Plastic Drum Ideas: 10 Useful projects for your yard

Last Updated on: 1st December 2023, 11:30 am

How can you reuse plastic barrels?

A plastic drum can serve a useful purpose in every garden. For the eco-conscious person, plastic drums around your yard or garden can extend their life cycle and keep a plastic barrel out of landfills for decades. 

While you can purchase a new plastic barrel on Amazon or at a hardware store, they cost rather a lot. So it’s even better if you find one for FREE waiting to be recycled. Here’s the problem with finding them locally–many people know where to find these plastic drums, but they are secretive about telling where to find them. That’s because the folks who locate them often want to keep them to themselves to make and sell stuff. 

We recently made two vertical deer feeders out of plastic barrels. Once we found an available barrel, we drove rather far to pick it up. However, the person who had it only charged us $5 per barrel. Making a deer feeder was far less costly than purchasing expensive units from an online retailer. Do I have photos? No. Because someone dragged them off to where he hunts before I thought to take them.

Where to Inquire About 55-Gallon Plastic Drum Availability

Of course, you must locate the units before you can make one of the plastic barrel projects we will share, so let’s start at the beginning. We will share our research on a few places you can call to inquire whether they have barrels available for free or at an affordable price. The most common size is the 55-gallon drum. However, you might also find some variations, particularly 30 and 44-gallon sizes. You can adapt any project to the size you find.

Also, be aware of what the plastic drums had previously contained before you purchased them. Some might contain the residue of solvents or chemicals. For instance, a person with asthma might not want to grab one. Instead, food-grade barrels are the best…if you can find them. 

    • Facebook Marketplace or your local Craigslist community: These barrels are bulky, and some locations just want them gone due to space limitations. You might be able to snap one up if you are lucky (and see them first!).

    • Breweries, wineries, or distilleries: Some ingredients used by distilleries and breweries might arrive at their facility in these sturdy containers. Bonus: They will be food-grade and free of hazardous chemicals. 

    • Food manufacturers: We purchased the 55-gallon drums from an employee of a pickle manufacturer. The company allows employees to take them home for personal benefit. 

    • Commercial car washes or large-volume automotive dealers: Car wash solvents and chemicals often ship to commercial, high-volume car washes in plastic or metal 55-gallon drums. So when you contact them, be sure to ask if metal or plastic. 

    • Post a “wanted” ad on social media: Also, don’t forget that you can make a “wanted” post on the local social media–Facebook Marketplace, in trade/sell groups, etc. Ask people to send you a private message and clarify what you need.

Ten Useful Projects Made from a 55-gallon Plastic Drum

Now that you know how to find plastic barrels, let’s look at some excellent uses around your garden, homestead, or yard. These inspiring ideas from Pinterest and YouTube should spark some interesting ideas.

1 – Make a chicken watering system

This automatic livestock waterer keeps the chickens healthy and hydrated with minimal fuss. Although this project is a “chicken waterer,” you could adapt it to other small livestock.

2 – Make colorful half-barrel planters for gardening

This creative soul cut the plastic barrels in half and spray-painted them in fun colors. What an eye-popping and beautiful container gardening system this creates. 

3 – Create a compost tumbler out of a 55-gallon plastic drum

I have raved about the benefits of composting in past posts. So of course, we had to share this 55-gallon compost tumbler. This project takes a few more tool skills, but it’s well worth the time for the gardening buff.

4 – Skip the expensive “whiskey barrel planter” at the gardening store and make your own

Those charming whiskey barrel planters add charm to any spot in the landscape. But the price tag can put you off after you see it! So why not make a copycat from a plastic drum and scrap wood that you have remaining from other projects? 

Fix it up, fill with colorful flowers to spill over the edge, and mulch for weed suppression. I can picture this!

5 – Weatherproof garden seating made from a plastic drum

If you live in a rainy climate, you know the challenge of outdoor furniture. You can’t find a dry seat because the cushions retain the water–or they get green with mildew. Instead, fabricate this durable seat that you can wipe dry with an old towel after a rain shower. No more wet pants!

6 – Craft a raised bed herb garden

This creative blogger and homesteader cut two plastic barrels in half, lengthwise, to create a four-compartment raised bed herb garden. I plan to make this for my new greenhouse (which I’ll share in the spring).

When we build this, we will put it on small wheels. That will enable us to start the herbs in the greenhouse at the end of winter and then roll them out into the sun to harden the plants when the timing’s right. Clever, no?

It would also work well for starting flower or vegetable seeds in the late winter.

7 – Floating dock constructed from 55-gallon plastic drums

Although I don’t live waterfront and thus not my expertise, this idea’s worth sharing for those of you who are. If you are on a river or even have a large pond or river access on your property, this could be fun to build. 

8 – Grow strawberries in a customized vertical planter

Strawberries thrive in a vertical planter, well-placed in a nice, sunny spot. Using vertical planters maximized garden space. That means even those with a smaller yard can grow large amounts of berries in a teeny little space. This 55-gallon barrel idea would be well worth a try.

9 – Build a water barrel system (if permitted in your state)

I live in North Carolina, where it is currently legal at the state level to catch rainwater (some local governments restrict this). We have long, hot, and, during some years, very dry summer months. Catching rainwater to conserve water during drought conditions can help you keep your plants watered, even if water restrictions go into effect. A 55-gallon water system like this saved my garden more than one summertime when I lived near Raleigh, and they implemented county-wide watering bans. Fortunately, I moved out to the country, where they generally don’t have such restrictions. 

Before building a water catchment system, check with your local and state governments or an attorney – especially if you read this from outside NC. The fees and fines can be very costly! 

10 – Build a plastic drum “race car” for the kiddos!

Outdoor time doesn’t need to be all work and no play. You can spend quality time building a car from a plastic barrel with the little ones. If you homeschool your kids, this can be a whole lesson on measuring and the science of engineering! This project will help reinforce STEM learning concepts if your kids attend public school. Regardless, it’s a fun project; the little ones will have hours and playtime!

How to Paint a 55-gallon Plastic Drum

Most plastic drums will come in blue or charcoal color. If you want to make things more colorful, spray paint can change the color. However, you must choose a formula that says it will adhere to plastics. Krylon Fusion spray primer and paint will do the trick.

Although it’s a large surface, stick with the general technique of applying the paint in several lighter coats with a short drying period between them. Check the can for the exact drying time. Finally, be patient and allow the paint to cure fully before crafting your project.

The Takeaway: You Can Use a Plastic Drum for Many Things Around Your Yard

Many who enjoy gardening are always looking for new and innovative ideas. Give these 55-gallon plastic barrel ideas a try, and please connect with us on social media to tell us how they work out for you. We always love to hear.

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Need help maintaining your garden beds, pine straw delivery, and spreading or lawn care in Bertie County? Call or text 252.287.3376 – we appreciate the chance to help!

Author Profile

Deborah Tayloe
Deborah Tayloe
Deborah Tayloe is the CEO and co-founder of Tayloe's Lawn Care Services, LLC. She has a B.S.Ed and holds certificates in soil and water management and herbology from accredited programs.
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