Growing plants in a container is a good way for beginner gardeners to get their feet wet. It’s also ideal if you know you have problematic soil and don’t want to plant directly in the ground. One way around that is to use plastic barrels as planter beds.

A versatile planter that can be recycled, upcycled, or purchased for cheap, plastic drum barrels can be laid directly on top of soil or housed in a raised stand. In this video by Modern Homemakers, they slice right through them for their raised bed gardening project.

Inspired by organic food grower and fellow YouTuber Growing Your Greens, the couple decided to dig small trenches to place these on their lawn. You may decide to do the same or place these in wooden raised units. Check out this inexpensive gardening option!

Drum Barrel Planters

Image of plastic barrel in garden.Modern Homemakers


  • 55-gallon plastic drum barrel
  • Circular saw
  • Drill
  • Eye Protection


  1. Cut It

    With the circular saw, cut the barrel in half, lengthwise.

  2. Flip and Drill

    Flip the barrel over, with the long side facing up. Drill at least 6-7 drainage holes into each barrel. Keep in mind that container planters need good drainage so you may want to add more holes.

  3. Mark and Carve

    If you need to carve out a notch to fit the barrel around a pole or other protrusion, mark it before cutting it with the saw.


The planters are now ready for use. You can fill them with potting soil, leaving about an inch between the top of the soil and the top of the barrel. Ideally, you want to place the barrels where they will receive enough hours of sunlight after planting. One of the advantages of using a container is that they are virtually portable, and can be moved around to accommodate funky weather conditions.

Some gardeners like to add gravel to the bottoms of container planters like these to help with irrigation. Mixing sand with the potting soil is also an option to help with water drainage. Other liners include plastic capped bottles or Styrofoam peanuts.

Transplants or seeds work great for barrel gardens, but it’s important to research which plants will thrive in a container. Tall plants may not be the best choice if you don’t have adequate support for their growth. Foods like blueberries, strawberries, peppers, radishes, or herbs do well. Flowers can be planted alone or mixed in with edibles. Try orchids, marigolds, or petunias!

You can find drum barrels on Craigslist or eBay for a fraction of what they’d cost elsewhere. Just look out for food grade barrels to become your gardening containers. If you’re interested in using a raised stand along with these, you can either build your own frame or hire someone to do it for you.

Popping these barrels into a raised platform can save your back from gardener’s agony. Whatever you decide, happy planting season!

What do you think of this DIY planter project? Have you ever tried container gardening before? What types of things would you plant in these? Share with us in the comments!