I need some help. I set up two half barrel planters this spring, filled with nice bagged soil from Lowe's, but have had no luck growing plants from seed after about two months. I think my issues are twofold - I have read that barrel planters dry out very easily (making it hard to get seeds to germinate and then grow for those that do), and I have seen a number of sparrows peck at the dirt (could they be eating seeds and shoots?). It seems like it should be easier to grow in the easier planter than in the ground. What am I doing wrong, and how do I make it better? Regarding plants, I seeded poppies and two types of lettuce.
I think the comments that suggest you'd have more success if you started your seeds in smaller containers and then moved them into the barrels are spot-on. Using a seed tray or small starter pots makes it easier to ensure that you're providing the optimal conditions for the seeds to grow. It may also mean you can find a place for them that you'll keep an eye on better than the barrels, which you've mentioned dry out easily.
That said, if you still want to start the seeds in the barrels, you could form a makeshift greenhouse over the seeds. This would prevent birds from eating them, and help prevent them from drying out in between watering. An easy way to do this it to cut the bottom off of a clear 2 liter soda bottle, remove the cap, and place the bottle over the spot where you planted the seeds.