Water gardens come in all sizes and styles, from a small reflective pool to an elaborate pond complete with fish, fountains, waterfalls, wildlife and plants. What suits one gardener’s tastes may be unappealing or impractical for others. However, one thing is for certain-all water features will add immense beauty and movement to your landscape.
As backyard projects go, building a water garden is a highly rewarding one. Ponds are pleasing to both the eyes and ears, and have a soothing effect that is especially nice in today’s stress-filled lives. Adding a water feature to your garden may seem like a daunting task, and it’s definitely not a project to be undertaken on a whim. Yet, armed with just a bit of information, any gardener can take the plunge. Let this article be your inspiration on the road to creating a wonderful water garden!
Clarify your objective
Before you begin to dig up the yard or buy supplies, it’s imperative to spend adequate time in the planning and thinking stage. If you design a water feature that becomes difficult to maintain or inconvenient to your lifestyle, it won’t do you much good at best, and might be drained and abandoned at worst.
Consider why you want to have a water feature, and what’s most important to you. Is it simply to enjoy the beautiful sights and calming sounds? Does the prospect of growing plants in water intrigue you? Having a clear picture in your head (and on paper!) of what you hope to achieve will go a long way toward making sure that it becomes a reality instead of a pipe dream gone wrong.
Location, location, location
Study your space carefully to determine the best place to situate your pond. If possible, pick a location which can be viewed not only from your yard, but from the inside of your house too, such as near the kitchen window or deck. After all, if you’re going to the trouble of adding a water feature, you might as well have multiple opportunities to enjoy it.
A few things to consider are the amount of sun, wind exposure, and ground slope. Most aquatic plants that produce colorful blooms grow best when situated in full sun, but some shade is helpful because it discourages algae growth. For obvious reasons, placing your pond directly underneath a tree is not advised.
Blending the pond into its natural surroundings will make it seem as though it has been there forever, not something added after the fact. If your pond is near your patio, slightly elevate the soil around it so that excess water flows away from the deck rather than toward it. Landscaping the area around and near the pond will provide a nice habitat that attracts wildlife, such as frogs and birds.
Pond plants add visual appeal and ecological balance
Aquatic plants are certainly lovely to look at, and a delightful aspect of a water garden. However, they also help to control algae and create a thriving ecosystem that is self-sustaining. There are four types of water plants:
Rooted floaters cover the surface of the water and limit the amount of light reaching the depths of the pond, which inhibits algae.
Free Floaters protect young fish, cool the pond and control algae growth by shading the water from direct sunlight.
Submerged plants are the oxygenators, providing fish with food, and absorbing excess nutrients that can cloud the water.
Bog plants grow in mud or shallow water and make excellent transition plants between the pond and your landscape.
The algae challenge
A little algae in the pond is necessary for a healthy ecosystem, but too much makes the water murky. If you monitor it and take the proper steps to keep it under control, it shouldn’t present major problems for your pond maintenance. Barley straw is a natural product that works great to keep your water clear. It’s safe for your fish and plants, and is available as a big ball, in strips or as pads in a flotation frame.
Another natural, non-toxic treatment for cloudy water is to release packets of beneficial bacteria into the pond. Dispensers disguised as ducks or plants make them unobtrusive. Mosquito Rings are slow-release floating “donuts” which contain a naturally occurring bacterium that kills mosquito larva but is safe for aquatic life.
Fish are a wonderful complement to your pond
Fish bring movement into your pond, they’re fun to watch, andthey help the ecosystem by eating mosquito larvae and fertilizing plants. For new ponds, give plants a month to get established before adding fish.
Hardy little goldfish called comets are the easiest to keep. They cause little damage to other fish or plants, and can live for several years. Koi are popular pond fish but they need a large space, and are more aggressive towards smaller fish.
The finishing touches
The decorative touches are what make your water garden unique and showcase your personality. Lifelike sculptures of majestic birds like blue herons and swans, turtles, frogs, gnomes and cherubs are popular choices.
Fountains add the beauty of moving water to your pond. They come in many designs, from small bubble jets to shooting sprays. Pre-formed waterfall molds also add movement to your pond, and are easy to install.
Rock sculptures, birdbaths and rugged stone benches are also great additions to your water garden, and come in styles to fit every budget.
The time and effort it takes to create a backyard water garden is well worth it, for it is certain to bring you, your family and your guests years of enjoyment.