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- water gardening
- Choosing a pond
- installing a pond
- fish in a pond
- bog gardening
- water plant care
Ponds have become places where the beauty and tranquility of water amongst foliage can be easily integrated into your garden.
Water features, such as ponds and fountains, have become very popular recently. The sound of running water is soothing. An attractively landscaped pool with fish, water plants like the water lily and a waterfall or fountain can be a beautiful addition to your garden. Ponds have become places where the beauty and tranquility of water amongst foliage can be easily integrated into your garden. A pond will also attract birds to your garden. They are a super addition to gardens, as well as, they offer added colour and movement. In southern Alberta you'll find that most songbirds gather near water, so if this suits your fancy it's well worth the effort. This can be especially nice if you choose to run your pond in winter.
Your pond can be a place for contemplation that begins with deliberation. Water gardens are more than water holes in the ground and can have function, meaning and should be as individual as its surroundings. They can be slow moving, purposeful, geometric and formal, reflecting blooms that surround it or free-flowing, utilizing irregularly shaped rocks, and shoreline, inviting birds and offering a pleasing environment for fish creating its own ecosystem.
Whatever your taste, a pond can complement or contrast your existing garden. Consider its theme first. Will it be a single body of water or several? Will it consist of deep pools to magnify the colours of its surroundings? Will there be symbolism like in Japanese water gardens, with bridges, stepping stones and chimes?
It could be whimsical, tropical or a simple well. Perhaps it can have an oasis theme augmented with sand. Will statuary play a part in your pond? Spitters, fountains, waterfalls and even rivers can be built into your pond. These are things to consider before you begin.￼
Once this has been decided the next step is to decide where your pond is to be located, and how it is to be constructed. There are a couple of things to consider when building a pond. Pond size should be as large as the site and your budget will allow as larger volumes of water do not change temperature as quickly. This is especially important when you live in a climate with extreme temperature changes. You'll find most water plants and aquatic animals do best in a more constant climate.
water garden location
Locate your pond where it can be seen and heard from both inside your home and sitting areas of your garden.
Where the pond should be overview:
- It should usually be visible from seating areas in the garden and from indoors.
- It is best in the sun if water plants, especially lilies, are desired.
- It must be level (the water will be, even if the pond isn't.)
- A short wall might be necessary on one side if it is on a sloped site.
- A waterfall needs a sloped site with a level pool at the bottom. A waterfall built up in the middle of a level garden looks out of place and contrived.
- Good drainage in the area is essential, if there is run-off from above.
- Be sure any run-off cannot contain lawn herbicides or fertilizer.
- Ponds do not do well under trees. The roots cause problems as they grow, and leaves fall into the pond.
- An electrical connection is necessary for a pump (cord can be underground or run along beds).
- Water is not needed continuously but should be easily available for replacing water lost through evaporation.
Depth is practical in Calgary at 18-23 inches. A pool 24 or more inches deep requires, by law, a lockable, 6-foot fence. Laws are different everywhere and you should check your local code. Pond on farms can be huge and deep enough to over winter trout. If plants, particularly water lilies, are to be included, at least 6 hours of sunlight daily is necessary. Locate your pond where it can be seen and heard from both inside your home and sitting areas of your garden. A grounded electrical supply is necessary for the pump and possible lighting scenarios. This is a consideration as digging a trench for power opposed to running and extension cord can be an expense but also big advantage. Remember to check for underground utilities etc. before you dig.
choosing a pond
Size, shape and material overview:
- A molded pond comes in many sizes and shapes and is easiest to install.
- Flexible liner gives more variation in size and shape but is a little more work to install. Buy the best quality you can afford - you don't want a leak after you have it installed! Add twice the depth of the pond plus overhang to the length and width of the liner purchased.
- Cement pools are not practical in our area. Our rapidly changing weather causes cracks that are expensive and difficult to repair.
- Size depends on available space and your needs. Outline it in the area it is to go with a garden hose or thick rope to visualize it. Depth should be 18-23" deep if you would like plants, especially lilies, and fish in it. A three foot deep pond is necessary if you are going to keep fish in it over the winter, but be aware that a pond in the city that is 24" deep or more requires a six foot, locked fence around it.
Heavy butyl liners are more of a challenge to install, but give you unlimited flexibility and design. Recently, lighter but very durable pond liners have come on the market. You might want to look into them before you choose. We have 15mil liner that works as well as any.
installing a pond
Construction of pond overview
- Outline shape of pond, dig deeper and wider than pond, line bottom with damp sand, old carpet or layers of newspaper.
- Add molded pond at the level needed when filled in around sides, or add flexible liner, pleating it to fit. Warming liner in sun for several hours will make this easier.
- Fill pond 1/3 full, easing pond into position, using level to be sure pool will be level. A long board across pool will make leveling easier.
- Pack soil firmly around it to proper depth, secure edges and cover with a material that looks natural in your garden - stone, wood, brick, etc.
A ground-fault interrupter must be on new homes, and is recommended for older ones, on the outside breaker box.
The more thought that goes into your pond the more rewarding it will be. Take a moment to study your yard. Notice how the sunlight travels across it and how the rain and groundwater flows over the land. From this you will see some pitfalls that will be difficult to correct once you've built your pond. If it's shallow and is directly in the sun it may heat up too much. Also, substantial evaporation can be a constant source of aggravation, as your pond will need constant attention. Try to avoid that if you can. Also, you won't want drainage flowing into and overflowing your pond every rain shower. Try to ensure that this will not affect your pond. Take note of what will happen when it does overflow? Where will the water go? Into you bed of begonias or your garage? This would not be good. Try to avoid locating under deciduous trees, as leaves dropping into the pond are a nuisance too.
This was the pond's original
location, under a tree.
You've scouted it out and found the best place for your pond. Now draw up a plan. If you are using a pre formed pond turn it over and edge against it with your shovel. Did you call before you dug?
This is the new
location for the pond.
Excavate area. A point to consider is the shape of your pond's sides. Your soil conditions, as well as, the type of plant and or animal life you wish to incorporate into your water garden's ecosystem often dictate this. You may dig a little deeper than your final depth on order to facilitate leveling and or underlay.
There are three basic types of sides:
These are the most common because they provide easy access in and around the pond and serve as ideal shelves on which to place various aquatic vegetation. Also, fish tend to respond better to environment with varying water depths. Cut the steps, do not build by filling.
This shape is only appropriate in soil that can hold its shape or where vertical reinforcement is used.
This shape needs little reinforcement as it is naturally more stable. It is also easy to shape and work with when laying the pond liner itself. They're common in Koi ponds.
Once your shape and depth are formed compact the soil on the bottom and level.
Use sand to buffer the liner from sharp objects.
Level and compact your pond bottom and walls.
You might also want to line the bottom with old carpet, or layers of newspaper, then add sand to cushion the liner. This will help stop stones from working their way up to the liner. Remember that water is heavy and any object under the liner will create pressure and possible punctures.
Liners are draped into the hole and neatly folded at curves to fit. Add water as you shape the liner to help it settle into the pond. Pre-formed ponds are set into the hole so that the lip is just at soil level. Be sure the pool is level. Use a board across it with a carpenter's level. If the pond is not level, the water will still be level, so it will look unbalanced.
Place your liner and fill with water.
Edge the pond with appropriate material for your garden. Use your edging to hold fast the pond liner. Never edge without filling the pond first. This pulls all slack from the liner. It might look best with rock edging if rock is used elsewhere in the area. If there are other wood features such as a deck close by, it could look best with wood edging. It's up you. You may want to add a waterfall, fountain, or spillway. This should be done before the excess liner is cut off. This is important as you should back your waterways with liner
Once this is complete trim excess liner.
Pumps, sprays, waterfalls, overview
- Moving water prevents algae from forming and aerates the water for fish and plants.
- Recirculating pumps keep water moving for sprays, bubblers, creeks, waterfalls, etc. An easily removed filter will make it much simpler to keep it clean.
- Read information about pumps on boxes, and ask staff for help. The length x width x height of pond =cubic inches. Divided by 231 (cu. in./gal) this equals gallons of water in pond.
- Gallons per hour for the pump depends on height and distance of flow (both reduce force). Pump should circulate the pond's volume per hour. If in doubt, choose the larger pump. Flow can be easily reduced
- Choose a fish-friendly pump if fish are going to be in the pond.
The pump goes into the deepest area of the pond. It is safer there if the level of the water goes down.
- Walls, bridges and/or rocks for a waterfall or edging pond, etc. will add to cost but could be interesting added features.
- Waterfalls can be created with rocks, or molded ladders from the same material as the pond. If rocks are used, flexible pond liner under them, with stones at edges, will prevent water from soaking down into soil beneath the creek and not returning to the pond.
- A pond at the bottom of a creek or waterfall must be able to hold all the water in the system. If the power goes off, all the water will return to the lowest area.
- A glazed cement fountain with a spray feature can be very attractive in a pond.
All water gardens require a submersible pump for circulation. greengate offers a complete line of submersible pumps designed to operate safely and silently while completely submerged in your pond. The size of the pump you will need will depend largely on how high you want your fountain to be and how much water you will need to circulate.
For this reason, it is important to know the gallon capacity of your pond. The water in a basic pond should be turned at least once an hour, which means a 450-gallon pond should have at least a 450 GPH (Gallons Per Hour) pump. To calculate the gallons in your pond, follow this formula:
Length x Width x Depth x 7.5 = Gallons.
4'L x 6'W x 1.5'D x 7.5 = 270 Gallons
Volume can be calculated on odd shaped pools by estimation. It's not an exact science, but you will find that it is important. Measure the widest and deepest spots on your pond. This will ensure you have more than adequate circulation. In other words your pond will be "over powered" and turn more than once an hour. For all intent and purposes this is an advantage. You should know that the more your water turns the less problem you will have with algae growth. Also if you "over power' your pond you give yourself the opportunity to add splitters for other features later without having to purchase another pump. We say…. more is more.
Also the height of any fountain will be dependent on the size of pump. A good thought to keep in your mind is that it is possible to restrict the flow of your pump to your fountain or pond. It's not possible to increase it.
Care of ponds overview
- Algae can form when pond is first installed. It will clear in a short time, particularly if there is less light (trees leaf out or plants in pond shade water)
- Remove rotting, floating leaves, grass clippings, etc.
- Do not stir up water. It rarely needs cleaning. It will stabilize after a few days and become clear, particularly if fish and plants are present.
- If there are no plants and fish, pond must be cleaned regularly. · If there are no plants or fish, a little liquid detergent floating on the surface will eliminate mosquito larvae.
- Cement fountains must be dry over the winter. Water in tiny cracks will freeze and expand, then split glaze and cause surface to chip.
You've thought a lot about it and done a lot of work. Now your brand new water garden is brimming with fresh water, and you're almost ready to introduce plants and fish to your new habitat.
Our water is generally designed to make it safe for human consumption. This means that there are a few additives. Not all of them are safe for aquatic life. For this reason, it's a good idea to treat the water following this simple procedure. This will not only help expensive plants and fish survive, but also help you maintain your pond.
- Dechlorinate - Dechlorinator breaks the chlorine/chloramine bonds in the water. This process removes these substances (which are deadly to fish and plant life if left untreated) from your water supply.
- Test - Use Test Strips to periodically test your pond water of pH and nitrate levels, as well as buffering capacity. If the measures are within the safe ranges, as indicated on the bottle, then your pond water is fine.
- Buffer - Be sure to maintain the buffering capacity of your pond. This enables your pond to resist wide pH swings that can be caused by fish respiration and photosynthesis.
- Test - Once your pond has been buffered, it's best to test the water again using Use Test Strips to make absolutely sure that the pH of your water is safe.
- Raise or lower pH - Photosynthesis, acid rain and other external factors in some areas can drive the pH level of your pond down to dangerous levels. Apply Little Giant pH Salts Up to gradually raise the pH level back up to safe levels. *In Calgary because of the dry climate we often top up or ponds. Due to the high pH levels that inherently exist in the water our pH can get very high. Remember; always adjust pH levels gradually. Drastic changes can cause stress and even death in ornamental fish. If required, use pH Salts Down to lower pH levels.
- Ensure Water Clarity - Now that your pond has been primed, it's ready to be seeded with bacteria that will keep your water clear and healthy. Biological Clarifier, Dry Bacteria, Liquid Bacteria or Nitrifier to help keep ammonia and nitrate levels down and your pond water free of algae.
Plant your water garden. Introduce fish. Enjoy!
fish in a pond
Fish add a fascinating aspect to a pond, with their movement and colour.
- Each inch of fish at maturity (not including tail) needs 24 square inches of water surface. A three by four square foot pond can hold 72 inches of fish, which can be 6 twelve inch long fish, 12 six inch fish, or 24 three inch fish.
- Bubblers and sprays add oxygen the fish need.
- Fish feed on algae, and add carbon dioxide, which the plants need, and their waste fertilizes the plants.
- Fish eat plants, so buy large ones or let smaller ones grow before adding fish. Exposed roots can be protected with mesh around them.
- Fish eat mosquito larvae and other insects landing on the water. DO NOT spray insecticides around the pond.
- Koi tolerate cold weather better than gold fish but cost considerably more.
- Fancy goldfish with flowing tails, bulging eyes, etc. do not do well in ponds. Standard types do well, and bright orange ones show up more in a pond than silver or white ones.
- Koi can be aggressive to goldfish and can also breed with them.
- Shubunkin are a small variety of goldfish with mixed colors. They are attractive but not as hardy.
- Small trout fingerlings are possible for the summer.
- Have a small holding tank available for sick fish. They will hide at the bottom and won't eat, so could be ignored until it is too late.￼
- Fish add a fascinating aspect to a pond, with their movement and colour. Goldfish do well in a pool over the summer, and are inexpensive. Koi are more expensive, but have beautiful coloration, grow to large fish.
The ideal location for a bog is in conjunction with a pond as most bog plants live near water in their native environment.
A bog garden can be a great addition to any garden! While most of us do not have a moist spot in our landscapes, building this type garden will allow you to grow moisture-loving plants. Most of the plants suitable for bog gardens come from marshy, wet places.
Traditionally when people grew this type of plant in their existing landscapes, it was required to keep them in the shade and water several times daily to keep them from wilting. By cultivating these same plants in a bog, it is now possible for them to be grown in the sun.
The ideal location for a bog is in conjunction with a pond as most bog plants live near water in their native environment. However, a stand alone section of your landscape will also work. Bog plants thrive with exposure to full sun but will survive in nearly any area. Once placement is determined, select the size and shape of bog that best suits your space. Bigger is better as it accommodates the size of these plants as they mature and holds more water for a longer period of time. Once the spot is selected, begin excavating 45cm (18") to 75cm (30") deep. Digging the hole is the hardest part of the project and once complete you will be left with a sizable pile of soil that can be used elsewhere in your yard. Following excavation, line the hole with a plastic sheet or pond liner at least 8mm thick. One continuous sheet is preferable as smaller overlapping sheets will not hold the water effectively. Cut drainage holes 2.5cm (1") in diameter and 30cm (12") apart around the liner 20cm (8") from the top. The drainage holes allow the excess water at the surface to drain away from the plant's crowns so they are not left rotting in the standing water.
Fill your bog with soil. The bottom layer should be of good quality topsoil 20cm (8") deep followed by 20cm (8") of well-rotted manure with a small amount of bone meal added. Mix slightly with the top soil below. Top the rest of the bog with peat moss making sure to put extra peat in as it will settle substantially when wet. Fill the bog with water making sure that the all the soil is thoroughly saturated. Be patient. This may take some time depending on how dry the soils were at the beginning. Now the only thing left is the selection of plants to grow in your bog!
readily available plants suitable for a bog
- Eupatorium Joe-Pye weed zone 3-8
- Angelica zone 4-8
- Sagittara Arrowhead zone 3-8
- Houttuynia Chameleon Plant zone 4-8
- Aruncus Goat's Beard zone 2-8
- Equisetum Horsetail zone 3-8
- Ligularia zone 2-8
- Lobelia Cardinal Flower zone 4-8
- Caltha Marsh Marigold zone 2-8
- Astrantha Masterwort zone 4-8
- Filipendula Meadowsweet zone 3-8
- Mimulus Monkey Flower Annual
- Rheum Ornamental Rhubarb zone 3-8
- Rodgersia zone 4-8
water plant care
information coming soon