Few garden concepts provide the combination of soothing sound, color, texture, and even wildlife habitat that a water garden can achieve. Water gardens may be large hardscape features or simple container water gardens. With a few instructional basics, most gardeners can make DIY water gardens. The do-it-yourselfer has a wide range of options, from pond and water gardens to easy birdbath or container features.
Designing a Backyard Water Garden
There are several factors to consider when designing a backyard water garden. The size of your yard or gardening space, amount of money you wish to spend, and maintenance level are all important considerations.
Building a DIY water garden may also require a professional landscaping crew if you choose something beyond the scope of your abilities. For the apartment or condominium dweller, simple container gardens are space savers, inexpensive, and easy to assemble. Other considerations are visibility, light exposure, and soil composition.
DIY Water Gardens
One or two people can install a pond and water garden. The process starts with a lot of digging. Line out the space and dig it to the depth you require. Remember, shallow ponds tend to cloud up and have algae problems.
Line the space with thick plastic. The easiest method is to use a pre-formed liner to line the bottom of the water feature. Use rocks at the edges to hold down the plastic and disguise the edges.
You will also need to install a pump and hose system, which are found at gardening centers. Fill the pond and let it sit for a couple of days to evaporate chlorine from the water.
Then choose and install plants. Choose plants that suit the light levels of your site. Fish installation should wait until the water garden has naturalized.
Container Water Gardens
Gardeners with minimal space or who don’t want a lot of maintenance can still have a water garden. Use containers and purchase pump systems to create container water gardens. These have minimal upkeep and still produce the soothing sounds and fluid display of a larger feature.
Choose a container that is water tight and large enough to accommodate the plants you wish to install. You can even implement fish in container water gardens as long as there is a pump to oxygenate the water.
Plants for Small Water Gardens
Plants help balance the composition of the water, provide cover for fish, and oxygenate the water feature. Check the light level needs of the plants you choose and make a plan before you clog the garden with too many plants. Pond plants should cover no more than 2/3 of the surface. If you are buying immature plants, make sure there will be room for them once they mature.
You can plant edge plants such as rush, taro, sweet flag and many other plants.
Surface plants for water gardens, such as water lilies, must have their roots submerged but the leaves and flowers float above the surface.
Floating plants just drift on the surface and include water lettuce and parrot’s feather.
Still other water plants need to be completely submerged. These are suitable for ponds of at least 2 feet (61 cm.) in depth. Examples of these are Cambomda and jungle vall.
Another factor to consider is hardiness. Many lilies and lotuses are frost tender and will need to be removed before winter temperatures arrive. In some zones plants for water gardens are invasive, like cattails, so it is best to check with your county extension to ensure your choices do not compete with natural species.
NOTE: The use of native plants in a home water garden (referred to as wild harvesting) can be risky if you have fish in your pond, as most natural water features are host to a plethora of parasites. Any plants taken from a natural water source should be quarantined overnight in a strong solution of potassium permanganate to kill any parasites prior to introducing them into your pond. That being said, it is always best to obtain water garden plants from a reputable nursery.