We’re seeing container gardening growing more and more popular, especially in urban areas and in apartments and condos, and one of the cooler applications we’ve seen that works as well in the country as it does in the city is trough gardening.

As you may have gathered from the name, trough gardens use animal watering troughs as a container for either part or all of a garden. These vary in size from roughly 2×4 feet for less than $100 to 8 feet and longer for hundreds of dollars. While oblong troughs seem to be the most popular option, several round troughs of different sizes can be stacked to create a unique “wedding cake” design garden. Troughs are available at every farm and feed supply store and can often be found used at farm sales or on craigslist as well.

Trough gardens are a rare combination of practical and unexpected, urban and rural, and industrial and agricultural. The troughs are galvanized steel, giving them an industrial look, but anyone who looks at one will know exactly what it is and know that they’ve seen one on a farm.

Because watering troughs are meant to hold water, they stand up to the elements incredibly well and always look great while being pretty much indestructable. Like most container gardens, they will keep burrowing animals out of your garden (at least from the bottom), and if they are over 3 feet tall, they will also keep rabbits away from your plants.

The rules of regular container gardening apply to trough gardens. Make sure you drill holes for adequate drainage in the bottom of your trough. If you have concerns about pests entering through the holes, it’s a good idea to line the bottom of the trough with a mesh to make it more difficult for them to get in.

Make sure the bottom 3-6 inches of your trough is filled with gravel to ensure adequate drainage. Soil pushing down into drain holes tends to not allow water to flow out. Based on the size of your trough, the depth of soil needed for your desired plants, and if you plan to move the trough, you may want to fill some of the space above the gravel up with a light but neutral substance. Scrap chunks of styrofoam work surprisingly well for this. Make sure your final layer of soil has adequate organic material such as peat moss or compost.

Remember that all container gardens, including troughs, need more careful regulation of moisture than a regular garden in the ground. Check daily to make sure that the soil has adequate water, but at the same time, don’t drown your container. Very few plants enjoy having their roots swim in standing water.

Trough gardening is a great way to create a unique garden in a nearly indestructible container with a wide variety of size options. Follow our tips above, and yours will be in full bloom in no time.