4 steps to a wonderful water garden

Whether you live in a mansion surrounded by hectares of land, or in a townhouse with a small yard, you can still enjoy the pleasures of water gardening. Follow these four steps to create your own wonderful water feature.

4 steps to a wonderful water garden

1. Create a water garden feature

  • In small townhouse gardens, half wine barrels can be used, but, if new, should have a liner installed to prevent potentially toxic residues from the barrel leaching into the water
  • Half of a heavy-duty garbage can buried in the ground also makes a good small pool
  • Either use them for growing water plants in the normal way, or, with a small submersible pump feeding a bubbler-type fountain head and a grating over the top covered in rounded cobbles, you have an attractive feature at little expense
  • In a city garden there will often be space to sink a preformed pool of fibreglass into the ground. Then, with the aid of a small submersible pump connected to an electrical outlet, a fountain or waterfall can be created
  • The same water is used over and over again; so the only running cost is for electricity — a small pump uses only about as much energy as one 75-watt light bulb

2. Choose your water garden plants

One of the great pleasures of water gardening is growing a wide variety of unusual plants.

  • Elegant day-blooming and night-blooming water lilies — the undisputed aristocrats of water plants — can be cultivated in the deep water of a pool
  • So can the fascinating oxygenating plants, some of which float on the surface of the water and others of which grow completely underwater
  • Several interesting plants — including one of the most dramatic of all plants, the lotus — thrive in the shallow water around the edges of a pool
  • A large group of attractive bog plants do well in the moist soil adjacent to a pool or stream
  • All water gardens need plenty of light if the plants are to flower
  • No more than two-thirds of the surface of a pool should be covered by lily pads or other plants
  • To keep the water in a pool clear, a balance between plant and animal life must be established and maintained. If this is not done, the pool will become murky and fish may die

3. Avoid algae

  • Algae are microscopic plants that thrive in sunlight and feed on mineral salts in the water
  • Most of these salts are produced by the breakdown of organic material, such as leaves, twigs, and other debris. It is therefore essential to keep the pool free of leaves and to be quite sure that the soil on the bottom contains no humus
  • It is impossible to keep all foreign organic material out of a pool, but the water can be kept clear by growing oxygenating plants. These plants starve out algae by taking up the mineral salts, and they create shady pockets that diminish the sunlight algae need
  • In addition to controlling algae, oxygenating plants take in the carbon dioxide given off by animal life in the pool and — and as their name implies — release oxygen into the water

4. Add fish to a water garden

  • Fish not only enhance the appearance of a water garden but they also keep down the mosquito population by feeding on the larvae
  • They consume small snail eggs, aphids, and caddisworms, and eat a certain amount of algae and submerged vegetable debris
  • The most satisfactory fish for garden pools are the golden orfe, and varieties of goldfish, including comets and shubunkins. These fish are brightly coloured, stay near the surface, and — with a little patience — can be trained to come for food

With a little effort and some planning, you'll soon be enjoying the calming sights and sounds of your very own water garden.

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