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How to Plant in Oak Barrels

Oak barrels can be cut in half and used as containers for planting small trees, shrubs, flowers or vegetable plants. They are a long-lasting addition to the garden and are usually easy to find in larger gardening centers and nurseries. Before planting your plants in an oak barrel, you must take drainage into consideration because of the natural ability of the wood to swell and create a water-tight seal between the oak boards used to make the barrel. The tight seal will prevent any water from draining from the oak barrel and most garden plants will die if left to sit in water for more than 36 hours.

How to Plant in Oak Barrels

Locate the area of the garden where the oak barrel will be permanently located. The barrel will be very heavy when filled with damp potting soil and plants.

Drill five holes in bottom of oak barrel with electric or hand powered drill at least 1-half-inch wide for drainage.

Paint the inside of the oak barrel with brown or black outdoor paint. If using the barrel for vegetable plants or herbs, use a non-toxic paint or skip this step. Let dry thoroughly.

Set the barrel upright and cover each drain hole with a handfull of pebbles or small rocks. This is to prevent the potting soil from becoming impacted over the holes and preventing drainage.

Fill the oak barrel with potting soil and plants, adding water and potting soil around plants a little at a time to prevent any air pockets from forming around roots of plants. After planting, cover the bare soil with a 1-inch layer of mulch.


For extra drainage if you are planting cactus or succulents, you can drill one or two holes in the side of the oak barrel 1 inch from the bottom.

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