Free rain-compost barrels from your local car wash!

tomatobob_va7(z7 VA)February 6, 2005

I just set up my first free rain barrel this afternoon. I had read, probably on this forum, that you could get barrels from carwash concerns, and last week I got one. Stopped by at a not too busy time and was asked, "Sir? Can I help you?" After a little explanation, he walked with me over to their trash area to see what could be taken and what not. One barrel was available, 55 gallon size, a lovely sky blue. Previously containing windshield washer fluid. This afternoon I took a drill with a 1/2" bit and a sabre saw to it and had the lid off in 10 minutes. I'm impressed with how substantial it is: very heavy duty, hardly any flex at all. After a soap and water cleaning, I'll use this one as a rain barrel, but will also go back for more, drill holes in the sides for air, remove top and bottom, and have a new compost bin. [I'm posting here for the first time, to say thanks for all the ideas and inspiration I've found on this forum.]

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This is a graet ideal.
Thanks for passing it around.
Cheers Lori

    Bookmark   February 7, 2005 at 12:18AM
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I have a couple of 55 gal. drums that I am planning on turning into Strawberry Barrels. Just thought I would put my 2 cents worth in on these GREAT items.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2005 at 4:20PM
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tomatobob_va7(z7 VA)

Darren, that's a great idea: strawberry barrels! I'm off to the car wash again. Would you describe how you plan to cut the barrels for strawberries? Size of holes, spacing, drainage holes, and how you plan to fill the barrels for planting?
Fifty-five gallons equals a lot of soil. I thought of filling mine with raw materials for compost this year and plant next year. But that's a lot of raw material, a lot of compost, and much richer soil than the berries need. What are you thoughts? Robert

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 4:00PM
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chills71(Zone 6b Mi)

mix soilless mix with packing peanuts for drainage and to keep the mix light and airy.

it will also help with drainage


    Bookmark   February 24, 2005 at 10:01PM
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Hey Robert,
I waited to reply back after I road tested the Strawberry barrel idea with the 55 gallon drums.
It works great! I can give you the specifics if you would like, I will give the readers digest version here.
I took the top off, drilled drain holes in the bottom. The round "caps" that are on the top, make great patterns for the size of holes to cut out on the sides.
As for the soil filling, I used compost and I have to admit a "cheat" that I have. I work for a nursery and can get a fair amount of potting mix occasionally. I have planted a few Strawberries already, getting them a few at a time, money IS an issue, hence why I like the Frugal Forum. Stick them in the holes and the top...Voila, Strawberry Barrel! Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2005 at 11:21PM
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tomatobob_va7(z7 VA)

Darren, thanks for the information. I hope your berries bear well. Should make keeping slugs out easy, too: some sand, eggshells, or wood ashes around the base. I wonder how many plants you manage to fit into a barrel, and what you do about the north side, shady-side of the barrel. And do you use a small bit and a sabre saw like I do (pretty time-consuming for 20 or more holes), or one of those cylindrical, toothed jobbies I'm thinking of getting? Tomato-Bob

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 3:39PM
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Hi Bob,
I actually have my barrel in a corner, so I really only had to drill a few holes, 9 to be exact. So, with the 9 and maybe 6 in the top, I only get 15, which is still alot more than I would have gotten trying to plant in that little corner. As for HOW I made the holes, I cut off the top with a jigsaw, then I drilled a big enough hole to get my jig in and followed my circle pattern. The circle cap that comes out of the top is a perfect size hole. One little piece of advice, IF possible, fill and plant at the same time. This is not necessary, but it does make the planting a little easier. Ah, experience, such a wonderful learning tool! LOL

    Bookmark   February 28, 2005 at 5:59PM
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lovetogarden(z4 NY)

Hi Bob, Any information I what equipment I would need to make the rain barrel besides taking the top off? Like, what would I need for the spout on the front and how I would put it on? Do you know if there's a site out there that shows how to do this? Any info for this mechanically deprived gardener would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Mandy

    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 3:36PM
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gurley157fs(zone 7/8sc)

Eureka!!!!!!!!! I use the heck out of 55 gallon barrels but had lost my source - never thought of a car wash. I will hit up all of the local car washes now.

All of my vegetables are planted in barrels cut in half, they are 'instant' raised beds. Keeps out the rabbits and moles, easy to weed and tend to. And I like having a few extra for 'holding pens' for those plants that I haven't found a place for yet.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 3:04AM
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EngiN117(7a GA)

I cannot find any carwash in my area willing to give the barrels. Am I approaching them wrong? Do you know of any other resources for the free barrels?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 6:32PM
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if you had some piping you could make a turnable compost bin with the barrel. Cut a square in the side of the barrel attach some hinges add a handle. Run a pipe through the middle. Extend that pipe to the outside of the barrel and add some type of handle / crank with some "T" fixtures Balance on some type of concrete brick contraption or something in that nature. and blam-o

gurley - I love the raised bed idea.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 1:57PM
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GardenKiwi(Z5 Michigan)

As I was reading about filling the barrels, being frugal myself, all I could think of was "I would get a couple of bales of hay - I bet they would fit in there and then put potting soil or whatever I could snag in around the sides of the hay." For years I have used hay (ask a farmer for spoiled hay that he can't feed the animals) to keep down the weeds. I used to pile the bales around the perimeter of the veggie garden and in a year it had all broken down and was gorgeous mulch that I could plant straight into. If you have extra barrels I would fill them with hay, water them well and let them settle down and plant straight into that next spring. When I have wanted everything to rot down in a hurry I shake out the bales of hay (not straw) and run the mower over them - chops it up fine so that it mulches down faster.

You could also get some empty 5 gallon pails, stand them on top of each other inside the barrel (lids on) so that they make a center core so you don't have to use so much planting medium. To water the barrels just sink some hollow PVC pipe - with holes drilled - inside the barrel and to water you just fill those up and it will slowly leech into the soil. (I just wrap duct tape around the bottom to seal the end).

Loved the idea of using half barrels for raised beds.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 5:16PM
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Tyrell(Zone 9, CA)

Wow, a lot of great ideas and uses for these. I have some comments/suggestions, too, but firt let me give an alternative source for people who can't get their local car washes to part with them. I bought two from a guy who gets them from a famous soda bottler. (Don't want to give them free publicity.) They originally had syrup in them, any residue of which might actually be beneficial in soil!

I am using one of the barrels to keep my blackberry bush confined. I cut the top and bottom off the barrel, buried it in the ground with only a few inches showing- and yes, it was a lotta work!- then planted the bush inside it. One way berries spread is by root suckers. But the roots are so deep by the time they get "out of" the barrel, that they can't send up suckers.

If I was to use the barrels for strawberries or other plants, I would do one thing differently as far as drainage. I would drill the holes about 3 inches up the sides, not on the bottom. That would create a reservoir to collect water that ran down too quickly, without actually soaking the rootball. The water would slowly be drawn back up by capillary action. This is the principle behind self-watering pots.

I also would use the heaviest, clay soil I could find. To me, most potting soil looks like wood chips! Everybody hates clay "because it's so hard to work." But in the pots, you never work it- I haven't in my garden either for 34 years!- so that's irrelavant. Clay is not only the most nutritious soil, but it holds water best of any soil. I would also put a minimum of three inches of grass clippings on top of the soil, more if it fit. Between the clay soil, the mulch, and the drainage holes up the sides rather than the bottom, I bet people could water only a third as often.

The final suggestion is using these barrles to collect rain water. Like Mandy, I am mechanically challenged, so I can't help with installing spigots and stuff. But I wanted to mention that you can in effect turn several barrels into one large reservoir, by connecting them at the bottom with PVC pipes. You would only have to let rainwater into one barrel, and the PVC would let it fill up All of them. You could then put a spigot in the last one "in line," and get water from all of them when your garden needed it.
Oh, in these West Nile Virus times, you want to make sure to put screens over any openings.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 12:41PM
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jview(Z7a NY)

Why bother with a spigot? I just use a bucket. Mine is a recycled plastic paint bucket, 2 gallon size. Works for me!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 3:10PM
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Hi, I just acquired a barrel from the local car wash and wondered what you have experienced as far a cleaning this barrel before using it. All the 'directions' I read elsewhere say only use FOOD grade barrels, this had soap in it, not food grade for sure. Soap can be a fertilizer but can also kill in the right circumstances. What is your experience before I proceed.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 5:51PM
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i definately like your idea tyrell, as my garden is far from my house and thats where my drainage would be coming from!! and with many of them i could rig up something to water more than one! hmmm if i could get hubs to go for it that would be great!! LOL now if i could get him to pick me up a few of the 55 gal thingi's in topeka that'd be great!! LOL :')) Medo

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 9:32PM
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I just got some barrels from the car wash but it looks like they were filled with chemicals. Anyway I know if they are still ok to use?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 1:24PM
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*This is not mine, it is on another forum*

We are going to take a 55 gallon drum and use a 2" inch hole saw to cut about 30 holes in the sides. Then I will fill with a little compost and plant strawberrys plants in the holes as the compost reachs them. Then I will plant 5-7 plants in the top. These barrels can last 3-5 years with the same plants but you have to wrap the barrels with chicken wire. You use the ckicken wire to hold straw against the barrel and this will protect the plants from the winter. In early spring remove the wire and straw and let them grow again.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 7:14PM
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