Recently, I became the proud owner of 3 half wine barrels. One I purchased from a wine tasting room in Calistoga, CA (home of world famous mud baths); and the other two I bought a few miles away, from Paul Block of Wine Barrel Furniture.
Now you might think, what’s there to know about planting in a half wine barrel. It’s straight forward right? And yes it is, but there are a couple of considerations…
Specifically, as in my situation, two of the halves, were, moments before, a whole wine barrel, which Paul cut for me on site; and, these were both still coated with plenty of red wine residue.
I can only imagine the pH reading was off the charts on the acid side. There’s no way I’m going to risk planting directly into the barrels, and to leach the barrels of wine acids, no time for that! 🙂
Steps to Ensure a Safe Wine Barrel Planting:
- 1. Drill several drainage holes– At least 1/2 inch, into the bottom of your wine barrel to ensure good drainage.
- 2. Line the inside of your half wine barrel with plastic – This can protect your plants from a potentially ‘overly acidic environment.’ You can do this by cutting a large piece of plastic. I used a roll of black plastic sheeting, 3-foot by 50-foot with 4 mil thickness. It’s heavy duty and tear resistant.
- 3. Staple plastic lining – Use a staple gun, shape, and staple the lining into place.
- 4. Trim plastic so it’s within your planter – I chose to cut & leave the plastic fairly high in the planter; can’t see it in the finished product though, which is good. 🙂
- 5. Punch out the drainage holes – Match up the drainage holes with the plastic and punch them out using something like a screwdriver.
- 6. Place screen or pottery chard(s) over drainage holes – This helps keep your soil from seeping out.
- 7. Add potting soil and plant(s) – Half wine barrels use about 4 cubic feet of potting soil. I used two, 2-cubic foot bags per barrel, planting in each one, a 5 gallon Ligustrum japonicum ‘Texanum’ (Waxleaf Privet). This is a lower and slower growing variety of the species, as it only reaches 9 feet, and can be kept smaller with pruning. (Note: To be able to give your plants a deep drink and soak, leave a 1.5 to 2 inches reservoir of space from the top of barrel, especially if hand watering.)
- 8. Drip irrigation – Optional, but I highly recommend it.
- 9. Topdress with mulch – I used a small bark mulch to give the planter a finished look and to help maintain moisture and temperature better.
- Additional – You may want to use pot feet, slate or something to raise your planter. This is a smart idea on a wooden deck to protect the deck, and also, it allows for air circulation to the root zone.
What’s so Great about a Wine Barrel Planter?
For a sense of place and the love of wine, I wanted to incorporate something thematic of wine for the garden. For a sense of place, California’s wine country which includes Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino county, is part of the connection I feel from living in Northern California.
Having oak wine barrels that previously held delicious red wine from Napa Valley adds character that I will enjoy forever. Besides that, they are strong, durable and very spacious for growing larger plants like trees and shrubs.
In my situation, I was looking for a simple deer resistant evergreen option to gain partial privacy screening where the soil is marginal, and so the idea of planting in a large planter: Approximately 25 inch diameter by 17 inches tall — was a nice no brainer option; eventually the oak will age to grey. Nice!
What about you? Any garden sense of place ideas, or themes you’d like to share? I’d love to hear!
If you have any wineries nearby, chances you’ll be able to buy used wine barrels. If not, Amazon has a good selection of half wine barrel planters.
Osmocote – slow release fertilizer granules provide all three major nutrients (NPK) to your plants for up to four months. Just sprinkle some into your containers as directed and water in. Every time you water, more fertilizer will be released.