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Is it safe to use an Oil Drum as a planter?

 
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Hi Folks.

I intend to use oil drums cut in half transversally as tree planters from fruiting trees such as citrus and Suriname cherry.

These have come from a car mechanic workshop and were used to store motor oil (lubricant).

My question is how safe is it to use oil drums? How can I safely clean them?

Also, even if they can be properly cleaned, should I worry about the rusting process leaching onto the plants?
What if I paint them to protect from rust, can the paint be trusted?

Thanks!
 
gardener
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Location: southern Illinois.
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Welcome to Permies.  I am sure you will find differing opinions. I would not use it.  I only use such containers that are identified as food grade.
 
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Location: Billings, MT
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Used motor oil or fresh? Fresh, I wouldn't be concerned if you cleaned them out well first (just hot soapy water should suffice). Used motor oil can have some metals (hexavalent chromium, aluminum, etc. from wear in the engine) that you wouldn't want in soil for fruiting plants.


Not really sure it's an ideal planter in the first place though. Pretty small for trees, and unless you use a real high quality coating (i.e. a novalac epoxy, not paint) they'll rust pretty rapidly in contact with soil.  
 
pollinator
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Metal oil drums are useful for many things, but I would not use them as planters. Too many problems.

Can they be cleaned? If they are from new motor oil, they can be made reasonably clean (but not certified organic clean). Drain, wipe, soap and hot water, maybe TSP. All the recovered oil has to be disposed of properly -- not poured down the drain. Used oil has a lot of combustion byproducts that are problematic, so cleaning is harder.

And then, they will rust out very quickly. It's not worth the money to paint them (and paint is not wise for food producing plants anyway). I guess you could put in a plastic liner.

Anyway, there are much more suitable choices for planters.
 
Nuno Sousa
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Thanks for all your imput!

You guys have pretty much convinced me not to use them. The oil drums I've got  had used motor oil in them.

Will save them  to for my first rocket mass heater/oven projects.

I know they are small for trees, but for the yard space I have available, small trees would do fine.
Plus, as containers go, oil drums would be a pretty good quick fix, I thought. Hard to beat the cost factor (zero).

Cheers!
 
gardener
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I think for fruit trees like yours the size is fine (I grow fruit in even smaller containers) but I would not use them for food trees either. Save them for your rocket heater or other projects (furniture?)!
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