Monday, September 22, 2014

Project: Stock Tank Planter

What? How do I have time for a project? Well, there's no way I would have either the time or energy for a project if it weren't for my wonderful husband, Rob, and my wonderful parents offering to pick up the girls on Saturday so that we could have a whole long morning to ourselves. Well, Ian was along for the ride, and I should give him credit. He's an amazingly patient baby with all the car rides involved.

The first car ride was to Tractor Supply Co., to pick up a 2'x4'x2' stock tank. Actually, Ian wasn't along for that particular ride. But he did come with me to Barton Springs Nursery to choose and purchase plants. (Not surprisingly, he didn't give any opinion on the plant choices. I'm sure Rachel would have, had I brought her.)

Then he came with me when I picked up bags of spare packing peanuts from neighbors, and when I headed over to Red Barn Garden Center to pick up garden soil and mulch. I pulled the "my baby is asleep in the car" card that time, and just pulled up to the front, left the car and A/C running, hopped out to purchase the items at the front, and asked the cashier to have one of the guys load it for me. Years ago, I wouldn't have dared bend the rules like that. But I didn't have 3 kids then, and I know now never to wake a sleeping baby if you don't absolutely have to.

Finally, after my failed attempt at borrowing a pickax from a neighbor, I strapped Ian into his carseat once again to accompany me to the Home Depot. I probably got some sideways glances, hauling an infant in a carrier on my chest, and a mattock in my cart. Oh well! I promise I was extremely careful.

Here's the stock tank ready to fill, in approximately the same spot it's in now.

I used the mattock to punch drainage holes in the bottom. Apparently it was a louder process than I thought--right as I was finishing, my next door neighbor (opposite side of the house from this) and my previously-napping 3-year-old came around to see what the commotion was. A few whacks didn't quite punch through, but most of them did. Thanks to Robin at Getting Grounded and Lori at the Gardener of Good and Evil for the pickax idea!

Another idea of Lori's--to add drainage and save money on garden soil, I started with a layer of (free) packing peanuts at the bottom. They floated up and fluttered down like snow as I poured them in, and again when I tossed in some rocks.

Here's the rock and packing peanut "casserole".

I threw in some cardboard tubes that have been through a couple of rains in the backyard. I guess they'll eventually decompose, but for now they might help with drainage maybe.

After the first couple of bags of garden soil...

Full of soil (to the top bend in the tank, which I believe would be called a "chime", as it is on a transport drum.) Atop the soil waits a clump of 'Alphonse Karr' Bamboo (Bambusa multiplex). This is one of the most expensive plants for its size I've ever purchased, so I sure hope it works out.

At this stage, the project was fast, easy and fun. Pick up a plant, scoop out a hole for it, remove the pot, break up any compacted, circling roots, carefully lower it into the hole and tuck the dirt back in around it. With loose garden soil, it couldn't be easier.

Here's the profile with only the bamboo planted.

I positioned it close to the back of the tank, where it'll get mostly shade. This is on the West side of our house, which is a challenging spot with morning shade and afternoon sun. Plants that can hack it here will have to be able to survive some temperature extremes.

Next, I dropped in the two potted Bicolor Iris (Dietes bicolor). Note: This is not a true Iris. But it is a tough, attractive plant for hot, dry climates. I'll have to preferentially water the bamboo in the back.

Then, I tucked in the Sparkler Sedge (Carex phyllocephala).

It doesn't exactly screen the A/C unit yet, but I am optimistic about this time next year.

Finally, I added Silver Ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea) to cascade down the front, and Purple Heart Setcreasea pallida) to fill in and spill over the side and back.

Silver Ponyfoot--this would already cascade down the side, but I nestled it into the tank, hoping it will take root and form a mat, then start fuller-looking cascade, rather than the lone dreadlock look.

Here's an overhead shot of the Purple Heart on the side of the tank, still in bloom.

Here's Purple Heart at the back.

This is the view looking into the backyard. Someday the plastic Adirondack chair will be replaced with a nice bench, and a large planter on the other side of the bench. I'd love to replace the existing wood fence with a metal bar gate at some point. I wanted to screen the A/C, trash and recycling, but I also want to create more gathering spaces around the garden, even in quirky, odd little spaces like this one. The kids love playing in these rocks, so I figure this will be another place where Rob and I can enjoy watching them play.

Here's the long view from the front sidewalk.

Here's the finished, mulched planter.

Have a seat, stay a while...


  1. I love planters like this. Such a nice controlled exercise in design planning, and as you note, with easy loose soil even the "work" of planting is a pleasure. I look forward to update photos as the plants fill in.

  2. Nice job! I like the idea of the packing peanuts--I need to retrofit a couple of large ceramic pots with that as they're too, too heavy for me! Like Deb, I look forward to updates.

    1. Thank you, Tina! Pam Penick suggested milk jugs, too--I'll probably throw a few of those in next time for big planters like this. I like the idea of packing peanuts in the smaller ones. Those things do get crazy heavy! I've been putting off re-potting a Meyer Lemon because I shudder at the idea of hauling the thing inside the house and back during the winter freezes.

  3. I love your mini-garden! I'm so going to try this myself. I have an old stock tank and keep waiting for the right inspiration.

    1. Thank you, Linda! And thanks for stopping by. I'll be sure to post an update on the stock tank garden this coming spring, if not sooner.

      It was great meeting you Saturday!

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  5. Really enjoying your blog & I'm here in the Central Texas area too Hi, Melody!I'm super interested in water conservation. I wondered if you’ve ever written about clay pot irrigation, or ollas, & if you have information about them that might help me in my gardening efforts. Thanks in advance or your response.