Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How to Grow Strawberries in a Whiskey Barrel

Photo by: dustytoes

How to Grow Strawberries in a Whiskey Barrel

Many people have been growing strawberries in old whiskey barrels. One of the advantages for a barrel to plant the strawberries is that it doesn't take up much room if you have limited space. If you put the barrel on a plant carrier, you can move it wherever you want. When all danger of frost is past, it is time to start planting strawberry plants. You will need to locate a whiskey barrel made out of cedar, oak, or redwood. These are found at some garden stores and home improvement stores like Menards, Lowes, or Bomgaars. You can also order them online or through garden catalogs. When you are picking up your barrel, grab some hardware cloth. You will need to form a 4 to 6 inch diameter cylinder shape out of the hardware cloth, and it should be as tall as your barrel. 
Drainage Holes, Planting Holes
Not all whiskey barrels come with drainage holes at the bottom, or the holes to plant your strawberry plants. You will need to make some before filling the barrel with soil. Position your electrical saw or hand held saw about one foot above ground level. You'll want to cut a 3 to 4 inch hole in the side of the barrel. Repeat this procedure spacing the holes 10 inches apart. Continue cutting holes up the side of the barrel but keep the last row of holes 1 foot below the top rim.
Make some drainage holes on the bottom of the barrel. Drill several small holes around the bottom. This is a very important step, because without drainage holes, the water cannot drain away and the plants will rot. 
Place the Barrel on a Trolley
Before you fill the barrel with soil, place your barrel on a plant trolley. This is a platform with wheels underneath. If you have to move the barrel, this makes the job much easier. The whiskey barrel is heavy as it is, but once filled with soil, it will be almost impossible to move. The trolley will also enable you to move the planter around so all the plants receive sunlight. 
Hardware Cloth
Form the hardware cloth into a cylinder shape and use pieces of wire to keep the hardware cloth closed. Place this in the center of your barrel. You fill this section with coarse sand or gravel, while the outside perimeter is filled with potting soil. The sand or gravel in the center of the barrel allows the water soak into the soil and it allows the excess water to drain away. When you fill the barrel with soil  and the hardware cloth with sand or gravel, do so in 6 to 10 inch increments. Moisten the soil with water. This will settle the soil and collapse air pockets. Repeat this process of filling and watering until the barrel is full.
You can use bagged potting soil that you find at the garden store, or you may mix your own by combining equal amounts of peat moss, perlite and compost. Add some well-rotted cow manure into the soil as well for fertilizer. If you don't have access to manure, use granular fertilizer, but please read and follow label directions on how much to use. Allow the soil to settle for at least 1 week before you start planting.
Plants and Planting
The best strawberry plants to use in the whiskey barrel planters are the everbearing or day neutral varieties. Everbearing will give you two to three harvest of fruits in the spring, summer and fall. The day neutral strawberries produce fruit throughout the growing season. 
Dig a hole in the soil through each drilled hole and plant the strawberries. Gently fan out the roots and plant the strawberry plants as the label directions show you. This is vital to the health of your plants. If you bury the crown too deep, the plant will rot, but if the crown is too high above the soil, the roots will dry out. You can plant strawberries or other plants on top of the barrel around the center ring.
Allow the water to run through the middle section filled with gravel. You will probably need to water twice a week. Water through the when the planter is dry. Remove the blossoms until mid-summer.  After that, leave the blossoms on and fruit will form. It won't take too long, and you will be picking fresh, delicious strawberries.
When plants are growing in a container, then need frequent fertilizing than plants growing in the ground. Fertilize every two to three weeks according to label directions. Cut off any runners that form.
When wintertime comes, or the season ends, either bring the barrel indoors or wrap it in 6 inches of straw or mulch to protect the plants from drying out or freezing.

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