Growing as much food on as little land for as little money as possible

Creating soil for the Barrel Garden


As you well know, I hate spending money so just popping off to the garden centre for some compost is not really an option. Last year some kind sole -who’s identity seems to have been lost – dumped about 10 tons of well rotted manure at the allotment for anyone to use. This was great and it allowed me to fill my raised beds without having to worry were I was going to get materials from. This manure pile has now all gone so now I will have to be a little more inventive.

I went up to where the manure had been and noticed that the earth was very dark, almost black but it was full of hard dun dried lumps of manure, rocks, sticks, bits of plastic etc but there was a good couple of inches of nice soil

I filled a wheel barrow with this mixture and took it back to the plot. This is what it looked like.

What was left of the manure pile

I decided to sieve this stuff to see what I ended up with and the results were great.

Sieved manure

Nice rich dark and crumbly. Lovely.

As I sieved the mixture I took all the plastic and stones out and what I was left with was lumps of dried manue, twigs and leaves etc. I put this in the compost.

This will be added to the compost heap

I wanted to add some more organic matter to the soil so I turned to the composted leaves from last year. These have really broken down nicely and was full of worms.

Rotted leaves from last year

This is natures gold. People rake their leaves off the lawn and the drive and take them to the dump and then drive to the garden centre and buy compost. Leaves are the best thing you can compost. It is the what nature makes nice new topsoil. Everybody should compost their leaves each year. I am now composting other peoples leaves as well.

This stuff really hold onto water so the barrel will not dry out even if I don’t water it for a week or so.

I mixed the composted leaves and the sieved manure together in a roughly 50/50 ratio before putting it into the barrel

It really does look like a fantastic growing medium but time will tell.

Soil ready to go into the barrel

Next I have to decide what I am going to grow in the barrel garden. I think I will put some of my onions on the sunny side of the barrel and we do have a lot of strawberry plants that need putting somewhere. I really want it to be a random mix of plants.

I noticed our little raspberry plants we were given last year have produce a small amount of berries. They will be better next year.


I hope you had a good Haloween or Allantide as it is called in Cornwall.

Happy Allantide

More soon

Author: tinyallotment

Dedicated to living a simple, independent, self reliant life where money is not the main factor. My dream is to engineer a life that requires very little from the outside world. I would like to provide my own shelter, collect my own water, grow, catch, hunt, forage my own food, create my own energy and deal with my own waste. This dream all starts in a tiny allotment in Cornwall where I will be experimenting in growing food, generating energy and dealing with waste.

6 thoughts on “Creating soil for the Barrel Garden

  1. Very neat job on the barrel garden, mate! It’s been on my to do list all summer but I never seemed to have the time. Due to space constraints (and predatory chickens) mine will be sitting on top of a wall, though, to get it in the sunshine and away from the chucks.

    • Thanks Woodgnome

      I want to try hanging the barrels from a strong wire with a swivel so they turn in the wind and keep them up out of the way of pests.

      • I’d guess that four lengths of (potentially free?) mountain-bike gear cable would do the trick (that stuff is REALLY strong) , if you threaded them through and put a washer on the lead (probably not, these days, but it looks like lead) nubbin end, so it doesn’t pull through the holes you drill in the barrel. One that twirls a bit in the breeze sounds like a damned good idea – wish I’d thought of it! Over time, it will get some sunshine to every side. And, as you say, will stop pests from getting in there. We didn’t get raped by slugs and snails quite as much this year (cable-tied 1mm copper cable around the top of every pot and bed – didn’t stop them entirely but it slowed them RIGHT down!) as last year but they were still a bloody pain.

        Gonna have to start taking pics of my shambles, so you can at least link to it and laugh about how badly I’m doing.

  2. First time allotmenteer here. I am really struggling to get clear my site as my time is limited but you encourage me to stick with it. I have a few potatoes, onions and garlic in this year but am hoping to clear my plot more in autumn as the vegetation dies back and get better results next year.

    • Hi Sarah. Are you digging your plot? Digging can sometimes encourage the weeds to go mad and take over because nature hates bare soil so it tries to cover it up. Also a lot of weeds are spread through rood division. Look up the benefits of “No Dig Gardening”.
      If you have large areas of your plot that you do not have time to look after at this moment then cover the area in cardboard or an old carpet to suppress the weeds and uncover it in the spring when you are ready to start planting again and most of the weeds will have been killed off. You will still get a few but it will not be too bad. Good luck.

      • Hi, not at the moment as I am chockablock at work so I am looking to just keep the areas I have done clear which will take some major weeding at the moment. I am trying to recruit people to give me a hand.

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