Barrels Full of Periwinkles

Barrels Full of Periwinkles
Barrels Full of Periwinkles

Another thing Glenn really wanted to do when he first moved here, was to fix up the yard. One day he was walking around the property and he found some half-whiskey barrels back behind the building.  They were quite old, but still serviceable.  There were 7 in all. Mom had once planted them with roses, but no longer used them. They were just laying around, so he loaded them on the truck and brought them to our yard.

The first year, we planted marigolds and zinnias, and arranged them kind of in the middle of the yard.  And each year, we tried something a little different.  We tried petunias and even poppys.  On the third year, we decided to line them up in a row on the edge of our yard, bordering the road.  They looked really nice like that and though we have replaced them with new ones and added four more to the number, we have kept them in that same general configuration, ever since.

The flower we have had the greatest success growing in these barrels, has been the periwinkle (scientific name – Vinca).  These flowers are very well adapted to our Central Texas climate.  They are beautiful, prolific bloomers that begin in late spring and finally slow down with the first cool spells of late fall.  They thrive in the extreme heat, just be sure they get their water.

It has been an ongoing experiment, figuring out how to best care for these whiskey barrels.  They need to be kept moist to ensure a long life.  The first ones were over 20 years old and after a winter dry spell, they fell all to pieces.  But in other years, we have lost our flowers due to poor drainage.

Last year, we began addressing the drainage problems.  We lifted the heavy barrels with a log and an iron pipe and placed 5 retaining wall bricks under each one.  This reduced the problem, but did not eliminate it.  This year, we filled them half-way with rocks, but that has not been very desirable.  The soil sometimes washes through the rocks and when that happens, the water runs off. To remedy this, we filled the washed out areas with peat moss, which stabilized things. We have also used pea gravel.  The next time we do this, we will fill the bottom half of the barrels with sphagnum moss.  This would keep them moist and there would be no wash outs.  And I think we would still have good drainage.

Despite our difficulties, the barrels did really well this year, the best they have ever done.  Those rocks provide excellent drainage.  We used a soil mix of half sandy loam and half mushroom compost.  And they billowed over the sides of the barrels with vibrant color.  Not a single barrel was lost all season.

Watering these barrels on a regular basis has also been an experiment over time. After all, there are 11 of them and they sit up off the ground.  This year I used 3 – 50 ft. sections of hose.  I began with a leader hose that was fitted with a solid brass quick connect. And I placed the same quick connects between each 50 ft. section and at the end of the furthest one.  This kept me from having to drag heavy hoses.  I used a tiny little sprinkler with a quick connect on the end and would just disconnect the hose and place the sprinkler along as needed.

I would start watering on the south end one time, and the the next time I watered, I would start at the north end, which saved me lots of steps.  And I left the hoses on the ground and wrapped the ends around the furthest barrels when finished. It worked quite well.  I used very low water pressure and watered each barrel between 5 – 8 minutes, depending on how hot it was outside.

Barrels full of periwinkles have become a tradition at our home. They are so, very beautiful!  When I walk down to Mom and Dad’s house, I don’t take the shortcut through the grass during periwinkle season, I go out on the road and enjoy my flowers!

Periwinkles (Vinca)
Periwinkles (Vinca)

Glenn’s Garden

Glenn's Garden
Glenn’s Garden

When Glenn first moved here, he built a fine garden with a good fence and drip irrigation.

He had to work with rocky soil, but he manipulated it and developed a great growing medium. He worked the soil thoroughly with the tractor, until the hard dirt turned into something soft and manageable. He plowed it with a large tiller, laying out his garden in standard rows.  He walked over every square inch, removing all the rocks he could find. Using aged turkey manure  that he got for free from the nearby turkey farm, which he believes was mixed with mostly pine needles, he added about a 4 to 5″ thick layer, right on top of each row, then worked it into the soil.

Piggyback tubing is very durable. The little water holes do not get clogged. This is what he used for the drip irrigation set up, and he put a brass shut off at the end of each row.

It was a big garden.  He planted cantaloupe, black eye peas, yellow squash, zucchini, butternut and acorn squash, cucumbers, beets, radishes, brussel sprouts,  broccoli, bell peppers, okra, watermelons, sweet potatoes, onion, tomatoes. The sweet potatoes were his only failure. The end where they were planted was a little low compared to the rest of the garden, and it caught all the run-off.  So they were over-watered.  The slips grew, but the potatoes were all twisted and gnarly.

He checked his garden every morning. Early in the growing season, if he saw any sign of bug damage, he would sprinkle a bit of sevin dust on the tiny little seedlings. He made a habit of pulling the weeds up by the roots, and casting them into the isles between the rows.  Thus, overtime the dead weeds provided a perfect carpeting, which kept the mud off his shoes.

The plants grew to be huge, lush, and prolific. We had so much good food, that we froze and canned all we could, passed it out to family and friends, and still had plenty for the local food pantry. Of all the gardens we have grown over the years, this one was far and away, the best.  More than once, the spring rains have come like a deluge, washing up our seeds, or newly sprouted plants. Other years, the garden got so wet because of too much rain, that the weeds totally got away from us before we could get in there to clean it up.   Nothing like that happened this particular year. It was as though God was in that garden.

Glenn worked very hard, and made it into a thing of awesome wonder! We’ve had other good gardens, though some years it hasn’t worked out. We always hope for a chance at one like this again. And for that reason we keep trying, year after year.