Landscape Now: Upgrade Your Landscape With A Water Garden
Saturday, September 21, 2013
1. The Design Comes First
Whether you are building a house, installing perennial gardens or constructing a paver patio, the design must be completed first...water features are no exception. Mistakes that result from the lack of a detailed plan can cause the water garden to experience problems with leaking water, unhealthy water quality and expensive repairs! Will your garden be formal or natural? Choose a location that is visible from your house or patio and in a mostly sunny location. Site will dictate what type of water falls, filtration system and whether the water garden will contain plants, fish or is pond less. Locating sources for electric, plumbing and low voltage lighting will be necessary before digging the hole! Consult local garden centers, building officials, and area landscape contractors for advice, plans, permits needed and estimates before you undertake the project.
2. Site Selection
If you desire fish you will need plants that will require at least 6 hours of sun each day. Try to avoid placing a water feature under a tree and low areas that will collect excess water during rain storms. Keeping grass clippings, mulch and lawn chemicals (another reason to use organic lawn treatments!) out of your pond will keep it clean and balanced to sustain fish and plants. Flat areas can support a waterfalls by using the excess soil from excavating the pond to create a mound and stream leading to the main pond. Be sure to test the area for rocks and boulders before digging to save you extra work to deal with impediments.
3. Water Garden Construction
Once you have your water garden marked out you can dig the pond by hand or hire a company to excavate the pond with a mini excavator or backhoe. If the pond is a natural, free hand shape be sure to include stakes and lines indicating the pond level. The pond must be level at the top so the water will not seep out at one end! A line level or transit will be essential to determine the top of grade and water level. Ponds typically are 3‘ deep so fish can survive winter conditions and are a safe depth for children that might wander in. Creating shallow ledges around the edges of the pond are important for water plants, to hold stones from sliding and pond access.
4. The Liner Comes Next!
After completion of digging the water garden it is recommended to smooth the sides, bottom and ledges with a soft sand or clay to provide a clean surface for the liner and underlayment. If you plan to have the water feature for many years a 45 mil EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) liner will be a great choice since it adjusts to a wide variety of conditions, remains flexible, contains no plastics and is certified fish and wildlife safe. Because of the shape of a pool, the ledges and depth it is important to measure the size of the liner carefully...better off with a little extra than too little! Contact a supplier with your pond dimensions and they can calculate the size liner you need.
5. Filtration and Skimmers
In the past 10 years water garden filtration has improved tremendously...by mimicking nature. Gardens installed with natural bio filters and skimmers are able to cleanse the water naturally, without a heavy dose of chemical treatments. Equally important to maintaining a balance in your garden are the use of aquatic and shallow wetland plants along with fish which completes a natural cycle...providing oxygen for the fish and the natural breakdown of wastes creating an equilibrium for plant and fish survival and water clarity.
6. Plants and Fish for Your Water Garden
If you want to have fish (Koi, goldfish) you will need to have aquatic plants to provide oxygen in the water, shallow, ledge plants for fish protection and possibly an aerator to create oxygen if the water plants are not effective enough. Equilibrium will only be achieved with the correct balance of both fish and plants. One new type of water feature is the pond less feature that involves a water fall, deep basin and crushed stone. This feature can circulate water without having a pond, filter or fish!
The amount of maintenance you will have to perform will depend on the complexity of your water garden, where it is located and whether you have been able to create the equilibrium needed for a natural, sustainable water feature. There are chemical treatments that can be used to clean up a murky pond, but that can be better corrected by finding out what is causing the imbalance...not enough fish or plants, pond located in too much shade, insufficient infiltration or an imbalance of chemicals. In southern New England, if the pond is 3’ or so in depth, fish will survive frozen conditions. Place a small rubber ball or bundle of straw in the water before it freezes over to allow the escape of gases from the fish. Although water falls can run all winter long (except when the temperatures get near zero) it is safer to pull the pumps in late fall and blow out pipes so they will not freeze if the electric goes off. Water features are not maintenance free, however, with the proper design, location, balance of plants and fish they can provide many enjoyable hours in your yard as you bring nature, relaxation and peacefulness into your life!
In my next article I will discuss why fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs and transplant plants in your landscape!
“Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine.”
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