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Planning and Installing a Water Garden

Urban and rural dwellers can bring the interest of water into their own backyards with a water garden (a miniature ecosystem created by growing and nurturing aquatic plants in a body of water). There are full range of water garden products from a water garden tub containers or small fountain to a large pond with waterfalls and fish, each water garden is unique. Water gardens are easy to install and maintain. Gardeners can introduce new plants, such as water lilies and lotus, into an existing landscape. Children spend hours enthralled by darting water denizens, and adults can spend many afternoons reading by a cooling fountain.

So there are basically two ways to build your water garden, one is using water garden containers or wine barrel, some of these tub are available up to 3' diameter, the advantage of these ready made teak or cedar wood containers are transportable and could be set up in no time, or you can work a project to build a pond.

Space requirements and zoning must be considered when planning a water garden. Ample space must be left for any borders, benches, or surrounding landscapes. In some localities, zoning ordinances may require homeowners to erect a fence around a deep pool.

If you plan to install a water garden yourself, gather together a pick, shovel, heavy rope or garden hose, one or two straight boards, a spirit level, stakes for excavation, and a framing square. Bring in a supply of builders sand to line the excavation or underliner. Estimate one ton per 40 square feet of surface. Purchase border materials (such as stone or brick) and water-treatment supplies. Other things you may need are a submersible pump and electric cable, a fountain or waterfall with necessary accessories (such as a permanent pipe), and special lights or color fixtures to illuminate the pool at night. You may wish to wait until the pool is complete and the water pH and temperature adjusted before purchasing your plants and fish.

One or two people can install a water garden that will last for years. The key is careful planning before digging any soil. When choosing the location of a water garden, the gardener should consider placing it so it can be viewed and appreciated through a window in the house.

Other important factors to consider are exposure to sunlight, drainage, and proximity to trees. Water lilies and lotus need full sun at least five hours and, preferably, as much as ten hours a day. A shadier spot limits your choice of aquatic plants. A spot providing mid- to late-afternoon shade is preferable. Soil in the site should be well drained. Water-logged soil can distort the shape of an artificial pool and crack or break the liner. A pool placed in sandy or crumbly soil needs to be specially prepared to prevent caving-in of the sides. If the pond is directly under trees, leaves that fall into the pond can decay and harm fish and plant life, as well as clog pumps and filters.

Accessibility to electricity and water is an important consideration. The pool is filled with tap water from a garden hose, but occasionally needs to have water added due to evaporation. An electrical pump recirculates water for fountains and waterfalls and operates on a normal household current.

When deciding on pond depth, remember that shallow ponds are quicker to cloud with excess algae. Submerged plants, floating plants, and fish do better in deeper pools. A good, average depth is 18 to 24 inches, possibly deeper in colder climates.

There are three ways to create a pool for your water garden. FLEXIBLE PLASTIC LINERS are lightweight and inexpensive and can be cut to any shape. However, installation is more time consuming than for molded pools. PREFABRICATED FIBERGLASS POOLS are considerably more expensive, but more durable. Generally, pre-fab pools are better on sloping grounds or fresh fill. A CONCRETE POOL (properly installed) lasts the longest. Since inadequate mixing or reinforcement can cause immediate cracking, a professional installation is recommended for concrete.

If installing a liner or pre-fab pool, the steps are similar. First, outline the pond with a heavy rope, staking it at intervals. If installing a pre-fab pool, place the pool on the ground and outline as above, but make it 2 inches wider in every direction than the actual pool.

Next, dig a hole the exact shape of the pool, adding 2 inches to the depth to accommodate a layer of sand. When digging for a liner pool, create a shallow, "boggy" area for plants by digging a 9- to 12-inch-wide shelf along the perimeter. When digging for a pre-fab pool, follow the contours of the shell, including any built-in shelves. Clear the hole of rocks, smooth the soil, and level the top edges to make sure the installed liner will be camouflaged.

Line the excavation with about 2 inches of damp sand to prevent punctures, and smooth it down. (Some suppliers carry liner underlay that can be used instead of sand. Some liners can be used with carpeting.) Center the liner over the hole, and push it outward into the corners. Fold the liner into pleats where it bunches at curves and corners, and anchor it around the edge with stones or bricks. As the pool fills with water, smooth out folds and wrinkles. Shut off the water when it covers the liner evenly to the top on all sides. Trim away the surplus liner, leaving about 6 inches around the edge. Cover this flap with stones, bricks, tiles, or other paving materials.

Pre-fab shells may have to be lowered into the hole and then removed several times to get the edges of the hole even. Once the shell is in place, fill the pond slowly. Backfill around the shell with soil as the water level rises to ensure the walls are adequately supported by soil. Hide the edges of the shell with flagstones or tiles that overlap the edge by 1 or 2 inches.

Before stocking a water garden, the water should be prepared. If the water contains ordinary chlorine, wait 24 to 48 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate. If chloramine or chlorine dioxide are present, ask a water garden or fish supply house for counteractive chemicals

Planting a Water Garden

After you have planned and installed a water garden (See May 1995 Hort. Article, Planning and Installing a Water Garden), you need to determine the plant materials to be used in the water garden. The key to a successful, thriving water garden is balance. Plants balance a pool ecologically by oxygenating and shading it (algae flourish in too much sunlight). Basically, there are four types of plants suited to water gardens: deep water plants, bog plants or marginals, oxygenators, and floating plants. A mix of all four, properly planted, ensures a thriving, self-sustaining system.

Containers, such as lined baskets, plastic tubs, dishpans, or clay pots, should be used to contain water plants. This will help prevent spreading and overcrowding. Fill containers with damp, heavy garden soil (avoid bagged potting soil or garden soil that contains chemicals or fertilizers harmful to aquatic life), pack the soil tightly in the container, cover with pea gravel to keep the soil from floating up, and lower the container to the correct depth in the pond.

Plants should be introduced to the pond during the growing season. Fish can be introduced two to three weeks after stocking with plants, but it is best to wait four or five weeks to allow time for the plants to get established.

Water lilies are one of the most popular pond aquatics because they are colorful, easy to care for, and highly fragrant. Tropical water lilies come in day-blooming and night-blooming varieties. They have larger, more-fragrant blossoms than hardy lilies, come in more colors, and bloom more often -- usually every day for the entire blooming season. In northern areas, they bloom later in the season. They can be placed in the water garden when the temperature reaches 65F at night and 75F during the day and grow best in 10 to 12 inches of water. Unless stored, they die when frost occurs. Most gardeners store them in a greenhouse pond over winter or treat them as annuals and replace them every year.

Hardy water lilies have longer blooming seasons in northern regions, but they have intermittent periods of dormancy, blooming for several weeks and then resting for several weeks throughout the blooming season. In general, they can be planted deeper than tropical water lilies, with some varieties surviving in 8 to 10 feet of water. They thrive in cold regions and don't need to be removed during the winter as long as the water doesn't freeze all the way to the rootstock. Both varieties need at least 5 and usually up to 10 to 12 hours of sun and regular fertilization.

The lotus, a relative of the water lily, is a much larger plant with magnificent blossoms. Hardy varieties thrive anywhere in the U.S., but some hybrid strains are not as tough in northern climates. They have a much shorter bloom season than lilies, but are popular because of their spectacular leaves and seed pods that often are used in flower arrangements. They too require at least five hours of sunlight and a water depth of 2 to 3 feet. Because lotus require very large containers, they are better suited to larger water gardens.

Bog plants include cattail; Japanese and water iris; bamboo; papyrus; and other tall, grasslike plants that thrive in the boggy, shallow areas that border the pond. Bog plants grow naturally in mud or in up to 6 inches of water, so they need to sit in a container on a "shelf" just below the water line. Most varieties of iris require at least three hours of sunlight and grow best in full sun. Cattails grow in partial shade or full sun.

Certain plants do not appear above the water, but are ecologically essential for pond balance because they continually replenish the oxygen supply in the water. Called "water weeds," they slow the growth of algae, absorb excess nutrients that would cloud the water, and provide fish with food. (If you have a small pool with no room for these plants, an aquarium pump will do the job). Varieties such as "elodea/anacharis" and "cabomba" are very inexpensive and can be bought by the bunch from suppliers. The plants require sandy, gravel-like soil and are hardy enough to survive the winter.

Plants, such as water hyacinth, have beautiful flowers and keep the water clear of algae and blanket weeds by minimizing the amount of sunlight on the surface. They do not need any soil -- just float them in the water. However, they are not recommended for areas where they might over winter as they are extremely invasive and have caused tremendous environmental and economic damage in the southern United States.

Decorating a Water Garden

After the construction and planting the water garden, most of the basic work is done, but to make it an enjoying and insparing garden, you need to do some waterscaping to give it a final touch,

garden bridge                                                               bamboo Garden

Garden Bridge is the most common feature structure in the water garden, because it allow you to connect your landscape divided by the stream or pond, a working   bamboo water garden is another eye catching center piece along your water way in the garden, it can bring soothing water sound rhyme to your water garden.


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Last modified: August 28, 2014