15 Tips for Growing Food in Metal Troughs AKA Stock Tanks

Posted on May 25 2014 - 10:51am by UOG

This post and its images are from this website: http://theyarden.com (link to the article).


  1. Troughs, also known as stock tanks, make a great and attractive alternative to wooden raised beds. They’re easy to use (no building required!) and cost-wise not a bad investment as they will last forever and keep burrowing animals out. If you pick one 36″ or higher, they’ll also keep bunnies out, too
  2. Look for used stock tanks at farm sales or on Craig’s list. New stock tanks can be purchased at farm stores or some city garden centers like Lake Street Supply in Chicago. If you don’t see them where you buy your garden products, ask the manager to special order troughs for you
  3. Troughs come in a variety of sizes, shapes and heights and the taller ones provide a great option for those who don’t want to bend down to garden
  4. You can get really creative with stock tanks – they don’t just have to be a single lozenge shaped tank. Use your imagination and have fun with the possibilities!
  5. Troughs are heavy so think carefully about where you want to place it. It will be hard to move once filled
  6. You will also want to consider reflection from the sun hitting the metal tough when you’re placing them – they may look lovely out your kitchen window but if the glare is blinding you as you wash the dishes, that’s not a great thing
  7. Most of the principles that apply to container planting also apply to troughs
  8. Make sure you have good drainage! You’ll want to drill holes in the bottom of your trough to allow for drainage. You will also want to set your trough on cinder blocks or bricks to allow the water to drain out thoroughly. If you raise the trough to facilitate drainage, make sure you have enough support under the trough so it doesn’t buckle due to the weight
  9. You will want to put 3-6″ of gravel, broken pot shards or other material at the bottom of the trough to help with drainage. You might want to put a fine mesh over the drainage material to keep your soil from slowly leaking out (and potentially clogging  drainage holes)
  10. Like other containers, troughs can dry out faster than in ground plantings or raised beds in hot weather. Be sure to check if the trough needs water frequently by putting your fingers into the soil. If you detect moisture 2-3″ down, you’re good
  11. Don’t over compensate by watering too much. Plants don’t like their roots in soupy soil – it prevents them from “breathing”
  12. Soil rich in compost is great for veggies and works in a trough
  13. Your trough will warm up faster in the spring so you can plant a little earlier. But it will also warm up significantly in the summer so be careful when touching the metal that it isn’t too hot – ouch! “Hot crops” like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant will most likely love the extra soil warmth a trough will provide
  14. From a decorative perspective, troughs can be painted on the outside to match a color scheme.
  15. Troughs are great for water gardens too, although different rules apply. But, consider your trough a very large container and come up with all sorts of ideas that suit your particular gardening situation!

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