AUBURN, Ala.- So you have a space in your backyard that you don’t know what to do with? Why not consider a water garden, they are relaxing, add color and character to an otherwise empty space. From fountains to small ponds, waterfalls and streams, there are many different options to fit your space.
In an article by Alabama Extension horticulturist, Dr. Dave Williams, water gardens are an excellent way to bring interest and a unique aspect to the backyards of both urban and rural dwellers. They are easy to install, maintain, and gardeners can introduce new plants like water lilies and lotus.
While they are fairly easy to install and maintain, there are some things to consider such as mosquitoes, safety and zoning ordinances, before adding a water garden or water feature to your landscape.
“Mosquitoes can use standing water as a breeding ground,” said Dani Carroll, a regional Extension agent in Home Grounds and Gardens. “A pump to keep the water moving is advisable. Mosquito larva can also be treated using mosquito dunks.”
Mosquito dunks contain the bacteria Bacillus Bacillus thuringi-ensis subspecies israelensis. is a bacterium that is deadly to the mosquito larvae but not the adults. It is harmless to beneficial insects, pets, birds, fish or wildlife. To read about other ways to control mosquitoes check out this article on “Mosquitoes In and Around Homes.”
Safety and zoning can also be an issue when looking to build a water garden. Carroll said to be safe if you have small children. A deep fountain or pool could be a drowning hazard. Some cities might require you to build a fence around a deep pool or pond, so check your city’s ordinances to ensure that your plans comply with all fencing, water, drainage, and electrical requirements before you start digging.
Hiring a professional landscaper is recommended but with careful planning it is possible to build a water garden yourself. According to Williams gather together a pick, shovel, level, heavy rope or garden hose, one or two straight boards, stakes for excavation and a framing square. One or two people can install a water garden and you can make it as basic or intricate as you like. For a simple guide to building a water feature in your backyard check, out this article from DIY Network.
Location is the most important thing to consider before building. If you are taking the time and money to build a water feature you want to be able to enjoy it, so choose a spot where you can see it out of a window in the house. Carroll said to pick a site that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day and check utility services for equipment placement.
Drainage and proximity to trees are also important. The shade from trees can limit your choice of plants, and falling leaves can damage equipment and require more maintenance. Also, make sure the location is in an area that drains well and rain water will not flow into the pond bringing in fertilizer, debris or possibly distorting the shape of the pool.
Once the location has been determined decide on the size and depth of the water garden. Williams said, “When deciding on pond depth, remember shallow ponds are quicker to cloud with excess algae. Submerged plants, floating plants and fish do better in deeper pools. A good depth is 18 to 24 inches.”
After the water feature is built, it is time to add the details that make it special. Before filling a water garden with plants and fish, the water should be free of chemicals. Most plants and flowers that you can grow pond-side or submerged require full sun. According to Carroll, water iris, reeds and lotus can all be potted and the pots submerged in water.
Canna can also make a good addition to your water garden both submerged or pond-side. For a more natural look, add cattails, which can grow up to six feet tall. Taro or elephant’s ear is also a good pond-side plant to add drama and color to the water garden. Of course you can’t have a pond without a variety of water lilies. This flowering plant grows in the water, requires full sun and some can grow to be six feet wide.
There are many possibilities with water gardens: they can be filled with a variety of plants and flowers, house gold or koi fish, and they attract birds and butterflies. If you are considering building one, do some planning and research so the water garden creates a place of interest, soothing sounds and color.