Ripe red strawberries fresh from the garden provide a burst of sweetness rarely reproduced by the store-bought varieties. If you don't have room in the garden for these small fruits, growing them in a barrel allows you to enjoy them in a small space. Plastic barrels are readily available at garden centers and home improvement stores, or you may have access to one that you can repurpose. They require some preparation prior to planting to ensure your strawberries thrive in the confines of the barrel.
Prepare the barrel for planting. Cut the top out of the barrel if it is not removable. Use a power saw or a hacksaw. Drill five 1-inch diameter holes in the bottom of the barrel to aid drainage. Alternately, the bottom of the barrel can be removed if you do not plan to move it.
Mark a line around the barrel with masking tape 8 inches up from the bottom. Mark a second line 8 inches above the first, and repeat every 8 inches until you reach the top of the barrel. Leave a 5-inch space between the top marking and the top of the barrel.
Drill 1-inch diameter holes along the marked tape line, spacing them 4 inches apart. Repeat this for each marked line. Offset the holes on each line from the line before them. For example, the holes on the second line will be spaced between the holes on the first and third line.
Place 2 inches of gravel or coarse pottery shards into the bottom of the barrel. These provide additional drainage for the soil.
Drill ½-inch diameter holes along the length of a 3-foot long, 4-inch diameter PVC pipe. Drill holes on both sides of the pipe, spacing them about 3 inches apart along the length. Set the pipe into the barrel, resting the bottom of the pipe on top of the gravel.
Combine 1 qt. of 6-6-6 analysis fertilizer with 55 gallons of soil. Place the soil into the barrel until you reach the first line of drilled holes.
Insert a strawberry plant into each hole around the first line. Set the plant so the crown of the plant—where the stems emerge from the roots—is even with the hole in the barrel. Fill the barrel with more soil until you reach the second line of holes, then plant the strawberries as you did along the first line. Continue with this process until you reach the top of the barrel.
Cover the top of the barrel with a sheet of landscaping fabric, tucking the edges of the fabric in. Cut slits at 8-inch intervals around the pipe and plant strawberry plants into these slits.
Water the barrel twice a week. Pour water into the PVC pipe until it fills, allowing the moisture to penetrate slowly into the soil.