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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Midwest: Whiskey Barrel Planting Tips

Lynn Coulter
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Swiss chard in garden barrel


For instant color in your Midwest garden, plant a whiskey barrel with flowers, or fill it with herbs, fruits and veggies. It’s easy with advice from our Muddy Boots reporters, like Home Depot store associate Kelly, in Illinois, and Melanie, in Ohio.

Kelly enjoys growing and preserving her own foods, and helped launch a community garden at her store in the Normal/Bloomington area store last spring. Customers are welcome to pick from the garden, which is 100% free. Surplus foods are donated to local charities.

Since she’s focused on nutritious, delicious fruits, herbs, and vegetables, Kelly suggests planting your garden barrel with a “food focus.”   

“Plant Purple Basil in a ring around a purple spray-painted tomato cage with either an eggplant (try ‘Ichiban’) or a purple tomato. ‘Cherokee Purple’ or “Purple Prince’ are great tomato heirloom options,” she says.

Melanie adds, “Heirloom vegetables do great in our area, especially German and Russian varieties. I also love adding edible flowers like pansies, violas and violets.”

“Grow a barrel of mint! Choose from chocolate, orange, grapefruit, spearmint, peppermint, or sweet mint. Try mixing in some Gerbera daisies for a very child friendly mini-garden with lots of scents, tastes, colors and textures,” suggests Kelly.

If you’re a cook who likes to season your meals with fresh herbs, Kelly recommends planting dill or another tall herb, like cilantro or parsley, in the center of your barrel. “Then plant a ring of strawberries around it, and around that, plant trailing verbena for color.”

‘Wave’ petunias, which produce abundant blooms on long stems, are another great choice. “Plant them around a tomato in a matching color, and use a matching, brightly-colored tomato cage. (You can spray paint a cage, if you can’t find the color you want.) Tomato varieties to try include ‘Pink Brandywine’, ‘Lemon Boy’, ‘Cherokee Purple’, ‘Orange King’, ‘Mr. Stripey,’ or ‘Big Boy.’”

Kelly says you can also spice up your garden barrel when you plant a salsa garden. “Center a cherry tomato with a bright trellis, and add 3 pepper plants around the outside. Try jalapenos, banana peppers, snacking bell peppers or habaneros, and mix in white onions for ‘salsa in a barrel.’ Replant more onions throughout the year as you eat them.”

Image: David Scheuber/Shutterstock

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