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Upcycled virtical garden drum

virtical garden drum

Step by step instructions showing how to make your own upcycled vertical garden from old 255l drum and tin cans for compost pipe

This is not as very easy project as it requires the use of power tools as well as physical effort to panel beat the drum into the required shape. Though you can purchase plastic versions of this concept but we prefer to try use waste products to make our vertical garden.

What is unique about this system of vertical garden is the pipe in the centre of the drum; this is where you put your bokashi compost in when you have done making the tea. The compost will now break down and feed the plants in the drum.

Notes of experience:
* When making the vertical pipe try use a large coffee tin rather than a jam can and make sure you make big holes in the tin to allow worms to enter and exit the tins, this helps with the distribution of minerals and nutrients thought the drum.
** Once you have cut the slots in the bottom of the drum put in a layer of stone of clinker (broken rubble) to prevent the holes from clogging the drainage of the drum.

For any questions contact us via email

What you need to make your upcycled virtical garden drum:

  • 255 litre drum
  • 8 large jam tins
  • ice cream tub / flat bucket
  • Metal or plastic template to make for cutting marks
  • angle grinder
  • hammer
  • water pump pliers or large pliers
  • Tin snips
  • paint to finish
  • 6 bricks

Please note this project uses a angle grinder, please ensure that you work safely with gloves, ear muffs and goggles to protect your eyes. Work with care and caution. Remember to wash and clean your drum before you work with it. Please do not use any drums that have had toxic chemical in it is you are intending to use this to grow herbs.

upside down empty recycled 44 gallon drum

Step 1

Take a piece of thin metal or even plastic about 35cm long and 10cm - 15cm wide, starting from one side measure 2cm from edge and make a mark on the top and bottom. From these points measure 11.5cm 3 times and make marks at top and bottom with permanent marker or a nail. This will then be your template to make the cuts on the metal drum. 11.5cm will give you exactly 8 cuts round the drum. If you want bigger pockets you will make longer cuts.

makin template to mark cutting points

Step 2

Turn the drum over and then starting by the join line measure 10cm or the thickness of your template downwards, then move along a short distance and make a second mark. This will give you a level line to start making your cut marks. Our template was 15cm wide that is why i made this additional step so that i did not start too far from the bottom of the drum.

makeing a level start point

Step 3

Now take your template and match the mark you made on the drum as the start point and the first top 11.5cm mark on the template. Then align this with the second point you made on the drum in the previous step. Using a marking pen draw a line on the drum between the first and second pints on the template, then skip the 2 and 3rd and then again draw from the 3 to the forth point. This will give you 2 evenly spaced lines the exact same length on the drum. Now move the template so the first point on the template matches up with the end of the last line drawn on the drum. Ensure you template is still level, 10cm from bottom of drum and repeat. Keep this up till you have gone around the drum. you should now have 8 cut lines evenly spaced and level with the bottom

marking cut lines

Step 4

The next layers and the balance of the lines you can follow this pattern, you want the cut pockets to be offset so they plants do not over crowd themselves. Take your template and match the end of the first line you drew with the first point on the template. Use the other lines to make sure your template is level. Now using the thickness of the template you draw a line from point 1 to point 2, skip 2 - 3 and then draw from 3 to 4. As you did above now repeat the process till you have 8 lines round the drum making it the second layer. The third layer you will place the point one on the seam line on the drum and start drawing there, this will make lines what will matchup with the first set you drew. The forth layer you will begin as you did at the start of this step and so forth till you have 5 sets of cut lines marked out on the drum.

marking additional cut lines

Step 5

Now the fun starts. Firstly turn the drum on its side and secure it from rolling with several of the bricks you going to use later. Kit up with goggles, glove and ear plugs pick up the grinder and start cutting. Cut along each of the marks you have made on the drum, there should be 40 if you have followed my pattern. Mind the sparks and do not set your pants on fire...!

cutting the drum with girder

Step 6

Turn the drum upside down again once you have made all the initial cuts and then make several parallel cuts that will become the drainage for the drum so it does not flood. This will also be where you will collect the compost tea that will be generated by the centre pipe. This is excellent liquid fertilizer you can use elsewhere in the garden.

drainage cuts in drum

Step 7

With the cutting done now we can hammer the pockets into the drum. This is better done with a round head of the hammer if you have one. As my hammer like that is to small we have used a claw hammer as you can see. You want to hammer on the top side of the cut, pushing or denting the drum in with the hammer i.e. if you stand the drum up once you have finished you want all the indents to be on the top side of the cut.

making dent into the drum

Step 8

This is a optional step. We were not happy with the depth of the pockets on the drum so we took a large pair of water pump pliers and used them to bend the pockets further open. We did this by grabbing the bottom part of the cut and pulling away from the drum with the pliers. This also helped fix a couple of times we missed and hit the wrong side of the line.

making pockets wider

Step 9

Your drum is now complete. This is a top and side view of the drum before we painted it. You can at this point give it a good coat of paint as this will become a centre peace in your garden.

completed drum with pocketstop view showing inside of the completed drum

Step 10

Making your centre pipe for compost / bokashi. Take 8 large jam tins or even coffee tins and cut off the tops and bottoms of the tins so you have a tube. Using tin cut about 6 evenly spaced slits of about 3cm long on one side of the tin. For reference we cut up to the first ripple line on the tin. Do this to only 7 of the tins.

cutting large jam tin

Step 11

Drill or cut lots of hols into your tins so that you can lets the good compost flow out the tube and any friendly worms and bugs you have to crawl in and out the centre pipe. I forgot to make these additional holes in my tins before i filled the drum with seeds and soil so now i will have to wait till next year to redo this step. If you do the same we would recommend taking all the tea you get our of the drum and pour it onto the soil in the top. We are hoping as the assembly in the following steps will leave enough gaps for this to happen.

Step 12

Now take one side of the cut and fold it inward at about 30deg angle. Now do this to all 6 of the flaps then squeeze the cut side of the tin inwards. This will now allow the cut side of the tin to iris close slightly. Do this to the 7 cut tins

making iris on bottom of the tin can

Step 13

Using the tin you have not cut as the base, if you did cut all 8 do not stress, push the side you have irises closed of the one tin into the top or the uncut side of the other. Push them together so that they lock into each other. This will result in a tube just long enough to go from bottom to top of the drum. If you used coffee cans you will need less as they are almost double the size.

assemply the tin tube.

Step 14

Assembly! Place your bricks on the ground 2 high so you have 3 pillars evenly round the drum. You will notice as we did this on a grassy spot we have put a large drip tray under the drum then the bricks. Now place the drum on the bricks and make sure that you position it so that the drainage cuts are in the open so you can put a dish to capture all the tea you going to get. Now place the tin can tube in the centre of the drum.

drum on brickstin pipe in drumdrum ready to fill with soil

Step 15

Carefully so as not to push the inner tube over start to fill the drum with soil. It is a lot easier to do this with 2 people. As our soil is not particularly good where we are living we filled the drum with a mixture of mulch and soil it give it a kick start. This will mean there will be a lot of shrinkage in the weeks to come so we are not going to plant anything in the top.

virtical garden drum ready to fill with soildrum ready to fill with soil

Step 16

Once you have completed the filling process water the drum thoroughly till you see it leaking from the bottom. We did this over 3 days each day watering till it leaked so as to ensure that the soil was completely moist inside. Remember to take all the water that has leaked out and put it back in or you will leach out all the goodness. Finally depending on the season you can now plant seeds into all the pockets. If you have painted it you can also label each pocket so you know what to expect once they start growing.

drum ready to fill with soil