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Jun 24, 2014 09:53 AM

Raised Bed Gardening in Galvanized Horse Troughs

I am creating a large indoor garden in a space with concrete floors. I would like to use galvanized horse/livestock water troughs for raised beds. I will need to drill holes in the bottom for drainage, but I'm stumped on what to put underneath to catch water as it drains out through the soil.

I will probably elevate the tanks on bricks or concrete blocks, but don't want to do permanent damage to the concrete floor if the tanks drain on them over a period of years.

What I need is a huge "tray" of some type to catch water that drains out. Does anyone have a clue where I could look for something like that?

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  1. Horse trough... BRILLIANT idea! How deep & long will they be? And how many years do you think they'll last before mother nature takes out the bottom? I'd probably do a little math to get an estimate of what a full one will WEIGH before deciding how many bricks/blocks to set them on... thinking 4 and it'll start caving in before it's full??

    First thing I could think of is that rippled fiber-glass stuff that makes a roof for a carport??

    1. Love the use of troughs here! I would look for a local sheet metal shop to see if they could make something for you. I did that once when I wanted a tray beneath the washer (one leak was enough!). Was inexpensive and made to my specs.
      Good luck!

      1. Coincidentally, I was just reading an e-mail I get from my favorite garden supplier, Gardener's Supply in Burlington VT. I have been ordering from this company for more than 25 years and have visited their store when we're in VT many, many times. In other words I trust them completely. Here's something they sell, similar to what you're thinking of. I don't know if there are drainage holes or not, but you phone and talk to someone who can advise you.

        I will tell you this, though: I have planted large half whiskey barrels and did not drill holes. I filled the barrels about 1/3 capacity with large stones then filled with organic potting soil and compost. Granted the wood is porous and the galvanized troughs are not, but if you are careful about not over-watering I think it could work without drilling holes.

        1. If you keep the drain holes within 4 inches of the bottom center you could buy standard rain gutter at home depot.
          Mounting it with a slope to one end, add the downspout end piece and place a bucket to catch the drips.
          Then you just reuse that water, and fertilizer that comes with the water, next time the watering cycle comes around.

          2 Replies
          1. re: genoO

            I was thinking a hose but that rain gutter idea sounds pretty good.
            Talk to a paint guy. I think the galv will last longer with a food safe coating on the inside. I would say a roof coating or tar but that might leach chemicals. Maybe just a plastic sheet liner?

            1. re: divadmas

              Galvanized steel is coated with zinc, which provides the rust protection. Once you drill a hole in galvanized steel, there is no rust protection on the sides of the hole.

              Painting galvanized steel is tricky because most primers and paints will not stick to it. Special primers are needed.

          2. I saw this technique at a gorgeous veg garden in Santa Fe a few years ago. The owner has acres and acres of beautiful beds (photo attached).

            The one I'm looking at is 3' wide x 8' long x 2' high so if I put it on concrete blocks that will raise it another 6". I can fill the bottom 4" or so with some kind of lightweight porous material for drainage before adding the composted soil. They're going to be quite heavy but they are on a slab that sits right on the ground, so I think that will be ok, and as kselverd says, I can always support it with additional blocks if it looks too heavy. They are made to hold water for livestock so they should be pretty tough.

            Don't know about their shelf life, but maybe I'll look into some kind of rust-preventative sealant I could apply to the inside bottom before adding the soil.

            Sheet metal shop is a good idea, NicolletteT as is the rain gutter, GenoO. I especially like the idea of re-using the water in our drought here in NM.

            I get Gardener's Supply catalog too, Gio, and have seen their large variety of raised beds which are great for those of us with back problems. The link you posted has a soil calculator for this type of container and based on 3'x8'x2' I will need 48 cubic feet per container, which is fine.

            Great ideas, guys, thanks!

            4 Replies
            1. re: sandiasingh

              I would look at the farm and ranch catalogs. It has been awhile for me but I think they are leaning towards plastic over metal.
              Light weight, rust and corrosion proof and would last forever. Set up would be nearly the same. Costs should be lower for numerous reasons.
              If they can stand up to cows and ranchers are liking the quality I am sure you will do well.

              1. re: genoO

                We live in horse country and have both a local Feed store and a Tractor Supply store within about 8 miles. I have only breezed through their water trough inventory but now I will take a closer look. I'm sure the plastic/rubber must be cheaper than the galvanized, but I do love the look of the bright shiny objects :-)

                1. re: sandiasingh

                  I would ask to look at their catalog, especially Tractor Supply. They can order you products not shown or stocked in the store.
                  It sounds like you have a good place for growing, a great idea and you will have fun growing. There are books to be had to help with some of the problems that arise with indoor gardening in this scale. I remember that air circulation is a must so a couple fans might be a good idea.

                  1. re: genoO

                    Good to know, genoO. I will ask Tractor Supply about that if they don't have the size I want in stock.

                    Yes, it's going to be quite an undertaking and I think it will be great fun. Gardening always comes with its frustrations, but at least they will be new frustrations--maybe? :-)))))))