DIY Wine Barrel Herb Garden
How to Prepare a Wine Barrel for Planting
Reading Time: 5 minutes
A DIY wine barrel herb garden is a great way to have your herbs right at your fingertips if you wish. Have you ever seen wine barrel planters in the store? I have admired them for years, admired, but not bought because the price was more than I was willing to spend. One day while looking thru Craigslist, I came across an ad for a full-sized solid oak wine barrel. The guy was moving and wanted it gone. So, $60 later it was mine.
BUILDING THE BARREL
After cutting the barrel in half, I saw how thick the barrel was. This was much thicker than the ones you can buy at the store. I wanted the planter to be a dark color to collect and keep the heat from the sun, which will allow me to start growing herbs earlier in the spring and longer in the fall.
When the barrels were being stained, I tried to get as little stain on the inside as possible. If I had to do it over again, the barrel would have been stained before it was cut in half. The reason for this is, I want to grow food in these barrels (herbs to be exact), and I am not sure the stain is food-grade. The color I chose was called dark walnut. After each coat, I waited an hour before applying the next, until three coats were applied. The next day, when the planter was dry, all the metal bands were sanded back down to the bare metal in preparation for painting the metal bands.
Because spray paint would be used to paint the metal bands, I placed a full roll of painter’s tape over the stained wood and the metal bands were sanded down again one last time. Since the wood is dark, the metal band color should be light and be a complementary color. The paint that I chose was metallic copper spray paint. I started off with a light coat on the first planter and by the time the second planter had a light coat on, the first planter was dry enough for a second coat. By then, the second planter was ready. I kept going back and forth until the first can was empty.
The next day, the paint was dry so I wet-sanded the bands with 320-grit sandpaper. I then used the second can of paint like the first can, going back and forth, putting on a light coat on each pass. Because the planter will need to drain extra water (either from rain or when watered with the hose), several one-inch holes were drilled into the bottom of each planter.
The holes needed to be covered to hold the dirt in place. So, using some leftover copper screen from the windows of the house (stronger than fiberglass and will last my lifetime), I stapled the copper screen into place.
To protect the bare wood from the wet soil, I used a pool liner that I ordered from Amazon. This should make the planter last a lot longer. After the liner was laid inside the barrel, the planter was placed on its side. I pushed up through the holes on the screen and my son cut the liner around the drain holes. At this point, the liner was not attached to the planter. To promote good drainage, three inches of pea gravel was laid on top of the liner. The weight of the gravel held the liner down nicely.
PLANTING THE BARREL
It was now time to mix up the soil mixture for the planters. Now, I don’t eat just one type of food, so why should my plants get to eat just one type of food? The more nutrients the plants absorb, the better. The following are the ingredients I use in all my gardens, planters, etc. They work very well.
• Good premium topsoil (no added fertilizers)
• Mushroom compost (from a local nursery)
• Leaf compost How to Compost Leaves
• Aged dried cow manure (from a local organic dairy farm owner)
• Rabbit manure (my rabbits provide this)
• Peat moss (keeps the ground very loose and easy to work, plus it does both while letting the soil drain but keeping enough water for the plants)
To mix this up, all the ingredients were put into a big mixing bowl (wheelbarrow) and a small blender was used (small rototiller). It takes about 20 seconds per wheelbarrow to make this mixture that has never failed to grow great plants.
Before you put the dirt in the planter, you must think about drainage. If the DIY wine barrel herb garden is right on the ground, there is a chance that water could build up and start rotting out the planter from underneath, not to mention that the dirt will be a lot wetter than it should be.
To fix this, I placed six bricks in a circle and the planter was centered on them. (I should have done this before the pea gravel was added as it would have been easier.) Once I was happy with the arrangement, both barrels were filled with the soil mixture. Then the liner was pulled over the top of the planter, stapled to the side of the planter, and the extra liner was cut off. When I have time, I will add decorative trim around the liner and staples.
Once both planters were done, it was time to plant the herbs from the greenhouse into them. After two months, the planters are doing very well.
Do you have any tips to add when making a DIY wine barrel herb garden? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Originally published in Countryside Hands-On Homesteading Special issue 2020 and regularly vetted for accuracy.