Garden design is not my strong point. I can grow vegetables like crazy, but deciding how to layout a garden keeps me up at night. Luckily I have some very talented friends who helped give me design ideas for our new space. Lorene suggested that I use galvanized water troughs for raised planters to add visual interest and height. I’m so glad that I followed her advice! The troughs look great and they match the farmyard look of our chicken coop. Before I bought the troughs I called pretty much every single feed store in the Puget Sound Region. Reber Ranch Supply in Kent had the best selection of troughs (they come in a surprising number of sizes) and the best price. The oval troughs were $113 and the round one was $134.
The first step to turning a trough into a planter is to drill holes in the bottom so water can drain out. Prevent getting metal bits into your soil by setting the trough upside down on a drop cloth or tarp before you start drilling. To drill the holes, Jon used a 1/2 inch drill bit that is designed to drill through metal. He also experimented with punching holes through the bottom using a metal stake and a heavy hammer and found that method to be quite effective, too. Either way, it’s an arm workout drilling the holes!
Drill a grid pattern into the bottom of the trough and don’t skimp on the number of holes. The last thing you want is soggy soil in your new planter.
Once the holes are drilled set your planter where you’d like it to go permanently. Make sure that you place the seam side of the planter to the back and also level it before you fill it with soil. We forgot to do both and had to scoop soil out of the first container so we could spin it around and level it—such a pain! It didn’t even occur to me to fill the bottom 1/3 of the trough with rocks or soda cans or something to take up space. I just filled each one up with soil to within about 2 1/2 inches of the top. The soil has settled quite a bit, so if I was doing this again, I’d probably fill the troughs to within 1 inch of the rim.
The soil in the troughs is slightly warmer than the soil in our in ground beds. I have lettuce and peas planted in them now, but I’m going to plant eggplants and I’ll replace the lettuce with basil after I harvest. There has been some concern about zinc from galvanized bins leaching into the soil. After a lot of research, I decided that I felt safe growing food in the containers. I’m planning on keeping the soil at a neutral pH, which helps prevent zinc leaching, and I am going to have my soil tested every year to be sure.