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How to Create a Half-Barrel Garden {Guest Post}

Gardening in barrels and planting in barrels isn’t just a trend! Gardening barrels, especially half barrels, are easy to try. 

This is a guest post from Mama Z of Natural Living Family.

Half-Barrel Container Gardens

Gardening gives you wonderful control over the food that you eat and what you provide for your family, allowing you to take full advantage of the gifts that God has given us to nourish and sustain our bodies.

Half Barrel Gardening

However, not everyone has room for or wants a garden in their backyard. Barrel gardening makes the most of the space you have, plus when you use companion planting, you can create beautiful displays that enhance your yard or patio!

Planting in a half-barrel is a fun way to create mini-gardens in your yard, allowing you to place the herbs, flowers, and veggies that you want in places that make sense for you both strategically and aesthetically. For example, you can place a half-barrel planter of your favorite herbs near the back door so that it’s easy to grab what you need when you’re in the kitchen! My herb barrel planter is a favorite part of my deck garden.

Planting in Barrels: Prepare Your Half Barrel

Empty half barrel for gardening

Garden centers, big box stores, and home improvement stores are all great sources to find half-barrels for planting. Once you have a half barrel, there are a few steps to make sure that it is ready to be a supportive habitat for your plants.

  • Check for good drainage. If there are no drainage holes, drill a few ¼” holes around the bottom to be sure that it doesn’t retain too much water.
  • Add casters if you want to be able to move your barrel around easily. Choose wheels that have a locking mechanism so that your barrel won’t roll in high wind or if bumped or jostled.

Gardening in Barrels: Fill Your Half Barrel

Half barrel being prepared for planting

Now that you have a half-barrel planter that is ready to go, you’ll want to create the perfect environment for your container garden.

  1. Start by filling the bottom half of the container with packing peanuts that will help to enhance the drainage in your planter. Packing peanuts are a perfect lightweight filler for your planter, as you most likely won’t need soil as deep as the planter. Do take care to protect the peanuts from blowing around while you fill the planter.
  2. Cover the foam peanuts with a layer of weed mat to help prevent the soil from falling down into the bottom of the barrel.
  3. Fill your planter with your choice of soil. Any potting soils used should have perlite or vermiculite in the mix. If you choose to use a soilless mix, make sure to use an organic soil amendment such as compost on a regular basis.

Want to Dig into Gardening?

organic gardening

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I also want you to imagine decreasing disease and pests with time-honored crop rotation and companion planting.

Check out my dear friend Melissa’s Organic Gardening Workshop. ​​Melissa is a 5th generation homesteader with 20 years of experience growing her own food. In fact, she raises more than half of her family’s fruits and vegetables with a day job and on only a half-acre. 

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  • how to naturally build healthy and organic soil at home with composting and/or cover crops
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  • how to use cold frames in the spring and fall to increase your ability to grow food longer & extend your growing season (if not all year long)
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Planting in Barrels: Choose Perfect Companion Plants

Depending on the size of your barrel and the plants you choose, your half-barrel planter can sustain up to 20 individual plants. Companion planting is a wonderful way to take advantage of the space that you have, but it’s important to understand what plants grow well together and which do better on their own.

Bee on chive blossom
Chives grow well in a container and, in addition to being a delicious edible herb, they attract beneficial pollinators to your garden.
  • Let there be light. Whether your container is in the sun or mostly-shade, you’ll want the plants you plant to have similar light needs. Some of my favorite shade plants include kale, fuchsias and lemon balm.
  • Water deeply as needed. Containers will dry out more quickly, but large planters like this half-barrel will hold water better than very small containers. You may not need to water every day but watch your containers closely. Some drought-tolerant perennials that work beautifully in containers include lavender and rosemary.
Bee on borage plant
A beautiful edible flower, borage grows well in large containers.
  • Match like with like. Tomatoes and peppers are a good pairing, as they both need a large amount of sunshine and water. This is an example of combining plants with similar needs to they can both thrive. See how to choose a tomato variety that does well in containers.
  • Consider pollinators. Include plants that attract pollinators, such as marigolds, zinnias, chives, and impatiens. They will bring bees, butterflies, and other helpful friends to your mini-garden, add a pop of color, and help you get a better harvest from the other plants in your garden.
Herbs in a container garden
Sun-loving plants like these herbs will live happily in a large container and work well as companions growing together.
  • Watch for bullies. Mint and oregano, for instance, have a tendency to spread and take over the area where they are planted. Avoid adding these to a container with other companions.
  • Plant what you love! Think about your purpose as you plan out your container. For example, if you’re working on an herb garden, you’ll want to grow the items you use most often.
  • Use organic gardening methods. Whether you’re growing an edible container or just providing a treat for the bees and eyes alike, organic gardening techniques will keep you from introducing toxic chemicals.

Want more information on creating a wonderful organic garden with amazing plants that will create a bountiful harvest for your family? Organic Gardening Made Easy with Mama Z includes even more tips, tricks, and advice that will help you create the organic garden of your dreams.

Have you tried planting in barrels yet? What’s your favorite thing to grow in half barrels?
How to Create a Half-Barrel Garden

Ready to get your hands dirty? Here are some more Gardening Posts from KS:


Sabrina ZielinskiAuthor of the bestseller The Essential Oils Diet & co-host of the Natural Living Family Podcast, Sabrina Ann Zielinski is a certified group fitness and martial arts instructor, health coach and a natural health guru. The mastermind behind the allergy-friendly food recipes and do-it-yourself remedies featured on, she’s known as “Mama Z” to many fellow moms who are looking for natural ways to care for their families.
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.
Category: Gardening

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