Friday, May 20, 2011

Water Lilies in a Water Garden

I had my first water lily bloom in our backyard pond. I enjoy our pond but it does take a certain amount of upkeep. Now that our pond is established I usually just have to worry about cleaning filters and adding water. On occasion I need to add some algaecide but the UV filter is a great help controlling algae.
A water garden opens up a new world of planting and landscaping possibilities. A pond can be a point of interest or provide a soothing sound in your garden. You can start small, with a hollowed-out stone that catches rainwater or jump right in with a half-acre pond that has water lilies, fish and a fountain.
Before building your water garden, it is best to do a little homework. Unlike regular gardening, where you can bungle your way through almost any trial and start fresh the following year, a water garden often involves a greater investment of time and money.

A natural-looking water garden should have sloped sides with planting terraces that step down toward the deepest area of the pond. Remember:

· Place in a location that receives at least 5 hours of sunlight a day.
· Avoid low spots or areas that accumulate runoff.
· Don't put the garden under large trees.
· Find a level spot.
· Provide easy access to electrical power and fresh water

My pond is fishless at the moment thanks to a snowy egret but fish are a nice addition to a pond. You don’t have to start out with expensive Koi. Our small pond of 250 gallons supports Comets with no problem. We’ve had 6 at one time and they grew to about 18”. They eat algae, tadpoles, and mosquito larva so I only supplemented their diet with pond fish food.

Pot Some Plants
Although your water garden will have a few floaters, you will need to pot up other varieties of aquatic plants before sinking them in the water container. Use sturdy plastic or terra cotta pots. Those black plastic pots that regular nursery plants come in can also be used - and they're free. Water plants must be grown in high-quality topsoil or potting soil made specifically for water gardens. Never use a commercial potting mixture. It's too light for aquatic planting.

Beauty in a barrel
You don’t have to dig a hole in your backyard to have a water garden. A barrel water garden is perfect for inexperienced gardeners or gardeners with space limitations. Start by purchasing a sturdy whiskey barrel that has been cut neatly in half, sits steadily on its base and has tight metal hoops. Scrub inside and out thoroughly, then wire-brush and repaint the hoops. Be sure to use marine grade paint if you decide to paint the barrel.
You can also buy a preformed plastic liner or PVC pond liner cut-to-fit from a gardening center or the gardening section of a home improvement store. Some ready-made barrel liners are even available with a drain near the top as an overflow in rainy weather.

Add a few fish to your water garden for extra appeal. Guppies, mollies, swordtails, mosquito fish and small gold fish are commonly available and live happily in a small container. These little fish not only add interest, they help keep plants healthy by eating aphids, mosquitoes, and other insect pests.

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