“ Brand: Homebase / Type: Planter „
One of the garden projects I managed to complete last year despite the rain was to fill in the garden pond. It used to be a lovely little wildlife pond teeming with frogs and dragonflies but over the years the trees planted by my local authority along the cycle path behind my property have grown so tall that they've blocked out a lot of the sun. The lack of sunlight, coupled with several years worth of autumn leaves which had choked the pond, had resulted in it becoming little more than a muddy puddle. It had been a job and half creating the darn thing in the first place and filling it in proved just as tricky. I was also faced with the problem of what to do about the homeless frogs who return year after year to spawn, despite the lack of watery environment they needed. I decided to take an idea from the late Geoff Hamilton and create a mini pond using a half barrel.
Roll out the barrel....
After much searching on the internet, I decided to buy my half barrel from Homebase who offer half whiskey barrel planters at a fairly reasonable £29.99 plus 60 Nectar points. After checking that my local branch had them in stock, I drove there to take my pick. Although there were several barrels to choose from, making my selection wasn't quite as easy as I'd anticipated, however.
Firstly, I should say that I can't absolutely vouch for the provenance of these barrels. They're being sold as half whiskey barrels and Homebase claim they've been sourced from Scottish distilleries but this may have been some considerable time ago. The barrels on sale in my local branch all had gaps between the bands of wood which were quite large, though this could be because over time the wood has dried out and shrunk.
The iron bands around the barrels aren't pristine either, many of them being pretty rusty. That didn't matter too much to me but if the barrel was to be used as a planter, the iron bands would probably need a coat of paint to inhibit the rust, plus a coat of wood preservative.
The diameter of the barrel is around 62cm and it stands about 37cm high. This was the ideal size for my project but unfortunately several of the barrels had holes already drilled into the base which, again, would have been fine if I wanted the barrel as a planter but not really for the purpose I had in mind. I guess the hole is where the bung used to be.
Having wrestled my half barrel onto the trolley with the kind assistance of a male customer, and then paid for it, my next problem was getting it into the boot of my car. These barrels are extremely heavy and though I daresay a man could just about deal with one of these, I think most women would struggle, especially when it came to lifting it into the boot. The sales assistant very kindly offered to fetch someone to load it for me and I assume this is a service offered at all branches of Homebase. It was certainly much appreciated.
These barrels are available to buy online, either using click and collect or home delivery which may be a better option for some people.
We'll have a barrel of fun.....
Geoff Hamilton says in his Ornamental Cottage Garden book that the wood of the barrel will swell once filled with water and will eventually become watertight. I decided to line my barrel as an added precaution against water seepage and I think, even if using as a planter, I would still have lined at least the sides of the barrel to ensure that soil didn't fall out between the wooden bands, which should also extend its life.
For my pond, I half buried the barrel which allows the frogs to jump in and out and leaves the top edge to create a little surround. It also meant I didn't have to mess around getting the level of the barrel exactly right as I would have needed to do if I was sinking it fully into the ground.
Roll out the barrel. We've got the blues on the run.
I'm now debating whether to buy another half barrel to use as a planter for my front garden. As Homebase seem to be having money off weekends very regularly, I may even manage to get a small discount on the price!
I know many people have problems with thefts from their gardens but these barrels are very heavy and once filled with soil it would be practically impossible for a thief to make way with it. It might be an idea to add a few rocks in the bottom before filling with soil as an added deterrant.
The barrel would make a very attractive planter for either ornamentals or as a small raised bed for growing vegetables but I suggest choosing with care as the quality seems to be very variable, or at least that was my experience.
My pond is already looking well established and I've seen a frog in residence so they must like it, too. This mini pond will still need clearing of autumn leaves each year but the size makes that a much easier task to cope with. Only time will tell whether this will encourage the frogs to spawn but I'll have to wait until next Spring to find that out.