How to Build a Water Garden


Water gardens are becoming more popular. Garden stores and nurseries are making the equipment needed to build and maintain one easy to obtain and afford. A water feature on your deck or patio adds a special element that you can not get with regular potted plants. A simple whiskey barrel water garden is easy to set up and looks impressive.

Setting up the barrel and filter

Step 1

Place the barrel where you want the water garden to be for the entire season. Use the bricks to stabilize it and level the barrel. Keep in mind it will settle if it is placed on dirt.

Step 2

Put the liner in the barrel and fill it with water about a quarter of the way. Straighten out any folds in the liner and make sure it sits evenly in the barrel.

Step 3

Place the air pump in a dry location. Measure and cut enough tubing to reach from the pump outlet to the bottom of the opposite side of the barrel. Cut the tube with a few extra feet to allow some slack and working room. Attach one end of the tube to the pump outlet.

Step 4

Attach the opposite end of the tube to the top of the sponge filter. Use a small piece of scrap tubing to attach the air stone to the underside of the filter. Put the filter in the center of the barrel.

Step 5

Place a check valve somewhere in the line closer to the air pump end to prevent water backflow.


Step 1

Remove the plants from their nursery pots and plant them at the same level in the net pots using aquatic plant soil or a mix of gravel and sand. Most aquatics are adaptable to any soil as long as it holds the roots in place. Be sure to wash off any garden soil that might be on the plant before repotting to prevent algae.

Step 2

Use bricks or upside down clay pots to raise marginal plants to the correct height below or above the waterline. For water lilies, place the net pot at the bottom of the barrel.

Step 3

Slowly fill the barrel with water. Add dechlorination chemicals like you would for an indoor aquarium to eliminate chlorine and chloramines. Follow the manufacturers instructions, half barrels hold approximately 45 gallons of water.

Step 4

Turn on the air pump and place floating plants on the surface.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not let the air pump get wet. Do not underestimate the value of a check valve. Check valves allow the air to flow in only one direction, and they prevent water from flowing into the pump or draining the barrel if the power goes off.

Things You'll Need

  • Whiskey barrel cut in half
  • Barrel liner
  • Bricks
  • Level
  • Air pump for aquariums
  • Vinyl tubing
  • Scissors
  • Sponge filter
  • Air stone
  • Check valve
  • Aquatic plant soil or gravel and sand
  • Plants
  • Net pots
  • Clay pots
  • Dechlorination chemicals


  • Water Gardens
  • Container Water Gardening
  • Eric's Half Whiskey Barrel Pond Page

Who Can Help

  • Aquatic Gardeners Association
Keywords: whiskey barrel pond, patio water garden, small pond

About this Author

Brian Albert has been in the publishing industry since 1999. He is an expert in horticulture, with a focus on aquatics and tropical plants like orchids. He has successfully run an aquatic plant business for the last five years. Albert's writing experience includes the Greater Portland Aquarium Society newsletter and politics coverage for a variety of online journals.