A Water Garden - The main focus of a water garden is plant life. Water gardens, or ponds, enable gardeners to explore the wide world of aquatic plants, like waterlilies or lotus. Water gardens can also contain goldfish, tadpoles or snails. Gardeners may choose to add a stream, fountain or waterfall to add the sound of water to their garden.
(Waterlilies and other aquatic plants are the focus of this pond./Water's Edge, Lawrence, Kansas)
Container Gardens - Any container which will hold water can be used as a container water garden. These can include ceramic pots, plastic pots or whiskey barrels. Container water gardens are movable and can be placed on your patio or deck. Since they are small they enable those with space restrictions to still enjoy aquatic plants and fish. (A variety of container water gardens on display./Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado)
Fountains - Fountains are self-contained water features, usually made of concrete but can also be made of ceramic or metal. Fountains come in a variety of styles and sizes. Fountains add the sound of water to the garden without all of the maintenance involved with water gardens or ponds.
(This romantic fountain fits beautifully within the landscape./Barnsley Gardens, Adairsville, Georgia)
Pondless Waterfalls and Bubbling Rocks - These are natural looking water features where the water "disappears" into a hidden water basin. They usually do not contain water plants but provide a natural looking water feature when maintenance of a pond is not wanted. (A small bubbling rock water feature./Water's Edge, Lawrence, Kansas)
Gardeners discover a whole new world of plants when they begin water gardening. Aquatic plants come in an array of sizes and shapes, some with beautiful blooms, others with fascinating foliage. There is an aquatic plant for every situation. Some grow in the shallow edges while others occupy the deep center of ponds. Aquatic plants have also moved outside of the pond and can be used as container specimens on your patio or deck. The aquatic plant experts at Water's Edge in Lawrence, Kansas, recommend the following plants for your water garden:
This is just the tip of the ice-berg. Once you begin water gardening you will get hooked, discovering new plants every year!
There are many items which must be considered before installing a water garden or pond. We advise you to read up thoroughly before beginning. Planning ahead will save you many headaches during the installation process. A few things to consider are:
Calculating Pond Gallons:
Square or Rectangle: Length x Width x Depth x 7.5 = # of gallons
Oval or Kidney: Length x Width x Depth x 6.7 = # of gallons
Round: Diameter x Diameter x Depth x 5.9 = # of gallons
Calculating Pump Size:
Your pump should turn the water over in the pond ONCE every 2 hours (minimum). Example: 1000 gallons divided by 2 = 500. Pump gallon per hour (gph) should be at least 500 or larger.
Calculating Pump Size for Waterfalls:
For a continuous sheet of water over the lip of the fall, you should plan on pumping 100 gallons of water for each inch of width of the lip of your fall. Example: A 6" wide water fall should have 600 gallons of water going over it for a continuous sheet of water. Next, determine the height of the waterfall and how far from the pump to the water fall. Example: If your waterfall is 4' high you will need to find a pump that at 4' of height will be pumping 600 gallons of water. For every 10 feet of horizontal run of your tubing add an additional 1' of height. Restricting the size of your tubing will slow down the flow of water. Always plan on using the biggest tubing possible for the maximum flow of water.
Calculating Pond Liner Size:
Add twice the depth of the pond to the width and length dimension then add 1' for over-lapping the edge of the pond. Example: for a 10'W x 12'L x 2'D pond, Width 10' - add 4' (twice the depth) = 14'. Length 12' - add 4' (twice the depth) = 16'. Add 1' to each dimension for overlap at the edge. Liner is now 15' x 17'. You should purchase at least a 15' x 17' liner.
What is a 'balanced pond?' Water garden balancing involves planting, stocking and maintaining your pond so "ecologically" speaking all elements support one another and help to control the growth of algae (though some algae is desirable). Everyone's pond is different but there are some guidelines you can follow to create a 'balanced pond.'
Please remember that algae is a plant and is beneficial in the water garden. As with all green plants, algae uses up nutrients found in pond water and through the process of photosynthesis gives off oxygen which your fish need to survive. A balanced pond contains relatively clear water, yet allows some algae to exist for the benefit of fish and other pond inhabitants. In a balanced pond you should be able to see your hand when placed 12" under water.
Do you have green water? Don't worry. Green water normally occurs in early spring before your other water plants have begun to grow. It also will appear whenever you add a lot of fresh tap water to your pond such as after a pond cleaning. Whatever you do, DO NOT use algaecides or flush and refill your pond. If you do the green water cycle will begin all over again. What you should do is to add a pond product containing beneficial bacteria which will speed up the clearing process.
Speaking of tap water, in the Kansas City area, tap water is treated with both chlorine and chloramines. Unlike chlorine, chloramines take up to 90 days to dissipate from tap water. Thus, it is essential to use a de-chlorinator whenever adding fresh tap water. Failure to do this will cause death for your fish and other pond life.
In summary, for a balanced pond you should have lots of plants to provide shade and to compete with algae, fish (but not too many) and beneficial bacteria to consume organic debris. This should be accomplished in this order:
Once you follow these simple steps you can sit back and enjoy your beautiful water garden!
Putting your pond to bed for the winter is easy if you follow the following guidelines.
CUT BACK: Just like in your perennial garden, winter hardy pond plants will need to be cut back for winter. Trim off all of the dead or dying foliage and clean up your pots. Winter hardy plants can be left at the same depth at which you had them during the summer months. Water lilies and lotus should be at about 18-24" deep. Plants which are marginally hardy in our area (such as Thalia, Parrot Feather or Floating Heart) should be placed on the floor of the pond.
BRING INSIDE: Tropical plants will need to be overwintered inside. If you have the space you can set up a small indoor water garden. Some tropicals should be disposed of and replaced next year (like water hyacinths). Tropical lilies can be stored in a greenhouse or the tuber can be stored in damp sand at about 48-60 degrees F.
STOP FEEDING: Cold water fish can stay in your pond during the winter. If your pond is 24" deep your fish will survive. Fish metabolism slows down when the water gets below 50 degrees F. At this temperature they require less oxygen and little or no food. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water so no aeration should be needed. Stop feeding your fish when the water is below 50 degrees F. Tropical fish should be brought inside and overwintered in an aquarium.
USE A DE-ICER: The most important thing to do is to remove all organic matter and dead plant material from your pond. We recommend removing your pump and replacing it with a thermostatically controlled pond de-icer. If you allow your pond to freeze over solid any decaying plant material will create poisonous gases under the ice which will kill your fish.
USE NETTING: Remember to place some netting over your pond to prevent tree leaves from collecting in your pond during the winter. The netting can be "tented" over the pond and held down with rocks around the edges.
TURN OFF: If you have not done so, turn off or remove your pump during the winter. Warm water settles to the bottom during the winter and that is where your fish will 'hibernate.' By running your pump you will actually recycle cold water to the bottom where your fish are. Waterfalls and other water features can also freeze solid during the winter creating 'ice dams' which can drain your pond.