Take the guesswork out of gardening with a tutorial on how to start a stock tank garden! Simple, clean, and totally Pinterest worthy!
There are so many lessons we learned last year, and we know we will continue to learn more as we grow a new garden this year. But since I have been getting lots of questions about our stock tanks, I wanted to share with you how we are going about it this time around. Here you’ll find my garden layouts, how we set up the stock tanks on our front patio, how we are choosing what to plant – and where – based on our sun, and more!
And yes, a stock tank does fit inside the back of a Subaru!
All About Stock Tanks
Where to start? How about with the stock tanks themselves? Stock tanks are made out of galvanized metal, and very resistant to rust, hard weather, and well, animals kicking them. Depending on the space you have, you can go a few different ways since they come in all shapes and sizes. I opted for sheep stock tanks that are short, at only a foot tall. Ours measure 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 1 foot deep. That meant that Emmett can help, where a two foot tall tank would be more of a challenge, and also a LOT more dirt.
But where do you find them? We got ours at the local feed and garden store. Depending on the time of year, or if there is a sale, you can find them for anywhere between $110-$140 a piece. Behlen is a common brand you might find. It is a bit of sticker shock at the outset, but they will last for years, and look good while doing it. I also found they were a lot less prone to icky things like slugs, where my plastic pots were magnets!
To set them up, Ben drilled holes into the bottom, and thanks to my mom she donated garden fabric to line the bottom. Before we filled them, we finalized the layout, and put 4 sections of 2’x4′ under each tank to allow for better drainage. Worked like a charm.
Think About Your Layout
What do you want to grow? And how much? These tanks are great, because you can fit a lot into them. More than I initially thought! When you are doing a layout of your tanks, think about how you want to move around them. It sounds silly, I know, but it is really worth consideration. This year we added a fourth tank, and had to re-lay out our tanks to get the right spacing, and even distribution. It mean unloading three tanks of dirt just to move them a foot over!
I know that for me, I need to be able to bend down and get into the pots without banging my knees into the sides of the tanks. So a two foot spacing is perfect, and mean I could sit on the adjacent tank while working on another one! No bum knees. And we can still get a broom between the tanks to keep a clean space.
Here is what our tanks and pots look like right now.
What Are You Planting?
The sky’s the limit. For the most part we are growing what we did last year, but trying new varieties that are more “container friendly”. There are so many different kinds, but different varietals react differently to different conditions – like in ground, or in containers like our stock tank garden. So, if you picked out something that doesn’t specify “container friendly”, all is not lost! Plant them anyway, because you may have success! Don’t be intimidated.
This year, we are doing more squash, and peppers, and strawberries (because Emmett loves them).
I had mixed results with beets and Swiss chard last year (and by mixed, I mean it sucked), so they won’t make a reappearance. Bush beans, snap peas, and carrots were all huge hits last year, and I got enough out of our basil to make an endless supply of caprese, and homemade pesto.
For me, I wanted to strategize what we were planting a couple different ways – plant what we love to eat, and plant a couple of things we wanted to try. Think of it like a 75/25 approach. 75% what you will eat, cook, or preserve right away, and 25% what you want to try that is new to you. That way you don’t get overburdened with a “WTH am I going to do with THIS?” problem and letting your hard work go into the compost because you can’t use it fast enough.
Dirt is Dirt, Right?
One of our biggest lessons learned for raised beds was that not all dirt is created equal. In ground gardens can typically handle a slightly tougher dirt, but our raised beds did not tolerate the heavy top soil that we put in last year. What we got from our local garden center was what they called their garden soil, but it was definitely more suited to in-ground gardens than our tanks. It was too firm, to solid, and basically was concrete when it got wet and then dried.
To help lighten the stress on our plants, we amended our tanks and pots with a blend of half top soil (from last year), and half potting soil out of bagged potting mix we got at the local hardware store. Each stock tank garden container takes about 6 cubic feet of soil. After blending it was much lighter and fluffier than last year, and I think it will be a much bigger success for starting ground sown seeds, and make a much easier transition for our started plants.
This is just a recap of how we chose to start a stock tank garden for ourselves, and really, there is no totally wrong answer here. Your plants need three things, water, sun, and dirt. So even if you’re making your first garden as a way to stave off the boredom of isolation, or taking a stand in your own Victory Garden of sorts, the best place to start is just to start! If you have questions on what we have done, please let me know!
My next garden post will be about how I am starting my seeds for items like peppers, and herbs that need a little extra TLC before going into the ground. I have taken a lot of lessons from my expert garden mother, so I hope that it translates well into our own practice of starting seeds this year!