sprouted volunteer bell pepper plants- I'd not planted bell peppers in those containers at that time, so these plants were absolute volunteers. I didn't expect them to produce because my understanding is that commercially produced vegetables are from hybrid seeds. They will produce plants but not necessarily vegetables. But I kept watering the volunteer pepper plants with the used hydroponics water just to see what would happen.

Each of those containers produced a bushel of bell peppers! Beautiful bell peppers, as sweet as could be! We had frozen bell peppers FOREVAR. Best free peppers ever! The plants were packed in tight and I never thinned them, just let them do their thing.

I've not yet tried this but I'd like to do so one day. Look up 'keyhole gardens.' These gardens pack plants into raised containers, with a central compost bin for nutrients. These gardens sort of "self-fertilize" through the composter, and also retain moisture and require less water. Keyhole gardens and square foot gardens and my experience with the packed in volunteer pepper plants have encouraged me to pack more vegetables into our containers.

Hope this helps! Happy gardening!
 

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Beer Truck Door Gunner
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Lots of info on the web and from people here.

But sometimes it is nice to see things in action.

http://urbanhomestead.org/

This is a tiny 10th of an acre suburban Los Angeles plot with a tiny home that grows about 3 tons of food per year.

Everything they do is raised bed intensive gardening.

They have turned it into a teaching non-profit outfit.
 
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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you ALL for your input.
This is going to be strickly a summer garden for now. Starting small with 2 cut in half 55 gal barrel which will make 4 total.
Right now it's a freezing 30 degree's outside :xeye: with a steady wind blowing.
Haven't got the frames built to the barrels yet, but it's on my "to do" list :thumb:.
 
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