What you need to make an upcycled vertical garden drum:

255 litre drum
8 large jam tins
Ice cream tub / flat bucket
Metal or plastic template to create for cutting marks
Angle grinder
Water pump pliers or large pliers
Tin snips
Paint to finish
6 bricks

Please note this project uses a angle grinder, please ensure that you work safely with gloves,
ear muffs and goggles to protect your eyes. Work with care and caution. Remember to wash and
clean your drum before you work with it. Please do not use any drums that have had toxic
chemical in it is you are intending to use this to grow herbs.

used metal drum

Step 1

Take a piece of thin metal or even plastic about 35cm long and 10cm - 15cm wide, starting from
one side measure 2cm from edge and make a mark on the top and bottom. From these points
measure 11.5cm 3 times and make marks at the top and bottom with permanent marker or a nail.
This will then be your template to make the cuts on the metal drum. 11.5cm will give you
exactly 8 cuts round the drum. If you want bigger pockets you will make longer cuts.

11cm thin metal

Step 2

Turn the drum over and then starting by the join line measure 10cm or the thickness of your
template downwards, then move along a short distance and make a second mark. This will give
you a level line to start making your cut marks. Our template was 15cm wide that is why i made
this additional step so that i did not start too far from the bottom of the drum.

 10cm bottom drum

Step 3

Now take your template and match the mark you made on the drum as the start point and the
first top 11.5cm mark on the template. Then align this with the second point you made on the
drum in the previous step. Using a marking pen draw a line on the drum between the first and
second pints on the template, then skip the 2 and 3rd and then again draw from the 3 to the
fourth point. This will give you 2 evenly spaced lines the exact same length on the drum. Now
move the template so the first point on the template matches up with the end of the last line
drawn on the drum. Ensure you template is still level, 10cm from bottom of drum and repeat.
Keep this up till you have gone around the drum. You should now have 8 cut lines evenly spaced
and level with the bottom

slot measurement

Step 4

The next layers and the balance of the lines you can follow this pattern, you want the cut
pockets to be offset so they plants do not over crowd themselves. Take your template and match
the end of the first line you drew with the first point on the template. Use the other lines
to make sure your template is level. Now using the thickness of the template you draw a line
from point 1 to point 2, skip 2 - 3 and then draw from 3 to 4. As you did above now repeat the
process till you have 8 lines round the drum making it the second layer. The third layer you
will place the point one on the seam line on the drum and start drawing there, this will make
lines what will matchup with the first set you drew. The forth layer you will begin as you did
at the start of this step and so forth till you have 5 sets of cut lines marked out on the

slot markings to bottom

Step 5

Now the fun starts. Firstly turn the drum on its side and secure it from rolling with several
of the bricks you going to use later. Kit up with goggles, glove and ear plugs pick up the
grinder and start cutting. Cut along each of the marks you have made on the drum, there should
be 40 if you have followed my pattern. Mind the sparks and do not set your pants on fire...!

grinding slots

Step 6

Turn the drum upside down again once you have made all the initial cuts and then make several
parallel cuts that will become the drainage for the drum so it does not flood. This will also
be where you will collect the compost tea that will be generated by the centre pipe. This is
excellent liquid fertilizer you can use elsewhere in the garden.

grind slots drainage

Step 7

With the cutting done we can hammer the pockets into the drum. This is better done with a
round head of the hammer if you have one. As my hammer like that is too small we have used a
claw hammer as you can see. You want to hammer on the top side of the cut, pushing or denting
the drum in with the hammer i.e. if you stand the drum up once you have finished you want all
the indents to be on the top side of the cut.

hammer cut slots open

Step 8

This is an optional step. We were not happy with the depth of the pockets on the drum so we
took a large pair of water pump pliers and used them to bend the pockets further open. We did
this by grabbing the bottom part of the cut and pulling away from the drum with the pliers.
This also helped fix a couple of times we missed and hit the wrong side of the line.

pliers bending open slots

Step 9

Your drum is now complete. This is a top and side view of the drum before we painted it. You
can at this point give it a good coat of paint as this will become a centre peace in your garden.

slots open sideslots open inside

Step 10

Here we are going to make your centre pipe for compost / bokashi. Take 8 large jam tins or
even coffee tins and cut off the tops and bottoms of the tins so you have a tube. Using tin
cut about 6 evenly spaced slits of about 3cm long on one side of the tin. For reference we cut
up to the first ripple line on the tin. Do this to only 7 of the tins.

tin snip cans

Step 11

Drill or cut lots of holes into your tins so that you can allow the good compost flow out the
tube and any friendly worms and bugs you have to crawl in and out the centre pipe. I forgot to
make these additional holes in my tins before it filled the drum with seeds and soil so now it
will have to wait till next year to redo this step. If you do the same we would recommend
taking all the tea you get out of the drum and pour it onto the soil on the top. We are hoping
as the assembly in the following steps will leave enough gaps for this to happen.

Step 12

Now take one side of the cut and fold it inward at about 30deg angle. Now do this to all 6 of
the flaps then squeeze the cut side of the tin inwards. This will now allow the cut side of
the tin to iris close slightly. Do this to the 7 cut tins

fold can flaps infold flaps in 2

Step 13

Using the tin you have not cut as the base, if you did cut all 8 do not stress, push the side
you have irises closed of the one tin into the top or the uncut side of the other. Push them
together so that they lock into each other. This will result in a tube just long enough to go
from bottom to top of the drum. If you used coffee cans you will need less as they are almost
double the size.

folded can tower

Step 14

Assembly! Place your bricks on the ground 2 high so you have 3 pillars evenly round the drum.
You will notice as we did this on a grassy spot we have put a large drip tray under the drum
then the bricks. Now place the drum on the bricks and make sure that you position it so that
the drainage cuts are in the open so you can put a dish to capture all the tea you going to
get. Now place the tin can tube in the centre of the drum.

filling finished drumtower placed in drum

Step 15

Working carefully so as not to push the inner tube over start to fill the drum with soil. It
is a lot easier to do this with 2 people. As our soil is not particularly good where we are
living we filled the drum with a mixture of mulch and soil it give it a kick start. This will
mean there will be a lot of shrinkage in the weeks to come so we are not going to plant
anything in the top.

soil filled around tower 2soil filled around tower

Step 16

Once you have completed the filling process water the drum thoroughly till you see it leaking
from the bottom. We did this over 3 days each day watering till it leaked so as to ensure that
the soil was completely moist inside. Remember to take all the water that has leaked out and
put it back in or you will leach out all the goodness. Finally depending on the season you can
now plant seeds into all the pockets. If you have painted it you can also label each pocket so
you know what to expect once they start growing.

no plants finished

metal drum plants upcycle bkgrnd

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