Grow Your Own Kitchen Garden – In Wine Barrels

The more you read and watch material relating to cooking there is a common but simple theme that rings true; use good, fresh produce (and organic where possible).

I have been taking this mantra more literally than most people for a long time now (some might say slightly over the top); imagine for a moment what my boyfriend thought when we first lived together!

Here he was thinking that he had a well-stocked kitchen with all the general supplies that most people expect to get you through cooking the basics. Then I come along, with my good produce neurosis, throwing out his bottled lemon juice, discarding his parsley (yes, bottle again) and filling the fridge with “fresh everything” so it looks more like a scene from Burke’s Backyard than an Aussie bloke’s beer cooling facility.

The problem with fresh everything, is that you have to be a little bit organised. There is no point in buying that fresh parsley today, only to return to the refrigerator a week from now to see it more limp than Elton John’s wrist. So instead of taking three trips to the fruit and veg store each week, why not try growing at least some of the fresh produce that you would normally buy.

I wrote a little while ago about the benefits of setting up your own kitchen garden, however thought I would take this a bit further. Now if you live in an apartment, don’t tune out at this point – “I don’t have a backyard” won’t stop you.

Let me take you through a little project that we did recently (we have always had herbs and some vegies in small planter boxes but we wanted something a bit bigger) that will get some fresh tasty things growing in very little space – and it looks good (see below pics)

In keeping with the theme of this website, here are the ingredients that you need.

  • Two or three half wine barrels* with holes (4 or 5 holes will do the job) drilled in the bottom for drainage
  • 3 caster wheels per barrel and screws (try and get stainless steel casters and screws so that these don’t rust)
  • Three bags of potting mix per each half wine barrel
  • Garden felt to line the bottom of the barrels (to stop the soil from falling out)
  • Assortment of herbs, fruit and vegie seedlings (we used parsley, corriander, thyme, basil, rosemary, mixed lettuce and strawberries)
  • Fine grade mulch (we used lucerne hay)
  • Hubby/boyfriend/brother to do a bit of the lifting, drilling and screwing for you (that body pump class is not going to cut the mustard here!)
  • One free day to pot everything out (project takes most of a day from start to finish)

Screw the caster wheels to the bottom of the wine barrels using an electric drill (wine barrels are made out of oak and can be very hard to screw into, so don’t try using a manual screwdriver). You don’t have to follow this step, but beware, once filled the barrels can weigh up to 90kg, so it is a good idea (particularly on a balcony, as it means you can move them around to track the sun and to clean around them).

Turn the barrels up the right way, line with the garden felt and fill with potting mix (leaving a 4 inch gap to the top of the pot). Arrange the seedlings (still in their pots) on top of the soil to mark out where you would like to plant them (take note of how close they like to be to other plants in the planting instructions).

Dig a hole as deep as the pot, gently squeeze the pot to release the seedling and place in the hole. Fill the hole with extra soil and gently push down around the plant. Repeat with all of your plants. Once done, give the seedlings a generous watering and top the soil with the mulch. Make sure all of the leaves of the plants are on top of the mulch (so they do not rot). The mulch will protect the plants from contact with the soil (which can rot their leaves) and will also keep the water in the soil, protecting from evaporation.

Remember to water every day (yes, every day), keep your new patch in full sun and enjoy!

*I can let you know where you can source wine barrels in Sydney

**NB We also planted standard roses in the middle of the pots as we wanted to make a bit of a feature out of the pots.