Q. Dear Neil: The house I bought has a number of half whiskey barrels planted with sotols. The barrels have begun deteriorating and the metal bands have started to rust and fall apart. If I replanted into new wooden barrels is there anything I could do to keep this from happening again? I don’t like the look of the fake plastic ones, but I also don’t want to do this again.

A. That’s to be expected with wooden whiskey barrels. They’re made from oak, I believe, and the banding only can last so long as well. You could seal the insides of the new barrels with pruning paint and gain several years, but they, too, will eventually fail. However, I suspect the plastic barrels would, too. Plastic’s colors fade, plus the plastic becomes brittle and cracks with age. Your other option would be to switch over to a heavy type of clay pot.

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