When a customer of ours asked us how to create a beautiful stock tank planter, we asked our gardening expert at the Bozeman Murdoch’s Garden Center. Here’s her advice:
Prepping the Stock Tank
The first priority is to make sure there is proper drainage. Drill holes or hammer large-sized nail holes across the tank floor.
Next, fill the bottom with an inexpensive material. Some folks use discarded soil. I have heard of taking 1 gallon milk cartons and filling them with water so they can support the weight of the soil above them, or empty nursery pots turned upside down. Basically, you want to fill the volume in the bottom of the tank since the plants will only utilize about the top 18″ of soil.
Then, fill the upper parts of the tank with good quality potting soil. You will notice that the soil will settle as you water it, so normally I would not recommend watering the soil until you plant the tank. However, because there will be areas the soil will fill in on the lower part of the tank, this is a necessity.
Choosing Your Plants
After the soil has settled and is dry enough to work in, plant your tank and enjoy. Remember to consider the scale of the tank. Assuming that your tank will be in full sun, I would recommend using some really tall plantings in the center…. Maybe some Karl Forester Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Forester’) which can grow to 60″ with its mature seed heads. This grass will balance the tank’s appearance and with any luck, it will come back year after year as it is a perennial and should survive the winter (up to 30° below zero) in this size planter.
Then, chose some taller annuals to plant around the grass. Some suggestions to make your tank look “down-home” or “ranchy” would be annual Rudbeckia (Black Eyed-Susan) “Indian Summer”, and shorter Sunflowers such as ‘Sunshine’ or ‘Teddy Bear’, all of which will complement the scale, as they tend to be in the 2′ – 4′ range.
Then finish with some heat-loving annuals, such as African Marigolds (the taller variety of Marigold) or Geraniums, as the side of your tank will get quite warm and you should use plants that can withstand that environment. For trailing plants, I would recommend Ipomea ‘blackie” (black Sweet Potato Vine), and Lysimachia Aurea Golden Creeping Jenny which both love heat and sun.
Caring For Your Planter
Last but not least, don’t forget to water, fertilize, and dead-head regularly for great success.
Enjoy your stock tank!