flooded half whiskey barrel
June 5, 2008 8:06 AM   Subscribe

I have two half whiskey barrels in my backyard, which I'm trying to grow bamboo in. One of them is VERY prone to flooding. What can I do to stop it from turning into soil soup?
posted by beatgenxer to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Holes, drill holes in the bottom or at the bottom of the side just above the lowest hoop. You are going to want pretty big holes, at least 1/2 inch diameter. If you haven't filled it with dirt yet, you should put gravel or pot shards at the bottom to keep the holes free of dirt plugs.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:14 AM on June 5, 2008

Is it just bad drainage, or is it also getting an unusual amount of water, like from a roof edge or something? If it's just draining badly, a drill will fix you up - hit it low on the side, no more than an inch above the inside bottom. Maybe a 3/8" bit, anything bigger you'll start to lose dirt. Start with 4 holes and see if that does it.

If you're getting run-off into the container from elsewhere, you might "mulch" the surface as well as you can either with some kind of plastic, or river rocks or pottery shards that might help bounce some of it off. Ideally you'd divert the run-off before it hits the container at all, but that's not always practical.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:14 AM on June 5, 2008

Yes. Holes. I grew tomatoes in whiskey barrels very successfully just like Pollomocho said by drilling holes in the bottom and lining them with gravel. I also raised them up off the ground (well, cement) on bricks so that they could drain well.
posted by nnk at 8:28 AM on June 5, 2008

We grow bamboo in large planters, as well. Drainage is very important for bamboo. You should put the holes in the sides, not the bottom, of the barrels, to keep the bamboo from spreading. We put brick pieces and rocks in the bottoms of the planters, then added a bunch of sand, into which we mixed top soil. It took a year for the transplanted bamboo to take off, but, wow, it's really taken off!
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:02 AM on June 5, 2008

Response by poster: everyone seems to be saying the same thing with holes on the side. i'll have to try that this weekend. thanks!
posted by beatgenxer at 9:55 AM on June 5, 2008

I use styrofoam or corn starch peanuts under my soil to improve drainage. Same idea as gravel, just lighter and maybe cheaper?
posted by walla at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2008

walla, that actually won't improve drainage. If the soil is saturated water drains by gravity already; if it's not saturated water moves through soil by capillary action, and large spaces between gravel hinder this (in fact, the water won't move into these spaces until saturation point is reached). Plus, cornstarch peanuts are designed to melt down upon contact with water, so those are long gone by now.

Anyway, yes, drill some holes. Barrels are designed to swell with liquid in order not to leak.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:10 PM on June 5, 2008

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