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How to Turn a Feeding Trough into a Planter

Ask This Old House landscape designer Jenn Nawada travels to Tennessee to build a planter out of an animal feeding trough


  1. Drill drainage holes in the bottom of the feeding trough roughly 6 inches apart.
  2. Flip the feeding trough over and put it in the desired location. Use cedar planks underneath the trough to give the planter more space to drain.
  3. Cut the screen to size and place it at the bottom of the trough to protect the drainage holes from getting clogged.
  4. Depending on how deep the trough is, it may not be necessary to fill the entire trough with soil. To save on cost and weight, fill that void with a layer of non-biodegradable packing peanuts.
  5. Cover the layer of packing peanuts with landscape fabric.
  6. Fill the rest of the trough with garden soil.
  7. Plant a variety of plants in the trough. Be sure to tease the roots with the hand cultivator. Depending on where you live, the plants may need to be annuals because they won’t survive the frost. Put the tallest plants in the back and try to mix different colors together.
  8. Give everything a thorough watering.

Jenn used a galvanized steel animal feeding trough, purchased at Tractor Supply Company. Feeding troughs are available at most livestock supply stores.

Non-biodegradable packing peanuts can only be found in certain states at shipping supply stores. Jenn also suggests using plastic planters upside down to help fill the void at the bottom of the planter if necessary.

Jenn used an organic garden soil mix manufactured by Holy Cow Materials.

For this planter’s location and climate, Jenn selected Arbor vitae as a screening plant, Lantana for color, and Liriope to add color and variety of height.

The other materials Jenn used to make the planter, including a drill, window screen, and landscape fabric, can be found at home centers and nurseries.

Expert assistance for this segment was provided by Nawada Landscape Design.