container gardens
Soil Mixtures and Planting
Planting the Strawberry Barrel

   You can make your own strawberry barrel from a nail keg (which is easy to handle) or a barrel. A 55-gallon molasses barrel is fine for your purpose.

   With a keg or barrel, first bore five or six half-inch holes in the bottom for drainage. Then make two-inch holes, in alternate rows, around the sides, starting six inches from the bottom. Keep the holes six to eight inches apart. If you want the wood natural, treat it with a non-injurious preservative, or paint it with a light color to set off the foliage.

   To enable all plants in the barrel to get water, insert a drainage pipe in the center. But first, spread broken crock or brick over the bottom with a two-inch layer of gravel on top. Then hold a piece of rolled cardboard upright in the center of the barrel and fill with sand. Or take a downspout, with several quarter-inch holes bored in the sides, and hold it in position in the center while you fill it with sand.

   While holding the cylinder with one hand, with the other spread potting soil over the drainage layer and up to two inches from the lowest row of holes. Tamp to firm. Then add more soil just up to the holes. The cylinder should now stand alone while you insert plants through the holes. Spread out their roots and cover with soil.

   Repeat to the top of the barrel, setting plants in the holes and tamping soil so it will not settle later. At the top, place more plants around the drainage cylinder, spacing them about six inches apart.

   Pull out the cardboard when all the planting is finished. The sand will then act as a drainage outlet. However, if you used a perforated cylinder, let it stay. Then when you're watering your strawberry barrel, pour a little water right into the cylinder to reach the plants at the base, and pour more over the top around the cylinder.

   Besides fruiting strawberries, you can grow strawberry begonias, pick-a-back plants, episcias, chlorophytums, and small-leaved English ivies. When plants get rampant, remove some of the runners so the surface of the barrel will show a little. In hot, sunny positions, ivy-leaved geraniums, trailing lantanas, verbenas, cacti, and succulents will thrive. Annual sweet alyssum adapts itself well to this novelty container, and a combination of white, pink, and lavender varieties is a pleasant sight.

   If you live where there is winter freezing, move the strawberry barrel to a cool, frostproof place. Alternating freezing and thawing is harmful, especially with the glazed jars, which crack and break. If you have a cool, well-lighted window for the barrel, plants can be left in place. Otherwise, you must remove them and plant again in the spring.