Creating a Barrel Pond

Homes for Wildlife

Homes for Wildlife
If you love the creatures in your garden, you'll love our Homes for Wildlife project. This is the place to ask and answer questions about making your backyard wildlife-friendly.
Water features

Creating a Barrel Pond

  • I would love to have a garden pond, but don't have time at the moment, because of other garden projects, to do all the digging and preparation.  And so a barrel pond is on the agenda with a view to attracting amphibians and insects. 

    I was in a local garden centre last week and spied a pile of barrels which were on offer at 1/2 price.  On enquiry, it turned out that they were actually wooden ornamental planters but I thought I would give one a go - if it proves unsuitable I'll start again.  Pond lining is on order from the internet as the construction of the barrel looks unsuitable for making watertight by soaking.

    Any advice on planting would be welcome - I was considering miniature water lilies, iris and a native oxygenator.



    More pics to follow as things progress.

    Edit = pic not loading!

  •  The ivy behind is growing over an old tree stump and I intend to go more planting around the barrel.

  • Hi Claire,

    I can't help you, but am so interested in this thread as I would love to do something similar, so I will be watchig carefully!!!

  • I shall be fascinated to see how you progress. I have inherrited a half barrel, with a non-working pump handle. It used to be a planter but I would like to turn it into a mini pond. I have done a bit of research into liners & native water plants but I haven't had a chance to do anything about it yet. I seem to remember there was something on Springwatch about creating mini ponds...advice still on their website I hope. Good luck.

  • I too will be watching with interest. I would love a pond but with two curious grandsons  I have always said I wouldn't bother  but always wanted a barrel pond so I think you will have many avid watchers and loads of these sprouting in gardens in the future :)


  • Oh dear, with all these watchers I hope the barrel does not implode as soon as it fills with water.  LOL

  • I was really concerned at first that this ornamental barrel would not be substantial enough for the purpose of a mini pond but it has now been filled with water and left to stand for over three weeks and it seems to be quite sound.

    It is lined with a hozelock liner which I bought in a 2m x 2 1/2m pack. There was quite a lot of waste and it might have been better to buy the liner off a roll but none of the local garden centres had such a product. At the moment I have cut off most of the excess liner and am thinking of ways to neaten off the folds and trim it down to the barrel edge. OH thinks I should take a Stanely knife and cut it round the edge of the barrel - ideas welcome. Hopefully once the planting is established the liner will not be as noticeable.

    I have ordered two miniature water lilies, an iris and two oxygenators -in  a package for a mini pond. They come in planting baskets and the next step is to find suitable flat stones to place them on.

  • Looking god Claire!  Really nice idea too, might join in the copying of your little pond after the garden is done!

  • Saw someone once use a large round plastic cattle water trough which worked really well but could probably use a bit of camouflage.

  • Yes, Sooty, any watertight container can be adapted.  

    I read from an old gardening book, one of those old metal dustbin lids can be sunk into a flowerbed and filled with water for a mini mini pond.

  • We made a mini-pond from an old washing up bowl :-)  There was a stick in it so birds could get in and even though there was a nice bird bath the birds prefered the bowl to bathe in lol

  • Well, I didn't plant up the barrel last autumn as some of the plants I chose were not available from online suppliers due to end of season non availability.

    Raring to get on with it now - and nearly bought a mini collection this morning - but not sure if it is too early in the year for planting. Any advice on when to plant up would be appreciated.

  • You've inspired me to get one now!  I've got a wildlife pond but would love some fish too.  Would they be ok in an unlined but watertight barrel?  

    I might pop to my local water garden this afternoon and if I get chance I'll get some advice off them about planting up.

  • Hi Claire, I've just looked on the RSPB's leaflet "Creating Ponds for Wildlife" which I down-loaded some time ago as I have similar ambitions to yours, and it advises planting in winter. This however is for a dug-out pond, and I'm not sure if the same applies for an above-ground pond, it also says for native plants, - not sure what yours are. I also see you're in Aberdeen, whether that would have a bearing on the matter, in terms of severe weather and freezing the water, I don't know.

    Not much help I'm afraid. Hopefully a pond expert will give an opinion.

    Best of luck anyway, I shall be interested to see how your project develops!

  • Stoat,

    I think unlined barrels are possible but need to be soaked for a period and the water changed at intervals before planting/stocking with fish. If you search, there are some forums giving good advice re fish and barrel ponds.

    I was hoping for amphibian spawn and with reports of frogs laying already, am anxious not to miss the season.