DIY Strawberry Patch in 55 gallon barrel

It's so easy to find these big 55 gallon blue food-grade barrels on craigslist. I know, because I had been looking for a black one to use for a DIY compost bin project. So, when I saw this DIY 55-gallon strawberry barrel, I had to bookmark it! 


This fantastic how to article was created by Blackthorn-USABut then... I went on Amazon (why do I always do that?), and I found these really cute Hanging Strawberry Baskets, Strawberry Vertical Garden, and a Strawberry Planting Bag. Of course, compared to the price of amazon's Vertical Garden 30 Gallon Barrel ($130), the DIY project is preferred. So, now I'm not sure what I want to do - the barrel, the basket, the verticle garden or the bag. So man choices! - Stephanie

I found a couple threads mentioning using barrels as planter here but nothing very in-depth. I’ve built a few and thought I’d write up a quick tutorial showing just how easy they are to build.

Well in a couple, three weeks people will be giving a lot of thought to their gardening projects for this year. Many people will be wishing they had a garden this year. I wanted to share a project I made a couple years ago that works for anyone but is especially effective for people in urban areas that have limited space.


The Garden Barrel planter is easily made from a 55 gal. plastic barrel with common hand tools or small power tools. The result is a planter that has 42 growing slots plus the top of the barrel for taller plants like tomatoes.

The Garden Barrel is perfect for balconies and patios. It can also be placed on a carpet dolly (rollers) and extend your growing season by being able to have it in the sun during the day and roll it into your garage or out building when there’s a chance of frost.

Once you have acquired a barrel you need to cut out the top of the barrel and mark our where you want your slots to be. I used a sharpie and measured from the seams on the sides of the barrel for accuracy. This isn’t required, you just need to mark where you want your growing slots. I drilled 3/8” holes on each end of my marks to aid in cutting and prevent splitting when I bent the slots. You can see my test run on the piece I cut from the top of the barrel.


I used a heat gun to heat the slot area until it was flexible enough to push a small length of 1 1/2" PVC pipe into the slot. This will hold the plastic in shape while it cools. I found it works best to start heating the slots from the bottom as the heat warms the slot above as well. By the time you get to the top the bottom slot has cooled sufficiently to remove the PVC piece and continue around the barrel.


Drill four 1/2" holes around the bottom of the barrel to allow excess water to drain. I put these about a 1/2" up on the sides of the barrel. In order to equally disperse water through the barrel I used a piece of 4” SDR35 pipe about 2’ long with a glue cap on the end. You can use any type of plastic pipe. SDR35 is just what I had laying around. I cut slots from the bottom up in increasing frequency to allow water to flow into the center of the barrel.


Now is the time to paint the Garden Barrel if you’d like. Fusion paint for plastic works well. Here’s mine along with some rain barrels I was putting together.


That’s it, your Garden Barrel is made. Now just determine where you want to place and whether you want it on a dolly. It will be very heavy once it’s filled so make sure you like it where it’s at.

Fill it with dirt about 1/3 full and set the watering pipe into the center while putting more dirt around the pipe to hold it in place. You want the top of the water pipe even with the top of the barrel or just a bit higher. Continue to fill and tamp firmly until the barrel is full. Now’s a good time to throw in a couple dozen night crawlers. I set a cap on top of the water pipe to keep leaves and debris out. To water the barrel just remove the cap and fill with water. The top and side can be sprinkled.

On your initial planting you may have to add some dirt to the planting slots. This actually makes planting easier, but once they’re full you will no longer need to add dirt. Now you just have to plant your slots with whatever you like. I use mine for strawberries, lettuce, and an assortment of herbs around the outside and on top tomatoes and a couple larger herbs. Here it is before I got stawberries around the bottom.


That’s it. Easy to build and puts a lot of plants in a small location. Hope someone finds the info useful and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.

Original post by Blackthorn-USA on