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Getting Started: Wine Barrel Planters

Gardening in a small, urban space requires a bit of creativity.  Our challenges are many: buildings & trees frequently block sunlight;  various critters like to snack on new seedlings and just ripe fruits & vegetables; and here in San Mateo, irrigation is a must.  To increase your probability of gardening success, consider adding recycled wine barrels into your urban garden.   

Having tried many types of growing containers over the years, the wine barrel has made it to the top of my list.  My galvanized tubs always seemed to need more water than wooden barrels - perhaps due to the different heating/cool properties of the metal vs. wood?  Aesthetically, a recycled barrel looks like it's been there for years - which I love.  And the smell!  There is no comparison.

Cost is definitely a consideration.  A wine barrel at Home Depot is $40 whereas a 35 gallon galvanized tub is $55.  You might say that growing in the ground is $0.00 - but in some locations, the extra 18 inches off of the ground that a container gives can be the difference between no sunlight and hours of sunlight - or the difference between photosynthesis and no photosynthesis - which is a pretty big deal in trying to grow plants.

Another thing to consider is protection.  Squirrels, rats and gophers are a San Matean gardener's nemesis - particularly this winter for some reason.  All of these fury friends can quickly destroy your best growing efforts.  The elevation of a barrel + a fabric covering is a very good deterrent to rodent snacking.

While moving a barrel filled with planting material takes some effort, the option of relocating the barrel in your garden allows you to find the most optimal growing spaces.  A few years back I planted a meyer lemon tree in a barrel too close to the house.  Moving it out from the house has greatly increased the amount of sun exposure it gets - making for a much happier lemon tree.

Most important is what you put into the barrel.  Starting out with a crushed rock base layer is key to keeping the right moisture level in the container.  Then add a good soil mixture.  I prefer the Lyngso (our local garden materials provider in San Mateo) veggie blend - which contains sandy loam, compost with turkey manure and redwood sawdust.  I've used this in all of my raised beds and just love the result.  Good soil is worthy investment.

Here's the install process in a quick video:

Believe me, there's always room for another wine barrel planter!  And now is a great time to reconfigure your growing spaces and take advantage of the recent rain showers.

Be well & GROW.

-Bill S. 


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