Using Water Features to Enhance Your Garden

It sounds as if we’re always pushing large ponds that cater to the health of fish. This may be true. We simply adore the little babies. Some folks, however, prefer a smaller or less complicated pond system or a simple water feature in the garden. They want a spot in the garden that hardly ever needs tending where they can sit and relax without having to worry about biological filtration that converts ammonia to nitrites, etc. for the sake of the fish in the pond. We know just the thing for these folks. A small waterfall, a pleasant pool filled with natural greenery or an elegant fountain hidden in the garden’s secret room are all ways to enhance the garden with water features without all the work. If an occasional frog inhabits the pond, well, that’s okay too.


Balconies, Porches and Decks are perfect for container gardens. They are easy and even apartment dwellers can have them. All you need is a large pot that holds water (much like the barrel ponds we have started to carry), a few plants and a little water movement. Scatter a few pots of plants around the tiny water world and you have a virtual garden on the deck.


To create sound the water must move. An 80 gph pump will work just fine. Most are adjustable too, giving you the freedom of having lots of sound or a little tinkle. Small spitters and fountains come in an array of choices from frogs and turtles to roman ladies by the well and in almost any type of material that holds water.


If you have a water lily or two you may want to limit yourself on the amount of bounce you put in the water. Remember, without fish you don’t need a lot of aeration. Keep mosquito rings handy, though, because mosquitoes breed in still waters and there are no fish to eat the larva.


The smaller you make your pond the less plants you can place in them. An average container garden will fit one water lily (the miniature variety is best), perhaps some sort of grass for texture and some parrot’s feather that will fall over the edges of the pond.


One problem you will encounter (and most prominent if the pond is in the sun) is green water (or "algae bloom"). This is a natural occurrence. Plants fight for nutrients in the water and can help starve out this waterborne algae but will probably not be enough to prevent algae bloom from happening when the water heats up in the spring. Eventually, however, your water will hit its balance and will remain clear for quite some time. It usually takes a few weeks to clear and will certainly try your patience. A UV Light is an investment to consider if green water is not your cup of tea.


If you think that "just maybe" you "might" want to add a few fish to your pond in the future, keep in mind that you can add a few (and only a few) depending on the amount of water you have and by adding extra bio-filtration.


Fountains can add class and beauty to any garden. If it’s sound you're after, fountains do a great job by creating it. There are as many full-sized fountains as there are spitters in just about as many styles and materials. All you need to add a fountain to your garden or patio is the fountain (of course), electricity and water. Fountains can hide in a grouping of plants, playing fun little games with your imagination or can be the focal point to any formal garden.


You are only limited by your imagination when adding anything to your landscape. A water element adds a whole new dimension to gardening. One of my fondest childhood memories is sitting in the shade beside a bubbling brook. I remember the sound of the water and the smell of the damp sand as I punched holes in it with my toes. That bubbling brook is gone now but that’s okay. I’ve created one in my own backyard.

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There’s basically 3 types of ornamental ponds — The Water Garden, The Goldfish Pond and The Koi Pond. The Water Garden which has only water and plants (and maybe a frog or two) is low-maintenance and intended to accent the beauty of the plantings only. The Goldfish Pond, also relatively low-maintenance, needs aeration, water, plants and a small filtration system. The Koi Pond requires excellent water quality. The need for adequate and external filtration is a must.
Before ever starting on a pond there is one question you must ask yourself – "Do I want to ever have fish in my pond?". There is a big difference in the way a water garden and a fish pond are built. Fish need filtration (and an adequate amount of it!) while a garden pond, depending on how clear you want your water, can have nothing other than the plants themselves. Also, more maintenance is needed for a pond if you have goldfish or koi.
"How can I clear up my water?" We get that question every day in one form or another. The first question we ask then is "What color is your water?". Brown indicates dirt and green indicates algae. The method of clearing the water varies greatly with whether you are dealing with silt or an algae bloom.
A UV is a bulb inside a PVC tube that is protected from water by a tube of glass. Water flows through the PVC tube and passes by the long bulb so that the ultra violet rays emitted from the bulb can sterilize microscopic algae that flows along with the water. This prohibits reproduction and growth of the algae and it quickly dies back. A UV is not effective against string algae because this type of algae attaches to the sides of the pond and rocks in the waterfall and does not pass through the light.
Springtime is the most critical time of the year for fish in the pond. As water temperatures rise it puts our fish in the danger zone also referred to as Aeromonas Alley. The danger zone is water temperatures between 50° and 65°. In many states during the winter the water temperature drops below 50° which kills all the bacteria (good and bad) and most parasites become inactive. Fish do not eat at these temperatures and the pond goes into a period of dormancy. Here in Georgia, however, spring's warmer daytime temperatures starts raising the water temperature but we still have cool nights.
We have since late winter been experiencing water temperatures fluctuating between 50º F and 55º F. If it’s cold we want the water temperature to stay below 45º F. If it’s warm we want the water temperature to stay above 65º F. This dangerous zone in-between desirable water temperatures is playing havoc on the health of our fish.