Add Splash to Your Backyard with a Water Garden

Apr 24, 2009 |  by  |  Craftsman Archives  |  Share

pondgarden12  Add Splash to Your Backyard with a Water GardenAhhh, the sound of gurgling water flowing ever so gently, you almost get caught up in a kind of dreamworld. If you want to add movement along with a tranquility and calmness to your garden that can only be found in the most secluded of areas,  add these 6 simple steps to your list of gardening ideas, and you will begin to see just how relaxing a water garden can be right outside your backdoor.

Step 1: Decide on a goal for your garden
What is most important to you? Do you enjoy the relaxing sound of the running water?  Do you desire to have something beautiful to look at every time you are at your kitchen window? Maybe you like unusual water plants or have an interest in keeping fish. Whatever you choose, think long and hard about why you want a water garden, make sure you write down your thoughts and ideas, and share them with anyone who might be helping you with your project. Making known on paper, the size, design, and location will help you better in your planning.

Step 2: Choose your location
You can put a water garden just about anywhere in your yard. If you host a lot of gatherings, you may want to place it close to your deck or patio for everyone to enjoy. My personal favorite is right in front of the kitchen window, so it can be seen  everytime you look outside. It is amazing how much of a stress reliever the simple sound of  flowing water can have on the human mind and body. Make sure that you don’t cast your garden out into the shadows of the trees. Bring it  into the open to be the focal point of your yard. You really want to be able to take advantage of the view all year long.  Remember, if water garden2  Add Splash to Your Backyard with a Water Gardenyou want to have an interesting array of water plants, make sure your garden is in full or part sun.   If you have any slopes on your property, take this into consideration that there will be pros and cons in placing a garden in this location. You may end up with fantastically dramatic waterfalls and add height to your garden, but you will also be consumed time-wise with the planning and building of it. It really depends on how much work you are willing to put into it. Wooded areas are nice and look like nature made it, but the cleaning up of any leaves may be a back-breaker. Semi-sunny or sunny locations tend to be the best, even though you will have to keep the algae under control. Try to keep your garden away from low-lying areas or anywhere that rainwater may accumulate. This can cause runoff to drag unwanted debris and possibly even chemicals into your pond which in turn makes for an unhealthy biological imbalance to your water.  Having an electrical and water source nearby can make it less costly to maintain and make your project easier.  If you have young children like I do, there is a safety issue that needs to be addressed.  Either wait to build a water garden until your children are older, or go for the “pond-less” alternative. These water features have one of two things, they are either filled completely with pebbles, or are topped with a strong gate, that has pebbles on top. This makes it safe for children.

Step 3: Plan it big baby!
If you go about planning for a bigger garden, that gives you the option of adding fish.  The larger the pond, the deeper colorful pond 300x197  Add Splash to Your Backyard with a Water Gardenyou can make it and the more fish and plants it will hold. They will achieve an ecological balance quicker and much better than a small pond and they can be seen with ease from a further distance.  If you are not sure about having fish to begin with, but are considering them in the future, make sure your pond is 2 feet deep for at least half of the area, with some variances in depth in other areas and that it does not exceed 5 ft. in depth at the deepest point. Shallow water allows the plants to flourish and have a good place to grow, while the deeper parts give the fish a nice, cool place to hide from predators.

Step 4: Keep your water clean
Everyone who has ever looked into a pond has probably seen the slimy green gunk attached to the rocks and other things floating in the water. Well, like it or not, your water garden will not be ecologically balanced if it does not have this funky stuff. Your water will be clear to a point, but never expect it to be crystal clear. There are two kinds of bacteria, nitrosomona and nitrobacter, that must be present to transform the toxic ammonia that comes from fish excrement and decaying organic matter like fallen leaves, into wonderfully healthy nitrates. These nitrates act as a kind of fertilizer for all of your plants making them very happy, and thankful that you didn’t remove it.  Algae, however, is something that you will need to watch closely.  By about year three, your algae problems should resolve themselves.  So, during the first two and a half years, add enough surface-floating and deep water plants to cover around 50-70 percent of the water. Having this much covered means that algae will not grow very well in the shade.  Also, if you put in submerged plants, this will starve the algae of food.  Take notice that in the spring, you will always have more algae, just because your plants have not grown enough yet to provide adequate shade. Once summer hits, it will die back, and any other floaters can be removed periodically with a plastic garden rake. Just be patient and your garden will bring you much joy.  Another tip: check your pH levels, ammonia, and nitrite levels quarterly. Older water gardens should be tested twice a year in spring and fall.

Step 5: Ponder the thought of having fish (and I don’t mean for dinner)
Adding fish to a water garden can be a pleasant thought for some , but an uneasy thought for others. The biggest mistake that newbies make in having fish is they tend to get too many, too soon. More fish means more fish poo and that makes more toxins. You will want to limit the number of fish to about 1 for every 25-50 gallons of water in the beginning. Once your garden is established and the friendly bacteria has made its appearance, then you can add 1 fish to every 15 gallons of water.  Goldfish being one of the most common, are somewhat small, sociable, and can coexist with many different plants and other species of water friends.  You can get them in so many different colors, and their fins and tails accessorize them quite well. They can tolerate fairly cold temperatures and can live through winter in zones 6-10. They go dormant at the bottom of the pond and just chill in water temperatures between 36-50 degrees F. Give them a breathing hole  in the ice to provide oxygen to their little gills. The air passage also allows the gasses from the dying pondfish21  Add Splash to Your Backyard with a Water Gardenplants to escape freely. In zones any colder than 6, you will want to bring your fish in for the winter, which can become labor intensive and quite costly. For the Koi fanatic, unless you have a very large area to keep them, you might want to stay away from these guys. These ornamental carp grow up to 3 feet in length and can damage your water plants.

Step 6: Get the proper equipment
You will want to get together with an experienced water garden designer to decide what will fit your budget as well as your needs and desires. The type of equipment you will need is dependent upon three things, the size, how much work you are willing to put into maintaining it, and your purpose for having the garden. A pond that has no fish will probably not need any filtration system.  If you decide to add fish, you will then need to purchase a mechanical filter that traps all the debris, and you clean out yourself, by hand.  It is fun to have the fish, it is another thing to have to clean up after them. You will also need a biological filter. With this filter, the bacteria attaches itself to rocks, plants and any other surface, and as the water moves through, the filter cleans it. Prices and size will vary widely, depending on where you live. You might also want to research into different fountains and liners as well.  Overall, if you take your time in designing and planning, you will have a water garden that will give you many years of peaceful moments to remember.

I have also listed a few websites that go into detail about the  different categories of water plants so that you can research to pick which ones will satisfy your needs and wants while keeping you on a sensible budget. Happy gardening!

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