Contruction Methods for Water Gardens

Tasks and tools needed:

  • Digging: shovels — round point and square point, picks, crow bar.
  • Leveling: carpenter level, string, stakes, and a long 2X4.
  • Packing: a tamping tool.
  • Hauling materials: wheelbarrow, plastic sheets. If the waste soil is to be used on site then remove it in a wheelbarrow as it is dug. If it is to be removed from your residence, store it on a large plastic sheet or an old quilt until it can be removed.
  • Finishing concrete: wooden float, trowels.

Materials needed:

  • Liners: order whichever type chosen, well ahead of the proposed construction date.
  • Sand: a 2 inch layer of sand should be included beneath any flexible liner to cushion it from sharp objects in the subsoil.
  • Chemicals: Most cities treat their water supply with chlorine. If you use a municipal water supply to fill your pond, call the city water department and ask if they add chlorine dioxide or chloramines. If so, there are compounds on the market that can be used to eliminate these. If chlorine is the only additive, then fill the pond and wait 24 to 48 hours for it to evaporate before stocking.
  • Pumps: Though a pump for recirculating the water in your pond is not necessary, they are strongly recommended by most professionals and required by health departments in many cities. The size of pump for your pond will depend on several things, but for the best results and the clearest water the pump should be capable of circulating the entire volume of the pond’s water through a filter in 1 to 2 hours. The faster the better. If a water feature such as a waterfall is to be included in the water garden, the pump must be of a size capable of carrying the extra load and fast enough to handle the transit time of the water in the feature. The faster the water falls (the steeper the grade) and the greater the amount of water falling in the feature, the greater the capacity of the pump needed.
  • Pump filters: These remove particulate matter such as algae, sediments, and fish wastes from the pond’s water. There are two main types of filters, mechanical and biological. The mechanical filters are less expensive but require more maintenance. Mechanical filters require the entire volume of water in the pond to circulate through them at least once every hour to be effective. These filters are easy to install and generally lay on the bottom of the pond, but may need cleaning as often as once every few days. The biological filters are more expensive but need less care. Biological filters are more difficult to install but may need attention as seldom as once a month.
  • Edging materials: If edging materials contain concrete or if blocks used in raising the potted plants contain cement, these materials must be leached with an acidic solution or soaked in several changes of water for one week before being added to the pool. Concrete is basic in nature and will have a detrimental effect on life in the pond.
  • Pots for plants: Pots for the plants vary in size and increase in direct proportion to the size of the mature plant and the number of plants to be placed in the pot. Plastic is the best material for pots. Pots for aquatic plants may be pails, buckets, baskets, or pans. Baskets are often the best choice as they allow more surface interface of soil and water for gas exchange. Baskets, however, must be lined with a burlap type material to prevent the soil from clouding the water.
  • Media for plants: Potting media for all pond plants should be fertile heavy clay loam. This soil should be free from fertilizers, herbicides and other pesticides. These chemicals, if not directly toxic to the plants, can leach out and cause damage to fish and animals living in the pond. Soil should also be free of any fresh organic matter such as peat (fresh organic matter will tend to float out of the soil and cloud the water). All media must be covered with a 1 to 2 inch layer of coarse gravel or rocks (not sand) to prevent the clay from dispersing into the pond water and to prevent the fish from roiling in the soil.
  • Fertilizers: Fertilizers used should be special aquatic pelletized slow release form pushed in at the base of the plants. You may also use a well balanced fertilizer mixed into the soil and then packed into the middle of the rootball at the bottom of the pot to prevent it from leaching. Caution should be used as any fertilizer leaching out into the water will cause an algae bloom.
  • Maintenance tools: A long poled dip net is handy for the removal of leaves and other fallen materials. Garden shears facilitate pruning of water plants. A pH meter or testing kit is useful but not necessary as the test can be performed by the larger garden centers or the county agent.

Construction of the Pond

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