Summer Camp Crafts with our Bruers: Chris D.’s Upcycled Wood Barrel Planters

When I was a kid I hated helping with yard work at my parents house. It was mostly raking up leaves from a giant sycamore tree my parents planted when we first moved into the house I grew up in. As I’ve gotten older I’ve fallen in love with gardening. I now understand my father’s obsession with giving life to seedlings and watching them grow.

Not everyone has space for a garden or has a backyard. Thankfully, container gardening on a patio or an apartment balcony can be enough for most everyone. Recently I wanted to add a few fruit trees in my backyard and I thought that putting them in into wood barrels sounded like a great idea. It adds a nice decorative touch to an outside area and most dwarf or ultra-dwarf fruit tree varieties do well in a container.

You can obtain a used barrel on CraigsList or your local home improvement store usually has whiskey barrels already cut in half, which saves you the step of cutting them yourself. I was able to get my hands on a few whole barrels for this project and so I had to cut them in half myself.

Step 1:
Measure the total length of each barrel you intend to cut, find the halfway point and mark it with pencil all the way around. I found that even though the total volume the barrels can hold is standardized, the physical dimensions can be slightly different.

Step 2:
Lay the barrel on its side and using a jigsaw cut it in half. Being able to roll the barrel while cutting it makes the work a lot easier. Make sure you wear safety glasses and closed-toe shoes when working with power tools. Safety first!

Step 3:
Once your cut is made you now have two containers perfect for anything you would like to plant in them. But before we do that, we need to drill some drainage holes in the bottom so that excess water can drain out. Too much water can kill plants, just as too little.

Step 4:
Flip the half barrel so that the flat side is facing up. This makes drilling the holes a little easier and prevents you from accidently drilling too far and drilling into your floor.

Step 5:
With a power drill use a ¼” drill bit drill 9-12 holes evenly spaced in what will be the bottom of your planter. Make sure you get at least one in the very center and around the perimeter. These are the places water is going to want to pool the most. Once the holes are all made you can flip the planter back over.

Step 6:
When you are ready to plant make sure you position the planter where you want it to go or place it on a wheeled dolly. Once it’s filled with potting soil it will be very heavy.

Step 7:
Once the planter is in position, add soil. I prefer to use a good OMRI certified organic potting soil. Each planter will hold between 3-4 ft³ of potting soil. Now is the best time to mix in a good quality organic fertilizer as well. Organic fertilizers are good because you don’t run the risk of burning the roots of your plants like you can with synthetic fertilizers.

Step 8: Follow the planting guidelines that come with the plants you intend to put into your nice new planters and water thoroughly. Any excess water will drain out of the bottom.

Optional Steps: Since I was planting trees I wanted to be able to directly feed the roots of them with a compost tea. I had some 1” copper pipe (1” CPVC works just as well) that I cut so that it stuck out 3-4” above the soil level when completely submerged into the planter. I drilled evenly spaced ⅛” holes in the pipe starting 5” from one end. I then sunk the pipe close to the trunk of tree.

Another good option is to add 3-4” of mulch on top of the potting soil once you have planted. Mulching keeps the soil underneath moist and can protect your plants’ roots from the hot sun.

Since alcohol and power tools don’t mix well, I didn’t enjoy a delicious beer until after I had finished the project. After my trees were planted I sat back and enjoyed them with one of my favorite Bruery beers, BeRazzled.


Post written by Chris Deckner: packaging team member, Orange County native, home-brewing machine that can usually be spotted as the most dapper in a crowd. When not brewing and drinking delicious beer he takes care of a small menagerie of chickens, dogs, and cat on what he believes to be a small farm in the heart of Anaheim.

Make some more summertime crafts with our Bruers. Check out our Pinterest board and these related blogposts:

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