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Deciding Where to Put Your Water Garden

Whether your water garden consists of a barrel or tub with a few plants or a naturalistic in-ground pond, gardeners often cite water features as the element that truly complete a garden.

When deciding on the type of water garden to have, first consider where you'd like your garden to be. Even before you go shopping, you need to evaluate the area where you'd like to put a water garden and determine its basic requirements:

  • Sunlight: Most water garden plants adore full sun and bloom with gusto as a result — specifically, 6 or more hours per day is great. Any spot where you can put a sunny flower bed or a vegetable garden can also host a water garden.
  • Openness of the area: You want ample elbow room, not just so the plants have the space they need but also to allow access and, well, room to appreciate. Perhaps you want to put in a bench or dining set nearby. Sufficient air circulation is also good for the health of the plants and any fish.
  • Current large vegetation: Trees and shrubs interfere with roots from below, and these big plants shed leaves, twigs, petals, and fruit from above, which can encourage algae to grow. Avoid putting your water garden under or too close to trees and shrubs.
  • Levelness of the land: Levelness is important because water always responds to gravity and you don't want runoff or spillovers. Granted, few spots are perfectly level, but you can always make the necessary minor adjustments during installation.
  • Location of utility lines: Digging into power lines, gas lines, fiber optic cables, phone lines, pipes, and other such things can be expensive and incredibly unpleasant. Call your utility companies to have these lines marked — most do so for free. Also, consider the location of your power outlets before planning to use a pump.
  • Available room: If you aren't sure you want a large water garden, start small, even if you have room for more; just set up one or more container displays. However, if you have the space and the dream of a big, beautiful pool of water, find or create a good spot in your yard and go for it. Realize that you are unlikely to "do over"; install a pond that's as big as or slightly bigger than you want. A water garden appears to shrink in size when filled with water and plants. Make sure you have enough room for the kind of water garden you want.
  • Desire for fish: Not all water gardens have fish or are even appropriate for fish, but it's best to start off by assuming you won't have fish; you can add them later after your water garden is established and healthy and you've had a chance to evaluate its capacity to maintain fish.
    For overwintering fish in cold climates, it's a good idea to have someplace in the pond that it is at least three feet deep so the water won't freeze all the way to the bottom of the pond. If you are concerned about this, you can also add a floating de-icer heater especially developed for this purpose. See your local pond supplier for details.

Instead of having an elaborate water garden, you can certainly put a small, tubbed display or little pool with running fountain in a shady nook. Just heed all the rest of the requirements described in the preceding list; and if you add plants, don't expect flowers; pick plants based on their handsome foliage.

A child or pet can drown even in a few inches of water. You never want to risk that. For this reason, some municipalities don't allow water gardens (particularly in-ground ponds) in front yards. But regardless of location — front yard, backyard, or sideyard — a water garden should be easily visible. Place it where you can see it from elsewhere in the yard and also ideally from a window inside the house. Caution children and supervise them. Erect an encircling low or high fence (with a gate, of course) if required or warranted — better safe than sorry. Poolside edgings (rocks and lush plantings), judiciously placed, can also restrict or inhibit access. Adjacent seating can even help, as it provides a safe and relaxing viewing opportunity.

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