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Upcycle 55 Gallon Drums for Raised Bed Gardens and EarthBoxes

Got drums? They can be great for raised bed gardens, earth boxes, rain barrels and aquaponics.

If you happen to have old storage drums around, this is an idea for you. If you don’t, there are sources for new, recycled and refurbished drums.

Editor’s Note: If you’re concerned about plastics, this may not be for you. Whenever we post something that involves plastics, we always get comments about how bad it is. So this is not for or against, however we do like the concept of upcycling and repurposing things whenever possible. You will need to research the facts on the good and bad and make your own determination. This is more about how to if you want to.

Where to Get Used 55 Gallon Drums

Bob Mongiello, who created the videos on pages 2 and 3, says he finds his 55-gallon drums on Craig’s List for free.

For free or cheap drums, google this term to see what comes up around you:
Search Term:
Where to find free 55 gallon drums?1)

Often, you can find them for cheap on Craig’s list, or check with restaurant suppliers and manufacturers of beverages. E.g., Pepsi used to give them away for free, and a 2009 comment on a forum said they’re now selling them for $5, but not sure if that’s still accurate.2)

Please let us know what you know and where you find yours.

Now, Back to Making Stuff with DRUMS!

For container gardening at a height that’s easy on the back, this may be an idea for you. Here are step-by-step instructions for building a raised bed planter stand out of 55 gallon drums from

Raised Planter Stand

This is a solution I came up with for planting a garden above my septic system leach field. I didn’t want to plant directly on the field, or even create a raised bed, (septic lines should not be covered). I had access to 55-gallon juice drums and thought I would make use of 3 of them. The stand features the 3 drums cut in half lengthwise, supported by a series of assemblies connected by 2×4 stringers.

To start, here’s a video on how to halve and prep the barrels from Modern Homemakers.5)

Next, to build the raised bed frame to hold the barrels.

Stand for raised garden using 55 gallon drums. Image from Instructables by RushRan
Stand for raised garden using 55 gallon drums. Image from Instructables by RushRan
Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.22.37 AM
Stand for raised garden using 55 gallon drums. Image from Instructables by RushRan

For detailed instructions on how to make this, visit this project by RushFan.6)

But first, for How-to videos on building earthboxes and barrel aquaponics, keep on reading.

Building a 55 Gallon Drum Earthbox

Now for a how-to video using those drums for some awesome earthboxes. Or if you prefer a done-for-you to jumpstart your project, there are nifty earthbox kits on Amazon, including cool and unique gift idea for kids in a junior size to get them going with gardening. We prefer to get the kids outside in the garden with you, but if you don’t yet have your own gardening space, this might be a great alternative.

It’s even more fun if you can build it together.

We’ve provided those ready-made links on Amazon in case you don’t have time or just want to get planting!

Bob Mongiello, who created these next two videos, says he finds his 55 gallon drums on Craig’s List for free.

For Part 2, scroll on down!

Part 2 of How to Build a EarthBox using a 55 Gallon Drum

Bob Mongiello, who created these videos, says he finds his 55 gallon drums on Craig’s List for free.

Bob loves this method of planting tomatoes. It’s a virtual self-watering system, easy on weeding, keeps away dogs and (most) cats.

Cool, right?! If you’re liking this, you’ll want to see the video on barrel aquaponics next.

Now for an inexpensive way to turn those 55 gallon drums into an aquaponic system.

Okay! There’s one more aquaponics how-to video we think you’ll enjoy as well.

55 Gallon Barrel Drums for Aquaponics

With the “barrelponics” system 99% complete this video shows the guts of the system and how it works using fish waste water pumped on to the grow beds where it is turned into nitrates by a bacteria giving fertilizer to the plants. The plants clean the water which is returned to the fish. Great system!

See what you think… let us know. We love to hear from folks on what you’re doing that’s working and what you’ve tried.

Let’s keep on growing!

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