Garden Water Features

August 25, 2009

Plants for Backyard Ponds

Filed under: Backyard ponds — admin @ 4:09 am

Keeping your backyard pond in good condition year-round can be made much easier by your initial selection of plants. There are three main types of plants that can be included in backyard ponds. All of these plants will help maintain the health of your backyard pond, as well as provide color and interest.

Floating plants

Floating plants can help with the clarity of your garden pond. However, they also have the tendency to grow quickly and can eventually become an over-growth problem.  Some floating plants like Water Hyacinth are actually classified as weeds in some areas.

Emergent plants

Emergent plants such as water lilies not only add color but also the amount of shade available in your pond. Having 50-60% of your pond covered with emergent plants can greatly reduce the amount of algae you must deal with. These plants will not always survive the winter and can either be treated as annuals or taken inside during the colder months. however, the problem with moving these plants to a warm environment is that parasites can grow.

Submerged plants and marginal bog plants

Submerged plants and marginal bog plants create oxygen during photosynthesis. This can help the levels of toxins in the water.

August 12, 2009

Koi in Your Backyard Pond: 3 Important Considerations

Koi (photo flickr-corrieb)

Koi (photo flickr-corrieb)

For some water garden enthusiasts, the best reason for having backyard ponds is to be able to raise koi or other fish such as the common goldfish.  Both koi and goldfish are beautiful fish and relatively easy to care for.  (Be aware, though, that there are different varieties of goldfish, and not all of them are as hardy as the common goldfish. Check before you purchase.)

Koi and common goldfish are indeed easy care backyard pond fish, but that doesn’t mean that they are “no care”. There are three important things to consider before introducing koi or goldfish into your backyard pond:  1) water temperature, 2) oxygen, and 3)  predators.

Backyard Pond Temperature

Depending on your climate, you may or may not need to use a small heater during winter to keep the water in your backyard pond from freezing solid. It’s OK if ice forms at the top of your pond, as long as there is unfrozen water deeper down for the fish to swim in and a hole for oxygen.  Do check to make sure your pond is deep enough to prevent it from freezing right down to the bottom during winter. If in doubt, install a small heater or pond deicer to prevent the water from freezing solid.

Oxygen

You’ll need to use pumps and filters to keep enough oxygen in the water to support fish life in your backyard pond. You may also want to use a pond skimmer to remove the big debris prior to filtering.

Predators

Backyard ponds can attract attention from predators such as (in North America) raccoons, birds (particularly herons), snakes, and domestic cats. These predators can decimate your fish population. Not only is this upsetting, it can also be expensive. You can minimize this problem by designing your backyard pond to have lots of places for fish to hide from predators.

June 19, 2009

Planning Garden Water Features

Photo: flickr.com/bbalaj

Serene garden water feature

The first thing you need to do when collecting building water garden ideas is to do some planning. Decide what you want out of your water feature and what your budget will be.

This might be the hardest part of your project, because it can be hard to visualize what garden water features will eventually look like.

Also, you might not know just what you can and cannot do. This website provides information to help you make those hard decisions in an enjoyable, informed way.

First Things First

Give yourself a consultation. Grab a notebook, a tape measure, and a camera, and go to work. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish from my water garden?
  • What is my budget?
  • Where will I be enjoying the water feature?
  • Do I want to do the work myself, or hire someone?
  • What future problems could I have by building garden water features here?

What do you want your water feature to accomplish?

Here are some more questions to ask yourself when planning your water garden:

  • Do you want a formal or informal style?
  • Do you want to grow certain types of water garden plants?
  • Do you want a large number of fish or other wildlife?
  • Do you want a dramatic amount of water falling from great heights, or just a gentle trickle?

What is your budget?

Set a budget for yourself. If you end up spending more to implement your water garden ideas than originally anticipated you could create unnecessary stress for yourself. When you set a firm budget, a lot of the decision making is almost out of your hands. For example, you can’t buy a $2000 filtration system if your total budget is only $5000.

According to Brandon Vannest, who builds garden water features for a living and is the author of How To Build Your Own Natural Waterfall, the biggest complaint that he gets from past clients is that they wish they had decided to make their home water garden bigger. So keep that in mind as you do your planning.

But as long as you follow some basic principles of good garden water features from the outset, you can always enlarge your water garden in the future.

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Where will you enjoy garden water features the most?

The most common mistake people make in planning their garden water features is that they stick it back in the corner of the yard, just because they can’t think of a better place to put it.

You should be thinking of where you spend the most time in your house and in your yard. If you spend most of your time in the kitchen, and there are windows to your yard, direct the most exciting pieces of garden water features toward those windows.

If you spend a lot of time in your garden, you should incorporate part of the garden water feature within that garden. Your home water garden is going to be one of the favorite spots for you and your family so why not integrate it into where you already spend most of your time?

Garden water feature during construction

Garden water feature during construction

Do you want to do the work yourself?

You might want to get estimates from professional water garden installers, because building a garden water feature is an ambitious undertaking. But if you want to do the work yourself, there’s lots of garden water feature books and videos available to help you.

Whichever way you decide to go, the first thing you’ll want to do is to take pictures of your yard and make notes on them. It never fails that as soon as you leave the area where you’ll be building your garden water features, the space seems to either grow in size or shrink. Make notes on the pictures as to how big the area is and where things are to be placed.

Now that you have the basics, you need to use the right side of your brain and come up with a design. This is the best part of building your garden water feature: nothing is out of bounds, no hurdle too big, if you can imagine it – you can probably build it. Use the pictures on this site, or those in the free ebook How To Build Your Own Natural Waterfall.

At this point you don’t know much about rock placement, design ideas or implementation tricks, so don’t get too technical. Especially if you will be using natural stones, you can’t predict what they will look like together until they are set in place.

What future problems could you have?

You need to look at the terrain to answer this question. Consider these questions:

  • Is there a natural slope that would make certain garden water features more difficult to build? If so, could you use this natural slope for a stream or waterfall?
  • Is there a runoff problem from neighboring properties that could dump unwanted water into your garden water feature?
  • Are there any utilities or easements that would make construction impossible?
  • Is there good access to bring in the materials to the site?
  • Is there ground water directly under where the liner will be placed?

While most of these problems can be overcome with additional grading and or retaining walls, they will add to your budget, so it’s wise to select the best location for your water garden from the start.

And don’t forget about garden water features safety. While you may think you are simply adding some landscaping, your local government may see it differently.

Depending on where you live, there will be different regulations regarding the installation of home water garden features. You may even be required to put a fence or other safety measure around your home water garden. So be sure to check with your local officials when planning your garden water features.

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How to Get Rid of Pond Algae

Filed under: Pond algae — Tags: , , , — admin @ 9:11 pm

What is pond algae?

Pond algae is one of the biggest and ickiest problems you can face in your backyard pond. The microscopic plant life loves to live in stagnant water and oftentimes is what gives still ponds that slimy, green, slick coating. There are several different types of pond algae to worry about, from the kind that float free in the water, to the stringy versions, to the plankton variety.

How do you get rid of pond algae?

Enough about what it is. What exactly can be done to get rid of pond algae? To know how to get rid of this alien-like life form, you need to know why pond algae is attracted to your pond. For starters, any pond with a lot of sunlight is a surefire hotspot for pond algae. If your pond water contains a lot of chemicals called nitrates and phosphates, expect a visit from the green slime too.

Other reasons that the pond algae will start include a climate with really hot and muggy weather, or if you don’t do a good enough job of circulating the water. Add to the list refuse buildup in your pond. In other words, if leaves typically fall off trees and other brush into your pond, they can lead to pond algae growth.

What else? Experts also suggest that you can expect pond algae growth if you don’t have other types of healthy plants in your water pond. If you don’t, something else will grow to use up the nutrients. And last but not least, if you’ve built your pond with limestone, concrete, or marble stones, they will contribute to giving your pond a higher pH level, which pond algae likes.

Try to avoid it from the start

It makes sense then, that if you avoid a lot of the above factors, right there you’ve taken a big step to avoiding growth of pond algae. This includes filling your pond with aquatic plants that will soak up nutrients before pond algae can get at them. Or designing the pond from the get-go so that it’s out of direct sunlight and away from trees or other landscape that could drop debris into the pond. Of course, debris is likely to get into your pond anyway, so it’s crucial to clean it out and not let it sit there too long.

If you want to use chemical and other “high-tech” attack measures, try special chemicals designed to kill pond algae, called algaecides. You can also buy ultraviolet sterilizers that destroy some types of pond algae, but not all.

The most environmentally friendly way to get rid of pond algae is to make sure the water is always moving. Otherwise the pond water becomes stagnant.

So you can either install a pump which introduces airflow and circulation into the water, which will help prevent the formation of algae. Or you can buy algae tablets from your local garden center or pond supplier. Algae tablets slowly release a NON TOXIC chemical that dissolves the algae. They last for quite a while and do not harm aquatic life.

Overall, the key is to prevent the growth of the green slime of pond algae in the first place. Once pond algae does infest your pond, it is a mess to clean up.

Installing a Pond Skimmer

Filed under: Pond skimmer — Tags: , , , — admin @ 9:09 pm
Component parts of pond skimmer

Component parts of pond skimmer

A pond skimmer is a type of mechanical filter that grabs leaves and other debris off the surface of your pond.

Pond skimmers are designed to work with other types of filters, as a sort of pre-filter that removes the larger elements such as floating leaves. This prevents the large debris from clogging up any other filters that you have, as well as the pond pump.

A popular pond skimmer is the MicroSkim™ made by Aquascape (pictured at left). It automatically sweeps the pond surface clean, depositing leaves and debris into an easy-to-clean debris net.

The debris net and filter brushes act as a pre-filter for the pump, preventing leaves and debris from clogging it, thus reducing maintenance normally associated with placing a pump on the bottom of a pond.

How does a pond skimmer work?

If it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, the video below will help you understand how a pond skimmer works. This installation is particularly good for a retrofit (i.e. when you have an existing pond that you want to put a pond skimmer into).

Why bother with a pond skimmer?

Is all this trouble worth it? Of course! Your pond skimmer is meant to make your backyard pond a clean and healthy place for your fish and aquatic plants. The skimmer does its job by removing leaves and other vegetative debris. Otherwise, that debris would rot in the water, releasing harmful chemicals. And those harmful chemicals aren’t fish friendly!

Your pond skimmer can even double as a pond vacuum before you completely submerge it in the water. After you’ve got the skimmer set up properly, you can use it to suck up leaves and other debris that are floating on the surface of the water. That’ll save the effort of having to do so when the leaves sink.

Then when done, gently release your pond skimmer to sink and do its job underwater, and never fear, your pond will then be clean, as your skimmer works in tandem with your filter and vacuum.

Below is an excellent video that shows in detail how to install a pond skimmer during the construction phase of your pond.

Garden Water Features

Fire & Water is a father and son team that specializes in the design and construction of natural, breathtaking garden water features. Their installations include waterfalls, streams, ponds, and rock beds. Due to popular demand, they have now put together a book and video of how to build your own garden water features.

Among many garden water features built by Fire & Water, this one stands out. It was built by using 40 tons of large rock set using an 80 ton crane. The crane had to lift the rocks over the large pine trees and drop them down more than 60 feet.

The real challenge in building this waterfall was the excavation of the pond. This had to be carved out of solid granite only 4 inches at a time. After the pond was carved, fill dirt was brought in compacted and then re-excavated.

Garden Water Features

The garden water feature pictured at left is a very natural looking cascading stream. Situated in a park-like setting, it was also built by Fire & Water.

It took 25 tons of large moss boulders and an 8 x 10 foot concrete slab for the foundation. The concrete slab was a must to ensure a stable platform for the 10 tons of stone at the bottom. Below are some more photos of beautiful garden water features built by Fire & Water.


This next garden water feature is pretty grand. It features a 3 ton waterfall stone at the top.

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