Turning a dangerous eyesore into a beauty spot

Cistern: A cistern is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. They are often built to catch and store rainwater. In areas where water is scarce, cisterns supply water to homes. These days cisterns are mostly used for irrigation in agricultural areas

Rock and plants beautify an old cistern

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What do you do with an ugly open cistern?

Many old houses like mine have old wells or cisterns. My property happens to have both. Cisterns are not only an eyesore - they can be very dangerous for pets and children. My husband and I have five grandchildren ranging in age from 3 years to 12 years old. Last thing we wanted was for one of the grand-babies to fall into the cistern. I love having lots of plants around my house so I thought about it and this is the solution I came up with for making the old cistern safe and beautiful at the same time.

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Supply List

  • Heavy plastic container
  • Drill
  • Trowel
  • Dirt
  • Sand
  • Decorative rock
  • Plants

Plastic tub fills an old cistern

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Let's Get Started

The first thing I did was measure the circumference of the hole. Then I went to our local Lowe's and found this heavy plastic tub with roughly the same measurements. Once I got it back home I drilled a few drainage holes in the bottom with a small drill bit.The tub I bought is slightly wider at the top than the bottom which worked perfectly. I just shoved the tub into the mouth of the cistern and pushed it down until it wouldn't give anymore. I then filled the tub with a layer of small rocks. You can use small rocks or gravel. It will provide drainage for the plants you are going to add.

A variety of plants adds interest

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Adding the green stuff

After adding the rocks I poured topsoil into the tub to fill it up, then I added plants. I chose three contrasting plants that do well around boggy areas. The reason for this is due to the fact the one of my gutters drains directly into the cistern. So when it rains the plants get deluged with water and it takes a while for the water to drain completely. I also tried to make sure I picked plants of various heights and color for interest. I put maiden grass at the very back, elephant ears on one side, and crocosmia on the other, with spiderwort in the front. If you are unsure what plants to buy just ask at the garden store. People there are knowledgeable and always happy to help out.

Some ideas for decorating your new garden space

paver base
sand pebbles
flowering plants
play sand
river rock
decorative grasses
decorative sand
lava rock

A decorative container garden adds safety

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Summary of steps

  1. Prepare container by drilling several small drainage holes in the bottom.
  2. Fit container inside cistern opening.
  3. Place a layer of rocks on the bottom to assist with drainage.
  4. Add soil.
  5. Add plants.
  6. Place a layer of rock on top of soil and around plants to keep rainwater from washing away the soil.
  7. Surround area around cistern with sand, decorative rock, or more plants.

After putting the plants in I covered the top soil with a layer of river rock. This is to keep heavy rains and watering from washing the top soil away. For added interest I put a flat decorative rock in the middle with a cute little cat's head I picked up somewhere. The area around my cistern was nothing but weeds so I dug that up and added a layer of sand with a smattering of decorative rocks on top. There are a million different things you can use to accent your new garden spot. Just look around or use things that have been taking up space in your garage.

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WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 2 years ago

Well that is awesome and a great way to deal with a problem area. Nice hub, very useful, thanks for sharing!

Winchestery profile image

Winchestery 2 years ago Author

Thank you! I am very happy with the way it turned out.

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