by John and Shirley Kelley, Master Gardeners
I’m sitting here looking out the window with 4” of snow on the ground and still snowing, I would say winter has set in! If you’re like me, I’m not fond of winter. I would much rather be outside in the yard and around my garden or water features! Winter is a great time to start planning your landscape for a nice water feature. A water feature can be a small urn or fountain, a water garden with a stream, waterfall, plants, Koi and goldfish. It’s up to you!
A water feature can be a great asset to any home. A water feature makes a great gathering spot when having a party or friends over. It can add value to your property and compliment any landscape. It can also reduce your lawn maintenance, and after a stressful day it can be the best place to end the day! If you don’t believe me ask someone who has one. I bet they will agree!
But you are saying to yourself!! Oh, that takes too much water! No not really. It takes less water for a water garden in a year than it does to maintain a lawn. The installation needs to have some planning, but that’s not any different than anything else that you are attempting to do. Ponds need to be installed in the right place, like where you can enjoy it, not under trees. Child safety also needs to be considered, the availability of utilities, and be able to maintain an eco system. If you build under trees you will have to deal with falling leaves in the pond and your water lilies won't be as happy as they prefer full sun. Child safety comes first, therefore the pond only needs to be 24”deep. When digging you need to check for sewage lines and the availability of water and electricity. The location of the water garden needs to be close to where you spend the most time, such as your patio or where it can be viewed from the house. To create an ecosystem you need to consider the size of the pond, provide 2/3 to 3/4 coverage of plant life, and only the amount of fish for the amount of water in the pond.
Ok, a water feature is too much maintenance! No, not really if you plan it right. You need to balance your water, plant life, fish, and have good filtration. Water features are not maintenance free, nothing is, but they can be less maintenance if they are built right. One of the problems we face is usually over feeding of the fish. This can contribute to bad water quality if they are over fed and there’s not enough filtration. You can install a filtration system and or UV light to help with the cleanliness and water clarity. If you are a patient person, Mother Nature will help balance your pond if you follow the proper guidelines, but it may take 2 months or longer to do so.
We have dealt mostly with larger water features so far, but you can have a small urn or vase, which are referred to sometimes as disappearing fountains because the water basin is under ground and you don’t see any standing water. These are extremely low maintenance and easy to maintain! You can also have the more traditional multi tier fountains. If you feel really creative you can make a fountain out of some of your discarded items. It’s up to you!
A water feature should be one of the most enjoyable things in your landscape if planned for properly! The best advice I can give is don’t jump off the deep end and start digging a hole in the ground without doing a little research. There is tons of information out on the internet, but it can end up confusing you because everyone thinks their way is the best way! You can also consult with a water garden nursery in your area, garden center, or a water garden contractor for information! You need to know what you want the end results to be! Do you want plants and fish or do you just want the sound and the water!
If you’re going to hire a contractor to do your installation, have your questions ready. Also ask for references on previous jobs. If you’re considering it as a DIY project, there are kits available for just about any type of water feature.
I can guarantee that if you decide to include a water feature in your landscape and you’ve done your homework, you will not regret it! Carpe Diem!!
For more information contact the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service Office at 432-498-4071 for Ector and 432-686-4700 for Midland.