Water gardening gets really fun once the weather warms up, and up, like it does in our hot, humid climate. A water garden can be as simple as a large patio container filled with a few plants, some fish and perhaps a tiny pump to circulate the water. Or, it can be as elaborate as a cascading water-fall plunging into a fish pond. Most homeowners’ water gardens fall somewhere in-between. Water gardens, like regular gardens, can be as high or low maintenance as you want.
Requirements Sunlight and Depth: Most experts recommend at least 4 to 5 hours of full sun, and a minimum water depth of about 15 in. These conditions provide for the healthiest fish and plant growth. A third consideration is distance from trees. Falling leaves are not good for the pond. Although not essential, a good filtration system is helpful and the pump that filters the water results in bubbles breaking the surface, increasing oxygen for the fish. This pumped water can also be channeled thru a fountain, waterfall or other types of pond statuary.
The Quest for Clear Water Most people prefer clear water so they can enjoy viewing their underwater plants and fish. But remember, most algae – like the long filamentous algae, is good and an important part of the pond ecosystem. It’s normal to have a heavy algae bloom early in the spring when your pond is just getting established. Once you introduce some submerged oxygenators and surface floating plants, sunlight will be restricted and the algae will diminish. Water plants, once they get going, will out compete the algae for dissolved nutrients and carbon dioxide.
Clear Water Recipe (taken from the Missouri Botanical Garden water gardening class) For each square yard of water, you will need:
- 3 or 4 bunches of oxygenating grasses like parrot’s feather
- 1 medium sized water lily and/or some surface floaters like water lettuce and hyacinth.
Shoot to cover the surface of the water by 60-70 %.
- 2 fish (2 to 4 inches large)
Plants There are basically 3 types of water plants:
- Free Floating or Surface Floaters – like water lettuce, water hyacinth and water lilies. These plants float on the surface cutting down on the light on which algae thrive and providing color and texture. Surface floaters also add oxygen to the water.
- Submerged oxygenators – like anacharis and hornwort. These are the work horses of the pond absorbing carbon dioxide, fish waste, gunk and giving off oxygen.
- Bog or Marginal Plants- these plants thrive at the water’s edge or even in standing water. They include water iris, cattails, pickerel rush, papyrus and cannas. There are also some perennials like lobelia or cardinal flower, fern and hardy hibiscus that prefer wet feet.