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Build It and They Will Come

By Judy Sedbrook, master gardener, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

Living in the heart of the city, we often miss out on the simple pleasures that come from living near water.

A water garden, whether it be a water-proof container on the patio, a half-barrel with a fountain or an in-ground pond, can bring the sights and sounds usually found near lakes or streams right into your own backyard.

Thanks to modern plastics, the process of installing a beautiful water garden has been reduced to a weekend job requiring only a minimum of easily learned skills. Local garden and home improvement centers now stock everything needed to complete this type of project.

Whether you opt for a small container or a pond, there are a few things you will want to consider before beginning installation.

  • Sunlight. Most water plants need a spot with 5 to 8 hours of sunlight. A shadier spot can be used, but it will limit the choice of plants. Ponds smaller than 100 gallons of water do better with afternoon shade.
  • Drainage. If building a pond, the soil in the site should be well drained to avoid shifting or settling that can crack or break the lining. Low areas with water runoff from the surrounding landscape should be avoided.
  • Trees. Locations under overhanging tees should be reconsidered. Falling leaves can decay in the water, harming fish and plant life. They may also clog pumps and filters. Placing an in-ground pond too close to a tree may damage the tree's roots.
  • Water and electricity. Evaporation will require periodic refilling of the container and a garden hose should be easily accessible. If using a pump to power a fountain, waterfall or filter, a household circuit plug (110 volts, 20 amps) made for outdoor use should be near the water garden.
  • Local regulations. Before installing an in-ground pond, check with your local building department for restrictions and the possible necessity of having a permit. Always consult your local utility companies for the location of underground lines before digging.
  • Location. Your water garden should be in a location where you will be able to easily enjoy it; on or near the patio or visible from a window.
  • Size. In the case of a pond, the size should be suited to the overall size of the garden where you will install it. You don't want to overwhelm a small yard with a large pond.
  • Maintenance. Although you may think of your water garden as a self-contained ecosystem, it will still require some maintenance at different times of the year. This will include clean-up in the spring, periodic removal of debris and replenishing of the water, plant care, protection from leaves in the fall and preparation for winter.

Once the project has been completed, sit back and relax. The sound of the water will not only be soothing to you but will attract a variety of wildlife. Birds, dragonflies, butterflies, frogs and even raccoons and the occasional fox have been observed to visit water gardens in urban neighborhoods.

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Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

Visit our Photo Gallery of Water Gardens

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Colorado Water Garden Society

Planttalk, messages 1023 through 1027

Internet Pond Society

 

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CSU/Denver County  Extension Master Gardener 2010
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Date last revised: 01/05/2010