One of the best space-saving gardening methods around, strawberry barrel gardening allows homeowners with limited space or poor soil to grow at least 25 plants in just a few square feet. Converting a wine barrel into a strawberry planter requires minimal carpentry skills or tools--if you don’t have a 2-inch drill bit, just saw or punch several small holes together to make each planting hole. Be sure to use a sturdy wine barrel of oak or beech, rather than the flimsy pine kegs sometimes sold as “rustic” decorations.
Remove the wine barrel’s lid, if it's attached. Use a crowbar, saw or reverse drill. The method, obviously, depends on the barrel’s construction. The point is to make an open-ended barrel.
Drill 2-inch holes around the barrel’s exterior. Leave 10 inches between holes and make the rows 10 inches apart. Drill in staggered rows, or rings, so that the planting holes are diagonally above and below one another. Don’t worry if you can’t achieve a classic diamond pattern; the barrel’s metal hoops and grain irregularities will prevent perfect symmetry, and the plants will still look lovely trailing out of their irregularly spaced planting holes.
Turn the barrel over and drill five ½-inch holes at the bottom of the barrel. These will be your drainage holes.
Cut a circle of hardware cloth into a circle 1 foot in diameter. Drop this to the bottom of the barrel.
Cover the hardware cloth with 2 inches of clean gravel.
Drill or punch nail-sized holes around the PVC pipe, about 6 inches apart.
Mix potting soil with fertilizer in a wheelbarrow and keep it ready nearby.
Stand the pipe in the center of the barrel. Fill the pipe with sand. It’s helpful to have a partner hold the pipe upright during the rest of this process, although bracing the pipe with boards or tension rods would also work.
Begin adding the potting soil to the barrel, firming it around the base of the watering pipe until they reach just below the first ring of planting holes.
Gently insert strawberry plants’ roots through the planting holes. Try to arrange the roots into a fan shape after they are inside the barrel.
Add about 5 more inches to the barrel’s interior until it reaches halfway to the next row of planting holes.
Water the soil with a low-pressure hose or watering can. Your goal is simply to add a little moisture to keep the plants going during the planting planting process, so don’t actually soak the soil.
Add more soil until you reach just below the next row of planting holes.
Continue planting, filling and watering the barrel where you’ve inserted strawberry plants into the top row of planting holes.
Add more soil to reach just below the ring of the barrel, making sure not to cover the top of the center watering pipe. Plant more strawberry plants on top, or (if you wish) other shallow-rooted plants, such as herbs or lettuce.
Insert a hose into the watering pipe and run water for several minutes to give the strawberries a good soaking. When a finger poked into the planting holes detects damp soil around the plants’ bases, turn the hose off.
Things You Will Need
- 25 strawberry plants
- 30 or 55 gallon oak or beech wine barrel
- ¾-inch diameter (minimum) PVC pipe, about 2 inches longer than the barrel's height
- 30 or 55 gallons of potting soil
- 2/3 qt. fertilizer (either commercial 4-8-8 or an organic mixture of equal parts bone meal, cottonseed meal and limestone)
- 1 to 5 lbs. coarse sand (depending on diameter of the watering pipe)
- Drill with 2-inch and ½-inch drill bits
- Whiskey barrels work just as well as wine barrels for strawberry planters. Half-barrels may be used as well--just plant fewer strawberries and use less soil and a shorter length of PVC pipe.
- To deal with the shaded side of the barrel, strawberry growers have three choices. Set up homemade or store-bought aluminum reflectors next to the barrels to maximize sunlight, put the barrels on casters and rotate them during the day so that all of the strawberries receive equal amounts of sun or simply plant the shady side with shallow-rotted, shade-tolerant plants like impatiens, lettuce or chervil.
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