New to the garden a few years ago was a small collection of herbs planted in half a whiskey barrel. This is the post I wrote at that time.
Kentucky is known for its bourbon whiskey, among other things. Sometimes the barrels are cut in half and made available to gardeners for purchase. They are made of good white oak wood, which lasts a long time and will swell tight if kept damp.
I thought about where it should be located and decided the perfect place would be the spot where I could reach it by going down the kitchen steps and right out the Garden Door staying on concrete and brick during all types of weather.
If you look beyond the barrel, that round bare spot is the location of the future Japanese Tomato Ring.
Husband/Best Friend/Chief Photographer drilled drain holes for me; then I positioned the barrel and filled it with layers of bark chips in the bottom, then well-draining planting mix that I made from soil conditioner, compost, and bagged potting mix from the garden supply store. After mixing in a small amount of time release plant food granules, I planted it with some of the herbs I had started indoors during late winter and early spring: chives, parsley, borage, and nasturtium.
When I began filling the barrel, I smelled a few whiffs of bourbon. So, when tea-totaler-me receives some teasing about having a whiskey barrel, I just tell them that is my "secret ingredient" in my herbs and spices.
I had never seen nor tasted borage, but I had read that it has bright blue flowers and that the flowers, leaves, and stems taste mildly of cucumber and can be used in salads, or to decorate them. Sounded good to me. A package of borage seeds makes a lot of plants. I couldn't miss the three plants I put into the center of the whiskey barrel. There were pots of borage everywhere. To confound the matter, I tasted all parts of the plant and learned it tasted terrible, nothing like cucumber to my taste buds - and, it was FUZZY - yuck! Granted, the blossoms were very pretty. So, all things considered, I planted the extras in among the flowers everywhere I could find a little open space. There they lived the rest of the summer, blooming away and never eaten by anyone nor anything.
The chives remained rather weak; I probably didn't feed them enough. When spring rolls around again, and if they are still alive, I will make sure they are fed on a regular basis and see if they respond.
The nasturtium variety was a short growing one, but still they outgrew all their neighbors. Next time, I will leave those out and try something else. Extra nasturtium plants went into the ground, along with the borage, on top of faded tulips.
The parsley grew very well and again I had way too many plants. So, they too, were planted out in the beds among the flowers for the swallowtail butterflies to lay their eggs on. I had parsley everywhere! And, butterflies.
By early autumn, everything had been used and the barrel looks empty. In the distance, the tomato plants in the Japanese Tomato Ring await the final gathering of green tomatoes just before first frost. We ate most of the green ones, too. Our favorite way to prepare them is very simple: just cut into thick slices then sauté in a small amount of good olive oil.
Next spring I may try some different herbs. Wonder if I could get an early crop of leaf lettuce first, before putting in the herbs. Hmmm… another experiment coming up!