Water Garden Building

Learn the basics of water garden construction, including hints, tips and detailed how-to information, making it a doable project for any gardener or homeowner!

Everyone loves the gentle sound of a trickling brook, or the soothing splash of a waterfall. Even still water can encourage tranquil thoughts and inspire our imaginations, leading many to search out and discover a joy for water gardening.


The first question you have to ask yourself is, what type of water garden do you want? Do you want to raise eye-popping lilies and spectacular water plants? Do you want a koi filled pond? Are you interested in attracting other types of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife to your back yard? Or, is your main goal one of esthetics? Once you have an idea what would be most pleasing to you, do some research about what each choice involves. Care of certain aquatic plants like lilies, for instance, requires ponds with little water movement, so would not be suitable, or at least more difficult to maintain, in a highly agitated environment. Koi also need specific care. If you'd prefer to keep things simple, you can do water gardening on a very small scale on a patio or deck by using a lined whiskey barrel. Very small containers aren't always suitable for fish, but will do fine with a few aquatic plants and make a spectacular addition to any patio scheme.

Once you've decided on what type of pond or water garden would best suit your desires and practical limitations, start thinking location and size. Here are a few things to keep in mind when scouting out location and considering size: 1) Be sure to keep the pond away from trees or heavy foliage, as it will drop debris in the water which can foul the pond. 2) Keep safety in mind if you have small children, or if your yard is not fenced. You may want to check your city ordinances concerning this if you are in doubt. 3) Do you want to view the pond from the house? Or would you be happy simply seeing if from the patio, or from a private spot? 4) Take into account the other aspects of your yard, and how the pond will impact and blend into that environment. 5) Don't make your pond or water garden bigger or grander than you are willing to manage and maintain, if in doubt, go small.


Now that you know what type, where and how big, it's now time to look at construction methods. There are three main types of materials used for creating or containing water gardens and ponds. 1) preformed pond liners, made from strong black plastic, polythene or fiberglass. These are a good choice for ease of use and installation. The black plastic will deteriorate within a few years, so keep this in mind, but it is less expensive. Fiberglass will last much longer, but can cost considerably more. 2) Black plastic liner is another popular product, and can be use in both in-earth ponds, or raised water gardens. It is susceptible to weathering and tearing, but is also fairly reasonable price-wise. 3) Concrete, poured or block construction, are the most permanent and durable, but require a professional's services in most cases, so with that in mind, we will look at a typical method of creating your own backyard pond from only materials #1 and #2.

Whether using the pre-formed liners or the flexible plastic sheets, you will need to excavate the area in which the pond will sit. It is advised to allow for an inch or two above ground level, as you don't want run off (dirt, gravel, mud) going into your pond. Set your pond (pre-formed) into the hole and measure how high you would like to keep it above ground, and adjust your excavation accordingly. You can set only the bottom of the preformed pond into the hole, but be aware that you will then need to use some sort of building material to cover or hide the black plastic siding that stays above ground. You can do this with concrete or decorative blocks, large stones, wood, etc. Next, you should put a layer of sand on the bottom of your hole before placing the pond form inside, then check for level before backfilling around the liner. This method stays very similar if you are using the flexible liner, but you will need to create shelves for pots, and smooth vertical sides, like steps, in your pond base. Again, use sand in the excavated hole before putting in the liner, and make sure to remove all sharp stones. Once this is done, you can move on to edging the pond with the material of your choice. Mortared bricks, end caps, or stone are the most popular choices.


Once the pond is constructed, and before filling, it's time to decide, depending on what type of pond you've settled on what, if any, pump and filtration method to use. If you've decided on keeping fish, you will need a good quality pump and filter to help clarify the water. If you choose to keep things simple, and are only doing a small water garden, a pump and filter are not necessary in most cases. A simple pump attached to a water spout or water spray, does add a wonderful visual and auditory plus to your water garden, even if you have chosen not to have fish. You will need to buy a pump appropriate to the size of your pond, and likewise the filter. These can now be found at any home center or in most garden supply centers. Keep in mind you will be dealing with electricity and water, so safety is a must, and if you decide to hard wire the pump's controls directly into the house, a licensed electrician must be used. Be certain to bury the outdoor rated electrical cable at its required depth, and if plugged in outside, the outlet should be in a waterproof casing at least five feet from the pond.


Water gardening can be very rewarding: something new and different from the home garden main stays of vegetables and flowers. To name a few water garden favorites: Lotus, Water Lilies, Floating Heart, Water Poppy, Sweet Flag, Bulrushes, Canna, Water Clover, Water Iris, Parrots Feather, Catails, Duck Weed and Water Hyacinth - these plants thrive in aquatic environments and can be added to the home water garden or ponds. Some plants like the Water Hyacinth and Bulrushes help to purify the water in ponds without filtration, eating up the nutrients needed for other pond irritants like green algae to grow. Most of these plants can be found at pond supply stores and even on-line. Koi and other pond aquatics like the necessary,larvae and bug-eating, mosquito fish, can also be found at pond centers in your area, or even at some pet stores.

With some careful planning, you can enjoy success with your water garden for years to come!

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