On Water Gardening
Looking for a way to put some “sparkle” in your yard? Have you considered a water garden? Not familiar with the term “water garden?” You’re not alone. When we were kids we simply referred to these backyard oasis as ponds.
As kids, we marveled at the fabulous pond our Uncle Al created in his backyard. Because he was a contractor, the pond, like everything he made, was built to last. He dug an enormous hole, installed a maze of reinforcing steel, poured a ton of concrete and decked out the perimeter with a heap of decorative stone. Whew!
After filling the pond with water, he adorned both the interior and the area surrounding the pond with plants and greenery. As soon as the pond was complete, it became the home for his favorite pets — Koi, turtles and a frog or two. Going to Uncle Al’s house was almost as good as a trip to the zoo!
The good news is that unlike our Uncle Al, you don’t need to be a contractor to enjoy a pond or water garden in your yard. As a matter of fact, all you need is a bit of imagination, a few tools and one of the easy-to-install pond kits available on the market. Flexible pond liners and prefabricated plastic ponds make the once laborious task of pond construction a breeze. What’s more, the pond can be as simple or as elaborate as your imagination (and pocketbook) allows. The flexible liner offers virtually unlimited design possibilities while the prefabricated model is easier to install.
The first step in constructing a water garden is to choose a site where it will best compliment your garden. Existing water has nothing to do with where the water garden is located. However, proper planning is important to integrate the pond into existing landscaping so that it looks like nature placed it in your yard. Place the liner (flexible or prefabricated) on the ground where it is to be located and use a garden hose or a trail of flour to outline the shape of the pond. Remove the liner before beginning to dig.
The next and most difficult step in constructing a pond or water garden is digging the hole. You’ll need a reliable pick, a good shovel and a strong back. You can make the digging easier by soaking the soil with water and using a rototiller the following day to break up the soil. This process can be repeated with each successive layer of excavation. Fortunately, a water garden is shallow. Most projects will require less than two feet of excavation, the average depth ranging from 18 to 24 inches. If possible, locate the pond in an area where the terrain is already low. This will lessen the amount of excavation required, and the soil that is removed can be used to build up the area to serve as a landscape berm.
With the excavation complete, put a couple of inches of play sand at the bottom of the hole to protect the liner and to serve as a leveling base. Next, place the liner in the hole making sure the top edges are level. Fill the pond about one-third full with water and pack the space around the liner with sand. Continue filling the liner with water while packing sand around the perimeter. The water line should always be higher than the level of the sand during the backfilling process. This will ensure that the walls of the pond are fully expanded. Use flat, shale-type stones to create a decorative edge and to conceal the joint between the top edge of the liner and the soil.
The final step in pond construction is the installation of the components — the pump, filter, lighting, fountain or waterfall and plant material. Pumps come in various sizes and are rated according to the amount of gallons per hour (gph) of circulation. The size of the pump should correspond to the size of the pond and the length and height of the stream or waterfall – if one exists. In addition, a 110-volt outdoor electrical outlet with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) will be required to operate the pump. Check with your local building department for information on codes and methods for installation of an electrical outlet.
Among the most important elements in the construction of a successful pond are the plants and greenery placed around its edges. In addition to providing color and helping to create a natural setting, they provide an environment that is attractive to frogs, turtles and birds. If they don’t show up on their own, they can be imported.
What would a water garden be without plants in the water? Plants prevent the water from becoming stagnant by keeping it properly oxygenated, fresh and clear. The water lily, water hyacinth and lotus are the most popular flowering aquatic plants. For shallow water along the perimeter, consider sunning arrowhead, pennywort, water hawthorne or sweet flag.
Finally, a word about safety: A youngster can drown in two feet of water. Therefore, you’ll want to keep the safety of children in mind as you design and build your backyard oasis.
For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.