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DIY Water Gardening

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Creating Bridges, Stepping Stones, and Islands in Your Water-Garden!

Water gardening is one of the very “hottest” areas of many homeowners gardens. Whether it is the addition of a garden pond or pool, creating a garden stream, stepping stones or waterfall features….what could be more peaceful & soothing than the gentle sound of running water!.

But like all garden features, they don’t “just happen!”, they are typically the result of some careful planning, accurate financial budgeting & perfect execution.

To help you ensure success for your very own water gardening oasis, we have carefully researched all the ingredients that go into making your project a complete success.

DIY Water Gardening

Choosing a Site for Your Garden Pond / Pool

It is well worth your time to start out by drawing the pond / pool you envision on paper in full detail. Remember that mistakes in construction can be corrected only at great cost in time and money.

You have no doubt read more than once that a pond should fit harmoniously into the garden around it. This obviously makes sense, but each individual garden is different enough to make it impossible to give general rules for achieving this harmony. So let us approach the problem from the practical side. Look at your garden and ask yourself what your expectations are.

Do you want to look out on the water as much as possible? Then the pond should be within easy sight of the place where you spend most of your leisure time (the patio, or a spot of the garden where you like to sit and relax). If, on the other hand, you want a natural pool, it should be in the quietest corner of the garden.

Once you have settled this basic question, take a closer look at the chosen location with the following points in mind:

Water Gardening – Location: Five to six hours of sunshine are ideal for a pool. This means that it should be partially shaded, probably with an east or west exposure. If the place gets sunshine all day, that is, if it has a southerly exposure, you should plan on providing some shade by planting tall-growing grasses, bushes, or ornamental shrubs, for instance.

A dense cover of water lilies also shades the water well. Small pools, especially, need sun alternating with shade. The sun stimulates plant growth, and shade is necessary during hot spells to keep the water from turning into a warm, oxygen-depleted brew where algae can quickly get out of hand.

Water Gardening – Effects of Weather: Most of the cold weather comes out of the north and northwest—as the expression “icy north winds” suggests. That is why these sides of the pool should be protected. If your house or existing plantings do not already act as a wind break, you will need room for marginal plants that grow 16 to 20 inches (40-50 cm) tall. Evergreen hedges, such as privet, offer good protection against wind and weather especially in the cold part of the year. A raised berm is also a possibility. You can use dirt excavated in building the pool for this.

Water Gardening – Trees Near the Water: Trees provide shade, but their foliage creates a problem particularly in the fall, because the leaves that drop into the pool can affect the water quality in a way that threatens pool life. The tannin released by decaying leaves quickly raises the pH of the water. If you choose or are forced to locate the pool close to trees, you have to either remove the leaves from the water or spread a net over the pool (use a bird net, available at garden centers).

Big or Small Pond?

This question, which presents itself to just about anyone who contemplates building a pond, is not easy to answer. We cannot give a minimum size that applies to all situations because the size of a pool depends on many factors. Among them are the size of your garden, how much effort and money you are willing to invest, and—very important—your own desires and expectations (fish, bathing, or natural look and conditions).

And you must be sure to take into account the “biological balance” of the pond. You will encounter this concept not just in connection with the size of a pool. The goal of all your efforts in setting up your pond, planting it, and providing upkeep is to achieve and maintain the biological balance. All this really means is that there has to be a balance between producers, that is, organisms that supply nutrients (dead plant parts and animals), and consumers (living plants as well as plant- and meat-eating animals).

If there are more nutrients than are being used up, the water qualitydeteriorates. In extreme cases, the pool can become eutrophic. The result is excessive growth of algae, which in turn causes a big drop in the oxygen content of the water. If nothing is done, even the algae die, and all pool life, both plant and animal, comes to an end.

A biological balance is more difficult to achieve and maintain in a small pool than in a larger one.

When deciding the size of the pool, remember that some useful practical conclusions can be drawn from the biological interconnections described above:

• In a small pool that is to accommodate fish, other animals, and plants a biological balance can usually be maintained only with the help of technical devices, some work on your part, and regular checking of the water quality. This is because small amounts of water react quickly to external influences. An overload of nutrients caused by dropping foliage, a breakdown of the pool filter or the pump, fertilizer runoff from the lawn, and so on can ruin thewater quality in no time. If you do not promptly step in to restore proper conditions, you may find your fish floating belly up.

• The larger the pond, the longer it will take for the biological balance to be upset, assuming, of course, that the pond is planned properly and contains plenty of different kinds of plants.

Water Gardening – Depth of the Water: Specific suggestions are given in the descriptions of different pond models. As a general rule, a pool should include three different ecological areas, each of which is important for plant and animal life, namely, a marshy zone (up to about 10 inches or 25 cm deep), a shallow zone (10-20 inches or 25-50 cm deep), and a deep-water zone (over 20 inches or 50 cm deep). If fish are to overwinter in the pond, there has to be an area of 10 square feet that is 28 inches (70 cm) deep or more, depending on the situation.

The Shape of the Pond/Pool

Choose the shape that is most aesthetically pleasing to you and that, in your opinion, looks best in the context of your garden. You can lay down a garden hose or a long rope in the planned shape to see how the pool would look.

Keep in mind that curves and shapes with many angles make excavation and sealing of the bottom harder and more expensive. Complicated shapes take more pool liner, and if you are contemplating a preformed shell, even something as simple as an L-shape is more expensive than a plain round or oval shell.

What to Do with the Soil

This is a question you should give some thought to at the planning stage. Since you cannot, generally, use the excavated material for the bottom of the pool—the soil is usually too rich—you have to decide whether you will have to have it carted away or if you can use it in your garden.

Perhaps you can use it for a berm on the pool’s north side, for a rock garden, or for constructing a waterfall. There are many ways to use soil in a garden, but you have to think about where you are going to put it until you are able to use it or have it carted away. If it is going to be piled even briefly on your lawn, put down big plastic sheets first, or your lawn will suffer.

Creating Bridges, Stepping Stones, and Islands in Your Water Garden:

Water Gardening – Bridges: no matter how modest in size, are almost as irresistible to most people as the water itself. Apparently the attraction is not just that a bridge provides a shortcut from one shore to the other but that it allows the observer to get a closer look at the life in the water, to view it from a bird’s eye perspective, so to speak.

Whether you have a large or small pool, or whether the stream you want to cross is broad or a mere trickle of water, there is a wide variety of bridges available to choose from. You will find anything from plain wooden foot bridges to more ornamental ones with decorative carvings and on to Italianesque stone bridges in different sizes and widths, both with and without railings.

Since these bridges are usually delivered in ready-to-assemble parts, you are not required to have any special skills as a bridge builder. What is important, though, is that the banks on which the ends of the bridge will rest be well reinforced so that there is no danger of the bridge later sinking into the ground or sliding off its footings.

Water Gardening – Stepping Stones: Stepping stones can be an attractive alternative to a bridge. Placed a comfortable step’s length apart, they allow you to walk around the pool, and they also make fall cleaning chores less cumbersome because they make it so much easier to get at the plants.

Setting up stepping stones is quite simple until you get to a water depth of about 2 feet (60 cm).

If you want to have stepping stones where the water is deeper, you have to build special concrete piers, which have to be mounted on a solid foundation—a project that is quite expensive and for which you should hire a professional.

Water Gardening – Islands: If you have fantasized about sunbathing, relaxing, and daydreaming on an island equipped with an air mattress and an umbrella, this, too, is a desire that can be realized in a garden pool. If you have a fairly large pool you can pick a spot that is not too deep and—even if you are not an expert builder—fashion such a dream island out of U-shaped concrete blocks and wooden boards and posts available at building supply centers.

These simply constructed islands can also serve as duck islands or as a marsh bed located in the middle of the pool. If you have in mind such a flowering island, you will need a shallow plastic tub that is set on a U-shaped concrete block with the tub’s rim reaching to just below the water’s surface. For this purpose, use only those plants that like having permanently “wet feet.”

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…

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Updated: November 9, 2012 — 1:09 am

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