Friday, November 4, 2011


Water Troughs all in a row
In a recent blog post, I mentioned stumbling across the idea of using galvanized water troughs as raised bed gardens and I was intrigued.  So I decided to do some research, and here's the info I found along with some pictures.  All photos were randomly sourced from the internet and are not mine.  If you know where credit belongs, please let me know and I'll gladly link to them.

The general consensus is that it can be done, it's relatively easy and as compared to buying and sealing wood, can, at times, be comparable in price.  The only down side is that you are limited in the size you can have, whereas with wood, you can make any size or shape you wish.

Photo by Thomas J. Story, courtesy of Sunset Magazine Article
The main difference of course is that a lot 
of holes need to be punched/drilled into the bottom, as drainage appears to be the biggest hurdle. Most people (Bee Girl included!) put plastic bottles or rocks in the bottom to create some space between the bottom holes and the soil.  A good idea also is to put mesh in the bottom to keep soil from washing out of the holes over time.

Long water trough use as vegetable garden
One site I visited said someone was concerned about the metal and the use of it around food plants, but after careful research they found the fears unfounded

There is just so much I find appealing about this style of planting.  Not the least of which is the look of the garden; it's beautiful to see these containers in an outdoor setting.  As you can see, people are growing all sorts of stuff in them.  From flowers to salad greens to berries to full blown veggie gardens. 

I found that most commonly, people use the oval/long troughs, but I have to say I LOVE the look of these round ones in the next two pictures.  It would be awesome to have a garden with about 8 of these all in a neat arrangement in a fenced in area.  Or maybe a random placing of them around the property.

More round tanks being used as gardens
The bottom line, here are pluses:  Height, they are usually 2 feet high and that's a good height so you do not have to stoop or bend over as much, and building two foot high sides in a wooded raised bed is a little more difficult and of course uses more wood; they are contained and will hold moisture better; the metal will keep the soil warm and allow for earlier planting; and they are movable (empty of course) around the yard.  Minuses are: cost, they are more pricey new, though you might find some a farmer is willing to get rid of, but again, not sure if the cost of wood, screws, brackets and of course your time would add up to the same; then there is the holding moisture part, you really need to make sure they are well draining and have plenty of holes so that the soil doesn't get too waterlogged;  you are limited in shapes by what is available and therefore square foot gardening might not work as well; and some people worry that the metal sides, when hot, could burn leaves growing along the edge.

A link to some of the types seen above IS HERE AT AMAZON

UPDATE #1:  I was reminded in the comments, that cutting or welding galvanized metal is not safe without the proper equipment.  Drilling holes will be OK, but just don't attempt to cut or weld without reading safety procedures for that of course.

Overall, I think I would like to try this, at least maybe with one or two and see what happens.  My first step is finding some troughs/tanks.  Living in SE Texas, there are plenty of rural ranch areas with farms/cattle/horses/etc and I should be able to find some at Feed Stores and other such places.  Maybe they can even deliver, since I'm sure I can't get one of these in the back of either of our vehicles!  I'm thinking maybe putting one near the house to keep some herbs handy for 2nd Man's cooking, and try it that way, time will tell.

UPDATE #2:  A wonderful reader names Sarah, in the comments below, made a great suggestion.  If you fill it up a bit past the drain hole with gravel, and then cover it with mesh to prevent soil was filtering down into it, then you can water until it drains out the faucet drain hole in the bottom and you'll know it's watered.  Not a bad idea and prevent drilling.  Anyone try this?

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. In the Southern HOT heat, we have to be very careful about the amount of shade and sun exposure even with drought resistant plants. The white chipped rock gardens with lava boulders of the 70's is now being replaced with pea gravel and container pots down here. It's a much cleaner look that I love, but too much of a good thing is, well, just that. I love these galvanized containers because of the variety of uses and they seem to fit in a contemporary or country setting. Thanks for the great blog!

  2. Automotive paint! Use a primer and then seal it. We use it on furniture or anything that need durability. It is more expensive, but is definitely worth the price. Keep in mind that anything that is acrylic is a plastic based paint. Plastic yellows and eventually cracks and peels if exposed to extreme temps. Keep that in mind when selecting a color if you choose acrylic. It's best for more porous surfaces where is soaks in and won't peel.

  3. I didn't get to the links you posted, but what is the concern in a nutshell. Most soil has iron in it that is good for well balanced nutrients. Is it the galvanizing process?

  4. I'm in savannah tn and wanting to do this now. Thx for paint idea I am poor painter but I'm going to do something. Yippee

  5. I am so excited to start my garden in horse troughs. I love the look
    of the galvanized oval containers. I saw someone post a comment from
    the Phoenix Az area who was concerned about the heat and those containers. I am also from the Phoenix area and am wondering the same
    question. I don't believe it was addressed. I am sure that we would
    have to put up some kind of sail or barrier if exposed to the sun. But
    the temps even in the shade can still be 100 degrees in the summer. Is this not appropriate for our climate?

    1. Yay, thank you so much for the comment. Hmm, we have had some things planted in a few containers like this and haven't noticed a problem with heat. AZ though I know it gets crazy hot there. I have never read of it being a problem in my research but I'm not sure. I suppose it would decide on the size. Smaller probably could heat up more but I still think enough soil will maintain a cool temperature. Please keep us posted!!

  6. My troughs are waiting outside to be filled with beautiful vegetable plants! I'm deciding right now on my soil mix & LOVE the reminder about hugelkultur - I plan to give that a try. However, as this is my first foray into trough gardening, does anyone know if earthworms would survive? I'm hoping someone with more experience than me can give me some insight. Thanks so much!

  7. Question for those who have done this. I wanted to plant my chili plants in them and will need to bring them indoor in the winter months. How can I avoid the draining with holes on the bottom? I am open for any ideas. Thanks for a greatime blog!!

  8. My sis in law has one of those tanks, she offered it to me free of charge, but I don't have a place for it. She ended up planting her pumpkins in it, so that will be interesting. I'll have to ask her how much dirt she put in hers... she's on a farm, so no issue with lack of soil and compost to use. Another plus for gardening with these is that the critters (like rabbits) can't get in to eat the tender veggies.

  9. These work well for Hugelkultur beds too.
    Just fill it part way up with wood scraps, branches etc.

    I'm pretty sure you can just cut out the entire bottom for drainage, and replace with wire mesh to keep the critters out.


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