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Water butts in winter

Shropshire, England Eng

Do people find that their water butts freeze in winter, and does this damage the butt? Is there any way to insulate it to make freezing less likely?



We inherited our water butt when we bought the garden 24 years ago. It freezes every winter and is still as good as it was then - we do nothing to it.

15 Oct, 2013


The water will only freeze a few inches at the top. Plastic stretches so the butt won't crack when the ice expands.

15 Oct, 2013


thanks, Bulb and Myron, very reassuring, both of you! I suppose it'd be safer not to have a plastic butt filled right to the brim, but to leave a gap for expansion, like liquids in a freezer

15 Oct, 2013


A simple way of avoiding damage (applies to ponds as well) - drop a soft, hollow plastic ball onto the surface. When the ice expands it will squash the ball.

15 Oct, 2013


see above or a big lump of rubber sponge

15 Oct, 2013


ah, remember now, mum used to use a ping pong ball on our fishpond, thoush she said it was to leave an airhole for the fish to breathe. Maybe a large spongy ball would be better.

15 Oct, 2013


I always empty my tin waterbutt as soon as the first frosts soon gets filled up again in spring..

15 Oct, 2013


oh, damn! I'd found exactly what I wanted on eBay, when I finally got downpipes to connect them to - just went there and they're no longer trading! grrr. ah well, look elsewhere ...

15 Oct, 2013


Try the GoY Garden Centre. Lots of goodies advertised there.

16 Oct, 2013


thanks, Urbanite, I shall - just that these were the first good cheap recycled ones I'd seen

16 Oct, 2013


PS - I understand that the tap needs to be high enough to get a watering can under, but doesn't that leave water in the bottom that will never be used? is there any way to fill this space? clean stones or something that'll mean less water being below the take-out point?

16 Oct, 2013


Use a stand - a pile of bricks/ breeze blocks will do if you don't feel like splashing the cash on a branded one. Just make sure it's level and sturdy (not likely to topple over). What size are you looking for? There are recycling options if you look on sites such as Gumtree or Preloved.

17 Oct, 2013


I was Googling for water butts when I found a link to "turn a broken wheelie bin into a water butt" - the bloke asked his council what they did with their broken bins; it costs them to dispose of htem, so they were glad to give him some, which were "broken" in the way of having damaged wheels, the body was still intact and water-tight.

Can't find that link again (typical!) but searched again, found a youTube vid about how to convert

I was just wondering ... if such could be used, they might be a bit big to put up on a stand, and very likely too heavy when full. Hence my question

17 Oct, 2013


I don't see why a wheelie bin can't be used as a water butt. In fact, they would make ideal water butts. What a great Idea. It would be very easy to adapt one with a plastic tap from a DIY store for a couple of pounds.

I would drill a hole in the side right near the bottom to enable it to drain almost all of the water from it. Stand it on a few courses of bricks, high enough to get a watering can under the tap with a flagstone on top. There should be no problem regarding it being too heavy as you wouldn't really need to move it.

You have given me an idea now, I might take a walk around the streets later in the early hours. LOL.

17 Oct, 2013


One option if you recycle a wheelie bin would be to put a short length of hose pipe onto the tap. As long as the water level in the bin is above the top of your watering can it will fill the can. But you could also connect your hosepipe and water direct ( though probably wouldn't do overhead hanging baskets as there wouldn't be enough head of water). I think there's a pic under "water butts and barrels" of someone using a wheelie bin.

17 Oct, 2013


wasn't my idea, Myron, doubt I'd have thoght of it - if I can find the link I'll give the actual creator due credit.

You could check with your local council: the bloke said they were so happy not to have to pay to dispose of them that he got them delivered to his door, free!

only prob with a wheelie bin-water butt at the front of my place is that thre are two proper wheelie bins - i'd have to label this one very clearly so it didn't get collected!

good thought, Urbanite - so long as there's more water in the bin than the height of the hose it should work. I did have a shoulder-carry pressure-sprayer for hanging baskets, and probably will again, but the pump thing always seems to fail first.

I hadn't noticed the pic you mention, I'll have to go back and re-look

wheelie bins might also make planters, slightly mobile ones if you're strong enough, but sure they'd need a fair bit of ballast

17 Oct, 2013

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