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Today’s Garden Twenty: Rub-a-Dub-Planting-Tub

Today, I finished setting up a tub planter at the corner of the barn. It used to be the temporary home to the rhubarb but since they’ve been transplanted to a more permanent home, we wanted to use the tub for “something else.” This change allowed me a chance to review some tub planting basics.

It’s a wooden half-whiskey barrel style tub, so my first concern has been to minimize wood-to-soil contact. What this means first of all is that I got a deep tub liner to hold the planting soil. As I remember, it cost as much as the tub but it’s worth it. The one we bought was particularly deep, so deep I think it was made to use as a ready-made pond. I drilled roughly a dozen holes in the bottom so whatever I plant there won’t drown after a rain. I used a 1/2″ bit. I also drilled a dozen holes wit the same bit in the bottom of the tub itself so that the rainwater will pour out and not collect. The first year, when we were bringing everything in for winter, I discovered several inches of standing water inside the tub! It makes sense since they were designed to hold whiskey and not leak.

The other way we minimize soil contact is by raising the tub off the ground. We bought a couple dozen 8″ x 12″ pavers from the garden center at Kmart. Earlier this week, Jan leveled the ground at one corner of the barn and laid a nice, flat surface of these stones. Though this foundation looks solid from the side, there’s actually a large space in the middle to allow water runoff. Yes, this prep task DID take a very solid 20 minutes of time all on it’s own. My part today was MUCH easier. All I did really was place the tub, insert the liner and fill it with compost.

Before I close, I want to mention that I’m not against decomposition by any means. I really like these half-whisky barrel planters BECAUSE all the parts are “edible” by Mother Earth… eventually. Last time I was at Lowe’s they had planters that looked sort of like whiskey barrels but cast resin! Definitely NOT my style.

Now, we need to consider what to plant. I think it would be visually quite impressive to grow something very tall out of this tub because it can grow right next to the barn. My first thought was pole beans but I’m not sure the bamboo tripod we have for them will sit flat and stable in this location. My other thought was hops which will spiral on up to the clouds… and spread like “northern kudzu.” Jan thinks that hops must be the plant that Jack climbed up to the Giant. At this point, we’re open for ideas…

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