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Tish Varney's Sheepish Veggie Garden

27 Aug 2020 11:19 AM | Bill LeMaire (Administrator)

Tish Varney does a new, aesthetic take on the increasingly popular use of sheep tanks for vegetable gardening.  She files this report...

Among the ill effects of our Covid-19 pandemic, some families in our region are also experiencing food insecurity and thus there is an even greater premium this summer for producing fruits and vegetables. My personal effort to address this need includes the assembly of a vegetable-producing sheep tank. Our landscaping doesn’t really accommodate a conventional vegetable garden space so I had to be especially resourceful and mindful of space.  My solution was to convert a tiny patch of irrigated grass in the back yard into a raised-bed garden within a sheep tank.  In order to maximize this small space I followed the Square Foot Gardening technique made famous by Mel Bartholomew which limits each growing space to a square foot parameter. 

So, I bought a galvanized sheep watering tank for $160 with dimensions of 8’ long by 19” wide by 2’ deep. I opened up the tank for drainage by drilling 10 holes and then placed the tank in the grass plot on 8” x 16” cement blocks. This raised the tank to a convenient height of 2’8”.

Since veggies don’t require deep soil, I first added conifer mulch to 1/3 then filled with a mixture of top soil, organic potting mix and cotton burr compost. Before planting, I first created a schematic on paper of the tank with one foot by 9” for 12 sections and two curved end caps and then physically laid out string to define the sections in the tank. On May 18, I set out some seedlings (kale, bush beans) and planted the rest with seeds. The garden exceeded my expectations! And my neighbors became the recipients of kale, spinach, and lettuce as well.

The art of gardening wouldn’t be complete without art in the garden. A galvanized tank isn’t all that attractive, so I commissioned my college neighbor studying graphic arts to create stencils to add a flower design using green spray paint. The result is delightful! Maybe animal water tanks will come into their own as raised veggie beds and not be sheepish any longer! 


  • 01 Sep 2020 3:17 PM | Barbara Arnold
    When I lived on the horse farm, we remodeled our bathroom. I had the old bathtub placed next to the barn and since it already had a drainage hole I didn't drill any more. I filled the tub with gravel on the bottom, then good soil above to within 3 inches of the top and grew herbs and a few annual flowers. I too, decorated the tub with stencils of leaves and flowers and spayed it with green paint. It was successful and Tish's tank made me remember that planter fondly.
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NOTE: Our physical location is 1900 E. Third Avenue, at the Durango Public Library. The gardens are located to the north and east of the library, along the Animas River Trail.

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Durango Botanic Gardens

10 Town Plaza, #460

Durango, CO  81301

Phone: 970-880-4841

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Durango Botanic Gardens

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The Durango Botanic Gardens are physically located at the Durango Public Library, to the north and east of the library.  The library is located at 1900 E. 3rd Ave., Durango.

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10 Town Plaza, #460
Durango, CO  81301    

Phone:  970-880-4841

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