Today I want to give an update on the barrel garden project we set up this Spring. After doing a little bit of research, I discovered that growing herbs that meet the annual needs of families is actually very doable. To cover the annual needs of 4-5 member families, you don't really need more than about 5-6 herb plants. The barrel garden we made is ideal for doing this. Each barrel has 6 ring rows of growing "cups". Each ring has 8 cups. So what we did was plant 8 cups of one herb for each ring. For example, one ring around the barrel has 8 basil plants. Another has parsley. Another cilantro etc.
Since our growing season is only about 105 days, we take cuttings regularly and dry them so we have the herbs ready for our cooking/baking/fermented pickling needs during the winter. Some herbs can be cut and frozen in zip lock plastic bags like dill. During the Summer, we eat them fresh.
Apart from herbs you can grow lettuce, beets, onions, radishes or other plants that preferably do not grow very tall. How about a strawberry tower?
You also notice the open space on the top of the barrel. We are growing hot peppers there. In other years we stuffed a trellis into the top of the barrel and grew tomatoes and cucumbers increasing plant capacity to about 52-55 plants.
Some people ask why we did not add a composting pipe down the middle and some worms. That would be great as well but limits the potential of the garden and it is easy to pour some compost tea into the barrels now and again. For example. The barrels featured here are 3 ft (1 meter) high and 2 feet (2/3 meter) wide. For people living in crowded quarters where their only growing space might be a small balcony, a barrel would give them a 50 plant garden in a 5 ft X 3ft (giving room for the space plants would take up) space. If height was not an issue, imagine stacking one barrel on top of the other. Now you have a 100 plant garden in a 3ft wide X 8ft high space. That is a 100 plant garden. And if you fill the barrels with lighter soil mixes rather than pure heavy soil - which you should do anyway - weight should not be an issue.
Anyway, the photos give you an update and help show that good size gardens can happen in small spaces. Gardening is feasible and cost effective in urban settings.