Add a new dimension to a small garden or patio with a tiny pool made from a wooden barrel. Fill it with compact pond plants and soon you will find frogs, toads, water skaters, and other wildlife making their homes there too. The pool is best placed in a sunny spot that is in shade for part of the day.
When to start: Early spring.
At their best: Spring to late summer.
Time to complete: 3 hours.
You will need: Wooden half barrel, strong plastic or butyl pond liner, sharp knife or scissors, galvanized nails and hammer, aquatic pond baskets, aquatic soil, gravel and bricks
Marginal plants that we used here as an example are: Iris laevigata, Water forget-me-not – Myosotis scorpioides ‘Alba’, Ragged robin – Lychnis flos-cuculi, Marsh marigold – Caltha palustris.
Line the container
Set the barrel where you intend to keep it because it will be very difficult to move once it is full of water. Place the pond liner over the top of the barrel, and push it down in the center. Smooth it over the bottom and around the edges, folding it neatly so that it lines the barrel evenly. The liner should reach about 4 in (10 cm) above the rim at this stage.
Attach the liner
Fill the barrel with about 8 in (20 cm) of water and trim off excess liner just above the rim. With galvanized nails, shorter than the width of the wood, tack the liner to the barrel, then trim it above the nails.
Fill the pool
Fill the pool to about 4 in (10 cm) below the galvanized nails. Then plant up your pond plants. Add gravel to the top of each basket to prevent the soil from floating out.
Add the plants
Check the label of each plant to see what depths it prefers. Most marginals like to grow with the tops of their baskets between 1–12 in (2–30 cm) below the water surface. To provide the correct depth, stand the plants on bricks in the barrel. The raised baskets also act like stepping stones, providing small creatures, such as frogs and toads, with easy access to and from the pool. To keep the water clear, include one or two oxygenating plants.
Create a wildlife sanctuary
In spring, ask friends or neighbors with a pond for some frog or toad spawn, or tadpoles, to add to your barrel. Position other potted plants around the pool, so that the amphibians have landing places to hop in and out of the water. Snails and water insects will soon find their way to your pool too. From time to time, remove excess duckweed (small round leaves that float on the surface) with a net or old kitchen strainer, and take out algae using a stick.