Water Butts & Blueberries

Monday was yet another nice day, which was nice. Got to admit, when the weather is good it really is lovely here but when it’s bad, well I wonder what on earth we did moving here. As for the new vegetable plot, I enjoy a challenge but this is a bit more of a challenge than I expected. Still once the basics are done, it won’t be so hard.

I mentioned sheep on Sunday and got a lovely email from Sue at gardenfarming. She’d just finished running a bespoke course on pig keeping, her goats are kidding (I think that’s the right term for giving birth) and is pretty  busy but took the time to tell me that ewes can be very defensive of their lambs and that they probably see the cat as a potential threat, like a fox. She sums up their stare beautifully as “Go on punk, make my day!”

We were outside and the cat jumped on the wall to look at the sheep. A stare-off took place. There’s a phrase to describe futility, ‘out stare a cat’, well I can tell you that sheep can indeed out stare a cat.

Val was putting a couple of  small pieris into pots to grow on for eventual planting out when the pretty garden is sorted and I was moving my blueberries from their 8″ pots into 42cm (16″) tubs.


Blueberries are basically an acid bog plant so they like ericaceous compost and to be kept damp. If you’ve an acid, wet soil, like a bog, then plant direct into the ground but otherwise, you’ll find they do best in pots. It’s important that the pot is quite large in relation to the plant so it holds a good reservoir of water. Adding water retaining crystals to the compost is a good idea as well.

A friend of mine grows lovely blueberries in an old bath tub sunk into the ground. The only drainage is the plug-hole and he tops it up from the water butt when it shows the slightest sign of drying out. Using tap water, you can make the soil less acid, hence only using rain water for ericaceous plants if at all possible.

Water Butt

When we had the cow shed renovated and re-roofed, guttering was fitted. There’s posh! On one side it goes into the drain and on the other it just goes into the water butt, there being no drain near.

Now this is fine except when the butt is full. If I just let it overflow it will soak into ground by the shed wall and that defeats the object of having the walls pointed outside and tanked inside to stop the damp.

Eventually I want to have 3 butts linked together and raise them so I can get a watering can under the tap. This means building a support about 18″ high under the butts. A smallish water butt some 2 feet (60cm) in diameter about 3 feet (90cm) high holds around 200 litres of water. That weighs 200Kg (31 stone) so not something I care to knock up from a bit of scrap wood.

There is another option, which may be better. Rather than build a support under the butts and raise them, I could leave them at ground level and use a submersible pump to get the water out.

I’d have to buy a pump but it would mean I could get water from a hosepipe to the plot rather than carrying cans. I’d also have to run electricity to the pump. I quite fancied a solar powered pump but once you get beyond something to run a little fountain in a garden pond the price gets prohibitive, I mean hundreds of pounds!

My temporary solution is to raise my blue barrel water butt about 8″ on a large stone and use the tap connected to a hosepipe to drain excess water to the land drain’s soakaway.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
6 comments on “Water Butts & Blueberries
  1. Chris says:

    A posible third option for your waterbutts: You said that the butt was on the corner with the highest ground level. Run a pipe from the waterbutt along the wall to a place where the ground level is lower and set a tap there.

  2. John says:

    Thanks Chris, that’s a good idea!

    • alison says:

      As we know, water finds its own level so a simple siphon might do the trick. You only need one butt you can get a can under. (I must admit many of mine are just open tanks you can dip into.)

  3. Duncan says:

    What about drilling a hole in the top wide enough for a piece of pipe to the bottom and a simple hand powered pump to get water out into a can?

  4. Peter says:

    I have been using waterbutts for years (large ones) also did you know that if you block off your land drain so as rain water doesn’t go down them you can save money on your water bill (approx 20quid a quater or is it annum ??)just let the water people know that the rain water isn’t going into the sewerage /waste pipe anymore.
    the only probem i found with water butts that you have to raise up to get them 3 in a line is that eventually the rubber seals on the tap perish & they are a sod to change, its ok when butt is new (as its clean inside) but after a few years it gets all slimmy & its a sod to get inside to undo the retaining nut or to fit a new tap without getting covered in muck anybody got any suggestions on how to overcome this (forgot to mention i am disabled so is a bit difficult for me to get inside barrel) lmao also am having a lot of trouble getting tomato seeds to grow this season they get about 2 inches high then wilt ???

  5. Mary says:

    Peter, we have very big cisterns to collect roof rain water. Once a year we drain all the water out (the spigot is at the bottom side)and then clean out the “gunk”or “dregs” left on the bottom using a wet-vac. It is sometimes called a shop-vac. We are able to do such a through vacuuming job that we are able to finish off by wiping the interior with bath towels wrapped around broom bristles.Use your favorite search engine to find wet-vacs. You can buy or rent them

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