Creating a water garden in the landscape brings sensory appeal as well as a habitat for aquatic animals and birds. Here are some considerations for placing, establishing and maintaining a water garden.
Location is the first detail to consider. As with any new garden feature, the water garden should blend into the existing landscape. Positioned near a sitting area, visitors can enjoy the sights and sounds of the feature. It is easier to maintain a water feature in partial shade that is protected from strong winds to reduce evaporation. It is also helpful to have a nearby water source for refilling and cleaning the feature periodically.
If your water feature will have a pump, it is essential that it is established close to an outlet. Consider the plants growing over your water garden, primarily deciduous trees. When the trees go dormant in the fall be mindful of the mess they could make. Anytime you are digging be sure you know what’s underground in terms of utilities.
The size of a water garden should accommodate a variety of plants. Two feet deep and 4 to 6 feet across is a good minimum size. A deeper water garden will better accommodate fish. Once the garden is dug, put a layer of sand on top of the exposed soil. This will help prevent rocks from cutting through the liner. Layer a pond liner over the sand leaving several inches hanging over the top edge of the water garden. Place the pump, filter and fountain elements in the empty water garden.
Use stones to cover the outer edge of the pond liner. This will cover the mechanics but also help hold the liner in place. Including a pump with a fountain in your water feature will circulate water and keep it from becoming stagnant. This can also minimize the mosquito populations while creating a peaceful sound.
Floating plants can easily be put in a water feature and the roots flow freely. Some floating plants have roots growing in soil at the base of the pond while the leaves and flowers float on the surface. Water lilies are an example of a floating plant. These can provide a habitat for wildlife with their beautiful flowers and leaves. Potted aquatic plants can be planted in heavy garden soil covered with small gravel pieces. The container is then placed a few inches below the water surface so the plant grows.
One unwanted plant that often appears in water features is algae. It typically grows on the bottom of ponds and water features and then floats to the surface during the summer heat. Although algae can be a great food source for fish, most gardeners view it as unsightly. One way to prevent algae growth is to place your water feature in the shade. Smaller water features can also be drained and cleaned periodically if algae are spotted. If you choose to add plants to your feature, ensure you are not introducing invasive species. Lists of recommended and prohibited water plants can be found through the extension office.
Decisions you make about the water feature should focus on the positive attributes such a feature is intended to bring to a landscape. Accentuating those attributes while minimizing the maintenance by choosing a suitable size, location and plants, is key. This will ensure greater enjoyment of the feature and relaxation in the garden.