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olychick2

Whiskey barrel planter rotting and falling apart!

Olychick
6 months ago

I planted a Coral Bark Maple in a whiskey barrel maybe 20-25 years ago. It's a nice size now, not huge, just right. It's planted on the front corner of my garage, on top of gravel from the adjacent gravel driveway. Now, the whiskey barrel has rotted away, the metal bands have fallen, a few of the oak staves still cling to the dirt - which is filled with above ground roots. The roots have also grown down into the ground below the planter, but I fear the rain will wash away the remaining dirt from above the ground, not only looking terrible but maybe killing the tree. Any ideas about what I can do besides have the whole tree dug up and relocated, which I don't want to do. Have a planter built around it? Any other solutions? I think I've seen bottomless whiskey barrel planters...are those just lowered from over the top of the tree?

Comments (14)

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    6 months ago

    If you can't (or don't want to) move it - and now would be an ideal time to do that - then your only option is to build a container around it. Obviously with no bottom and slightly larger than the current rootball. If of wood - the logical material choice - it too will deteriorate in time.

    I wouldn't try a bottomless whiskey barrel. I can't imagine how it could possibly fit over the topgrowth of a 20+ year old Japanese maple!! They are just not wide enough.

    Olychick thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    6 months ago

    love to see a pic of it.. maybe some other options would come to mind...


    so we can think outside the box... or in this case.. outside the barrel ....


    im thinking .... if its well rooted into the ground .... then im wondering if the tree even cares whether the barrel is there .. so that a vast majority of the issue might be aesthetics .... it is a maple.. not really known to be a foo foo plant ... unless you pay a couple hundred dollars for a real foo foo version ....


    ken

    Olychick thanked ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
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  • callirhoe123
    6 months ago

    Have it planted in the ground. Clearly, the roots want more room. If you want a container ion that spot, purchase a new one and plant something smaller.

    Olychick thanked callirhoe123
  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    6 months ago

    I planted a Coral Bark Maple


    ==>>> hate when i miss part of the first sentence.. lol ...


    in my MI ... CB is one of the most foo foo ... i dont remember where oly is.. but it it made it 2 decades ... in a freakin whiskey barrel... its not foo foo in his region ... lol


    but as i read the rest ... for whatever that is worth apparently ... lol ... there is no budget for hiring a tree spade to move a tree of this age.. even if they could get one that close to the garage ... nor any will to invest that heavily in the project .... so all your left with is basically leave it be with a minor aesthetic fix.. or being done with it.. and he doesnt sound like he is there yet ...


    i suspect.. and we will never know.. that a vast majority of the roots are down in mother earth ...


    still love to see a pic ....


    ken


    ps: a trees value is no more than what someone will pay for it.. and though im sure its a gorgeous specimen ... but who is going to come dig up the front yard and take it.. and pay a lot of money for it ... unless of course you have local fanatics who might do such ... and let them carry the burden of failure ... and heavy labor ....

    Olychick thanked ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
  • Olychick
    Original Author
    6 months ago
    last modified: 6 months ago

    Ken, I'm not sure what you're referring to re: taking it. It was planted in a whiskey barrel because there is terrible soil here + I wanted it near the garage (detached) because I needed something planted there to soften the area. And in my area, people are digging up mostly smaller maples, like Laceleaf Japanese Maples, right from people's landscape and stealing them - it's a common problem! Likely selling to unscrupulous or unsuspecting landscapers and homeowners. I have a 55 year old specimen that I hope I never lose, but I'm in an out of the way area and it's hidden behind a fence.
    Thanks for responding! I'll take a pic when it leafs out...not much to look at now.

  • olychick
    5 months ago

    I should probably wait to post this until the tree looks better, but I am so excited that I found a solution! I don't do much Facebook, but on FB Marketplace, I saw a woman advertising cedar planters. They didn't look like top quality, but she was local, so I asked her if she could make a bottomless, 3 sided planter that I could slip around the rotten whiskey barrel, then attach the 4th wall after it was in place. She said she could and would do it for $60! I picked it up today and put it in place to see how it looked. I am thrilled. It's not fine carpentry by any means and in this pic I haven't attached the 4th wall yet, nor have I removed the rotted staves of the barrel. Some of them are piled on the dirt, just to get them out of the way when I put the new planter in place. I will fill the corners with something like weed block to hold the soil and put some more dirt around the exposed root ball on top of the fabric. It looks 100% better than it did and will last my lifetime - then it's someone else's problem, lol.


  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    5 months ago

    I will fill the corners with something like weed block to hold the soil and put some more dirt around the exposed root ball on top of the fabric.


    ==>>>


    it6 feels good when a plan comes together ...


    i hate landscape cloth.. i would suggest you not mess with it ... if god wanted you to fill planters with plastic.. man made products.. then the tree would be plastic ... not much logic there.. lol.. but i hope you get the drift ...


    take off the 4th side ... get some soil or media equivalent to what was in the barrel ... and grab a stool..and just take a few hours to work it in and all around the tree ... using the hose to wash it down ...you want something close to the old stuff so watering doenst get too complicated ....


    and BTW .... since the roots are actually n mother earth ... i might NEVER water the pot ... whats would be the point ... the feeder roots are half way to the neighbors house ....


    do not add much of any on top of the existing level ...


    maybe stain or paint the thing before you permanently install it .. would be easier on a bench than on the ground ... i dont know if i would match the garage... or go with a contrast ... which is why .....


    but then .... i would probably let it go natural grey .. and never paint it ever ....


    ken


    ps: boy you got a real brown theme going in that pic.. lol .. or its a camera trick due to lack of sun ... even the hose????

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    5 months ago

    You WILL need to water!! And pretty routinely through our very dry summers. Japanese maples are not the slightest bit drought tolerant and even those planted directly in the ground benefit from a good soaking every now and again. And I doubt there are many feeder roots located outside the confines of the original planter. That's a pretty skimpy and undernourished looking tree for being 20+ year old. It is definitely showing the signs of significant root impairment....sorry :-(

    The cedar box is an excellent solution to tricky problem. I'd agree not to use any landscape fabric - really no need for it.

  • olychick
    5 months ago

    Thanks for responding Ken and Gardengal. I need to put something (weedblock or something else non-plastic) onto the gravel inside the box where the whiskey barrel wasn't covering the ground. I have to add dirt all around in there (I know not to add to the top of the existing soil against the tree) and if I don't have something to hold the new soil in, it will just wash out the bottom - remember there is no bottom on this box, just sides. So I think it's the best solution for holding the soil on top of the gravel and in the box.
    You're right Gardengal, it is not big for its age, which was the whole point of planting it in a container! There is no decent dirt there anyway, hard packed clay with gravel on top for the driveway and the back yard walkway to the house, so a container was the only option. And of course I will water it...that's how I've kept it alive for 20 years, although I think it's more like 30 now that I think about it!
    I am so pleased, it looks 1000 times better than this:


  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    5 months ago

    Now I understand the need for landscape fabric, But I am still not convinced it is necessary. Your box is essentially a raised bed. Raised beds - 4 sided containers with no bottoms - are placed directly on the ground all the time with nothing between the soil they contain and whatever it is they are sitting on. As long as the box is in snug contact with ground and you have firmed in the added soil, I don't think you will see much seepage or washing out of soil.

  • olychick
    5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Thanks, because of the gravel and terrain, it won't be snug in several areas and I'm not up to digging it out to level it. I also have some gunny sack coffee bean bags that I might double up and use. By the time they rot, the roots should have grabbed most of the soil. If I don't put something there and some of the soil does wash out, I don't want to have to redo it all.

  • nandina
    5 months ago

    A short story. About 50 years ago we lived in wine country around the Finger Lakes in NY State. It was there we learned the secrets of making homemade wine. One year, as the fall crop of grapes were ripening we had need of several barrels for wine making. Located in the area was a business that sold used oak whisky barrels for that purpose. I remember that day well. As we loaded our two barrels in the truck the owner began to complain about how and where he was going to unload his excess of barrels which filled an old three story warehouse. A thought came to my mind.


    "What if you cut the barrels in half and sold the bottoms as large plant containers and the tops as kindling?"


    Conversation stopped. The owner learned against our truck, deep in thought. Then jumped forward clapping his hands together. " I will try that idea! I will set up and plant whisky barrel planters out here along the front where they can be seen from the road."


    And that is what he did and you know the rest of the story.....except for the most important part which has been lost over the years. The owner stressed the following information which he planned to include with the sale of every wooden barrel planter....(if they sold).


    Before filling a wooden planting barrel with soil, set it in place and the underneath bottom (not the rim) must be suspended on a support of some type or the barrel will fall apart in a few years. This can be easily done by setting the barrel on three bricks lying sideways flat on the ground underneath. Or, use two pieces of 2x4 cut to fit. Anything of this type that puts pressure on the bottom of the barrel. Important.

    End of story.



  • olychick
    5 months ago

    That's a great story! Of course, when you're young and poor, you seldom think 30 years into the future and what the ravages of weather will do to wood! In one of the planters, all those years ago, I thought I was being quite brilliant for keeping the barrels lighter (some I was planting annuals in), in case I wanted to move them. So I filled the bottom with pieces of styrofoam and covered them with dirt. Seemed like a good idea until one day I notice swarms of ants taking apart the styrofoam, separating it into the little beads that were pressed together to make the blocks. They were carrying them off to heaven knows where for heaven knows what...all I know is there were now thousands of tiny styro beads all over my garden, spilling out of the barrel, etc. And contaminating the ground everywhere. Ugh! Lesson learned. Now I use empty gallon milk jugs to take up extra space in the bottom of large planters.