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Wine Barrel Ponds

Half wine barrels are now easily accessible in garden outlets and are fantastic for those that are keen on using recyclable materials or who are after that rustic look. Their size makes them perfect as mini ponds that fit into the corner of a courtyard or balcony.

Although they are made to hold liquid, wine barrels need to be lined to prevent the residue within the wood from leaching into the water. Up until recently the only option would be with a heavy duty pond liner which would be attached at the top but now pre-formed liners are available that are the perfect fit to simply place inside the barrel.

To start with, position the barrel where it is to stay but ensure that it will be level. Choose an area that receives about six hours of sunlight and is not under trees that will drop leaves and dirty the water. Add a 2 centimetre layer of aquarium pebbles or smooth gravel to the bottom of the barrel to give a large surface area for good bacteria to grow. A broken terracotta pot or piece of driftwood placed at the bottom will provide a hiding spot for the fish and a bit of interest when looking into the barrel. Wash all of these carefully with warm water first but don’t use soap.

Fill the barrel with water from the hose but only to about 10 centimetres from the top. This ensures that there’s no risk of the barrel over flowing in heavy rains.

Plants are crucial for ponds that don’t have filtration as they oxygenate the water and help remove toxins. Floater plants add colour and some protection for the fish but an oxygenating plant is also necessary. Choose plants for the size that they will become not the size that they are when you purchase them as they might soon outgrow the confined spaces of the barrel. Duckweed and Fairy Floating Moss combined with one or two water lilies would help to keep the water clear as well as remove excess oxygen from the pond. Alternatively, Nile Grass, Blue Flag Iris or Canna will provide beautiful contrasts in colour and texture.

To find out how to plant and maintain pond plants and which to choose, check out the “Planting Pond Plants” fact sheet on our website or drop into any Better Pets and Gardens store.

Even a small water barrel should include a couple of fish to eat any mosquito larvae that form and to provide a splash of colour. Goldfish, Comets and Fantails are perfect but Koi require a much larger area and should not be kept in a pond with plants. A few pond snails can also be added but these may do some damage to the plants. Wait for about two weeks before adding the fish to the barrel to allow the plants to settle in and the water to become balanced. Adding a de-chlorinator will help to ensure healthy water for the fish. Remember to float the plastic bag that the fish are transported in on the surface of the water for at least half an hour before releasing them. Feed the fish just a few fish pellets or flakes daily as too much food will cause the water to become dirty.

Although not essential, a small fountain or waterfall provides that beautiful running water sound and also charges the water with oxygen for the fish to breathe. There are plenty of options available including those that circulate the water through a second barrel on a higher level. Other features can be added such as a subsurface light or mister so drop into a Better Pets and Gardens to find out all the options that are available.

Every week or so, freshen the water by siphoning off about a third of the water, refilling with tap water and adding more de-chlorinator as per the instructions on the bottle. If the plants begin to cover too much of the surface, simply scoop off the excess. Remember that even a small area such as a wine barrel can be dangerous for children so be sure to cover the surface with a piece of metal mesh. This can be cut to sit just under the water surface allowing the plants to grow through the spaces.

Barrels bought from a garden centre are generally ready to use straight away but those that are purchased directly from a winery will have a very strong smell and lots of residue within the wood. To thoroughly clean the barrel, scrub the inside with non-iodonised table salt. Fill the barrel with water, add some potash and allow it to soak for a week. Tip the water out and repeat this four more times.

Consider planting edible water plants to make great use of the space. Set the garden up as described above and choose plants that grow in bogs or water.

Plant the larger plants in the middle first and smaller ones around the edges. These will usually be purchased in cages that are ready to be placed straight into the container but be guided by the label in the height that they should be positioned as this will change for each. Use bricks to adjust the height.

Watercress, Lebanese cress, Vietnamese mint, Pickerel, Taro, Water mint and Asian water spinach are all suitable for growing in an aquatic garden.



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