ISSUE 39  |  Old Meets New

Steal This Look: Water Troughs as Raised Garden Beds

September 26, 2012 11:00 AM

BY Michelle Slatalla

The typical rectangular raised bed is a space hog that tends to dominate a garden. The other day I ran across a stylish alternative—painted livestock water troughs. Here's how to get the same look:

Photographs by Marla Aufmuth for Gardenista.

Above: The raised beds, seen in the distance beyond a trellis, look like large decorative planters when viewed from the house.

Two troughs with a small footprint—each is 2 feet wide and 6 feet long—sit side by side in the yard behind a San Francisco row house in a garden created by designer Katey Mulligan. At a height of 24 inches, each trough provides a luxurious depth of soil to promote root growth of vegetables and herbs.

Last week members of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers were in town to tour this and other gardens in the Bay area. For more of the tour, see "Small-Scale Gardening in San Francisco."

Above: The homeowner purchased the water troughs from a farm supply store in Santa Rosa, California. A similar 169-Gallon Round End Tank is available from Amazon for $249.99.

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Above: The homeowner painted the galvanized tanks with a metallic exterior paint. For UK gardeners, Metallic Paint in four colors—gold, silver, brass, or copper— is available from Stonehouses for £13.85. For US gardeners, Studio Finish Molten Metallics paint in six colors—gold, bronze, silver, copper, gun smoke, and charcoal—is available from Benjamin Moore for $22.95 a quart.

Above: The homeowner drilled holes in the bottom for drainage before setting the troughs in gravel. The plug was removed from each trough's drain hole, through which the irrigation system's hose was attached.

Above: Washed Gravel (L) is available in a variety of colors and sizes, and one ton will cover approximately 100 square feet at a depth of 2 inches; for more information, see NJ Gravel Sand. For information about irrigation kits and supplies (R), see Irrigation Direct.

Above: For pre-made fence panels, see "10 Easy Pieces: Instant Fencing."

Above: At the bottom of each trough is a layer of gravel for drainage, topped by soil cloth (to prevent soil from washing away). The soil is a comfortable 22 inches deep, allowing the homeowner to "crowd" plants at the surface because their roots have so much space to grow vertically. The beds are planted with a mix of arugula, sage, rosemary, oregano, and other herbs. For seeds, see Johnny's Seeds.

Above: Chives thrive in a raised bed; a packet of Fine Leaf Chive seeds is $3.45 from Johnny's Seeds

Above: Side by side, the troughs have a slim profile.

Explore more: Exteriors and Facades.