Water makes a garden special.  It refreshes and energizes us.  The sound of water is like music bringing the garden alive.

Container water gardening can be carefree, needing as little as a few minutes each week to add water.  Very little space is needed.  You can use anything that holds water.  The plant choices are vast.  The container may or may not use a pump.  It is not a necessity. 

*  Filtration is not a major concern.  Few guidelines are required to operate a pump within a water fountain.  The receptacle should be protected by a ground flat circuit interrupter, which shuts down the circuit if any dangerous malfunction should occur.  If you have any underground wiring, be sure it has an underground feeder cable, or rigid conduit, and check local codes for the proper depth to bury cables and conduits.

*  External bio-filtration is not necessary with small container water gardens since the high ratio of plants acts as a natural filter.  Being sure that the number and size are appropriate to that container.

*  If too many nutrients are present in water, microscopic plants (algae) will turn water green.  Monitor decaying vegetation such as leaves, flowers and stems and avoid excess plant feedings, excess fish and excess fish food.  In small water gardens, simply change the water if you have any algae problem.

  •  Fish will help eliminate insect pests.
  • Avoid use of chemical by using diatomaceous earth or BT to infected area.
  • Control aphids by mixing small amounts of dish soap with vegetable oil and water and spray on aphids.  Remove oil by flooding the container, especially if you have fish.
  • Spider mites:  A daily hosing with a strong jet of water will control them.  If really bad, remove plant and spray with insecticidal soap for 3 days.  Rinse before returning to pond.
  • To control mosquito larvae, use the BT.

Design:  A successful aquatic garden is the result of clear goals and some basic design practices.  Selecting the right site is the first important step.  The proper site can give a virtually maintenance free water garden.  It is a good idea to check for local regulations before beginning.

Define your personal goals for establishing a water garden:  Do you want to create a restful sitting area?  Do you wish to grow aquatic plants and incorporate fish into your landscape?  Do you want a liquid mirror to reflect the other areas of your garden?  Are you interested in attracting wildlife?

  1. Visualize your garden.  Determine the style of your garden.
    1. Informal, naturalistic gardens have irregular curves and natural stone.
    2. Formal gardens feature straight lines, regular curves with cut stone or concrete.  Don’t mix two designs – they tend to look confused.
  2. Determine the size and shape of your garden.
    1. Map out your property.
    2. Take notes on sun and shade patterns and surface water drainage areas.
    3. Mark boundaries and draw in buildings, mature trees and electrical lines.
  3. Create the right habitat for the fish and plants desired.
    1. Know the proper growing requirements for the aquatic plants you wish to have, including the depth they prefer to be set at.
    2. Fish prefer cool shade.
    3. Koi fish tend to eat and dig up many aquatic plants, so screen these fish off from the areas where plants are grown.
  4. Create a shaded vantage point from which to view and enjoy the water garden
    1. The sight of water is cooling in the heat of summer and is most appreciated from a shady sitting area.
    2. Place the garden near the house framed by a picture window or viewed from a covered deck or porch.
  5. Installation:
    1. Choose a preformed or flexible liner.
    2. Install according to manufacturers’ guidelines.
    3. Select a pump according to the size and needs of your pond.  It is best plugged into a weatherproof receptacle.  Check electrical codes for your area.
    4. You may want to add a filter or a light.
  6. Aquatic plants - Know the proper growing requirements for the plants you wish to have.
    1. The depth they prefer to be set at.
    2. Light preferences.
    3. Plants prefer a calm pond while fish prefer the oxygenating quality of moving water.
    4. Wait for 70 degree temperatures to set out tropicals.
    5. Marginal plants are those which are planted in shallow water (such as a water Iris).  They aesthetically break up the edge of the pool.
    6. Floating plants (those that float on the water and need no soil) help control algae, not allowing as much sunlight to penetrate the water’s surface.
    7. Bog plants include any plants that are tolerant of constantly wet soil.
  7. Use a dark colored container for water plants.
    1. Edge with heavy material to keep liner in place.
    2. Add heavy garden soil.
    3. Leave about 1” to fill with washed gravel (above soil)
    4. Soak down with pond water to eliminate air pockets.
  8. Fish
    1. Add 1” of fish for every 5 gallons of water after the pond has been established for at least 2 weeks.
    2. Add fish over time rather than all at once.
    3. Choose fish that can withstand outdoor temperatures and give them lots of places to hide and find cover.
    4. Be sure water fountains or water falls are clear of fish.

Water gardening requires little care once it is established.  A pond should not be expected to be perfectly clear.  Following are a list of things to check on:

  1. Maintaining equipment.
  2. Adding water – especially in summer
  3. Pinching, pruning and thinning plants
  4. Fertilizing
  5. Dividing and propagating plants
  6. Controlling pests
  7. Remove leaves
  8. Prevent ice with a de-icer.
  9. Cleaning out the pond can be done every few years: To maintain your ponds’ health, it is a good idea to add scavengers like snails, tadpoles and fresh clams.
    1. Clean out the pool in early spring when water temperatures are about 50 degrees. 
    2. Leave the moss-like algae on the sides to speed the balancing process.
  10. To maintain your ponds’ health, it is a good idea to add scavengers like snails, tadpoles and fresh clams.
  11. Winter Care:
    1. Remove tropical plants.  Most can be wintered indoors as house plants.  Trim back plants and place in sunny window.
    2. Tub gardens can be wintered over outdoors with the right care.  A pond de-icer can be floated in the water and insulation (such as bales of straw or sheets of Styrofoam are provided around the tub.
    3. Small gardens can be wintered in a cooler garage, closet or refrigerator.  Do not allow them to dry out.
    4. If mildew starts, wash with mild bleach solution.  Freshen with new water.
    5. Hardy lilies may be left in the pool for the winter, if your pool is at least 16” deep and the water level remains constant.  In fact, all hardy plants (even goldfish) will survive if your pool does not freeze solid.  For added insulation, place a board over the pool and cover it with leaves.  Chicken wire will help hold the leaves in place.
    1. Water lilies – are very easy to grow and good tubers seldom fail.  Plant in water 6” to 24” deep.  They are heavy feeders and require a lot of good rich garden soil for proper growth.  Plastic pots should be at least 16” across for proper growth.  Cover the soil with an inch or more of sand.  Press down firmly before placing plants in the pool and gently lower into water.  6” to 10” of water should cover the crown.  Refertilize later in the season for longer blooms.
    2. Bog or shallow water plants – These plants have the same type of soil requirements as described for water lilies.  However, situate them with the crown of the plant just below the surface of the water