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Consider adding a water feature

By Eunice Steimke
For The Salisbury Post
Spring is here, and with it, thoughts of outdoors. Adding to your home’s landscape can enhance outdoor pleasures; an addition to consider is a water feature.
Water feature options are numerous and can range from the simplest of fountains, to complex features with waterfalls, ponds, plants and fish.
For those who choose to add this enhancement, there are decisions in selecting the water feature best suited to your lifestyle, landscape and pocketbook; the best outcome will be the result of thoughtful planning before taking the plunge.
If you are interested only in sound, you may be perfectly satisfied with a fountain.
But if you want to create an oasis with flora and fauna, a water garden is your best choice. Size does matter, but only as it relates to what you want from your water feature. A water garden can be small and contained in a plastic-lined barrel or other above ground container. Preformed ponds made of fiberglass are available and will fit well into small landscapes. These may or may not have pumps and waterfalls. Excavated ponds can be made with preformed liners or with flexible liners that come in kits or are purchased in sheets and conform to whatever shape is most pleasing to you and fitting to your landscape.If you want a more formal feature, concrete is a structural option ó but preplan carefully since mid-process changes could be complicated. If relaxing sound is what you need, a waterfall in your garden is a must. Elaborate, winding, multi-level waterfalls are lovely, and if this is in your budget, by all means, take this approach ó and, please, invite me over to sit in your garden.
If, however, you have a limited budget, a small waterfall will create the peaceful sounds of water and lure birds, butterflies, and frogs for many hours of enjoyment.
There are books available that will instruct you in the size of pump you will need for the height of the waterfall you choose. Pond kits provide this information in their detailed building instructions.
Size must also be considered if you will have fish in your garden. Some fish grow too big for small ponds. Koi can grow to 3 feet and goldfish to well over a foot. If you have a small pond and want fish, you may need to choose guppies or minnows. A pond with fish should be at least 2 feet deep to ensure protection during cold winter months. Monitor to prevent overpopulation for the size of the pond. For us, three goldfish became 20 in two years.
Fish are fed daily when the water temperature is above 60 degrees. During cold winter months, they are in a state of low activity and don’t require feeding.
No water garden is complete without plants around and in the pond. For the area surrounding the pond, options are as limitless as for any other part of your landscape. A good idea is to choose plants that offer year-round color. Plants with flowers and colorful vegetation can provide this.
Smell is another consideration and may be achieved through flowers like gardenia and herbs such as lavender, lemon balm and rosemary.
When selecting plants of varying heights, keep balance in mind to ensure harmony in the garden.
There are many options for plants inside the pond. Floating plants provide shade and reduce the amount of sun needed for algae growth. Hyacinth and water lettuce are examples. Floating plants grow rapidly and require thinning.
The ever popular water lily is a surface plant available in a wide range of colors including white, red, pink, yellow and coral. Cold hardy varieties can remain in the pond during winter months. Surface plants also provide shade to the water.
Other surface plants include lotus, water hawthorne and water clover.
Submerged plants, primarily underwater, produce oxygen for plants and fish. Submerged plants consume nitrogen from fish waste and plant decay, helping deprive algae of nutrients. Examples include hornwart, cabomba, and jungle val. Many submerged plants grow rapidly, requiring thinning. Cover no more than two-third of the surface of the water with plant material to avoid over planting. Initiated properly, the water garden will create its own ecosystem and require minimal maintenance. Filters will need to be cleaned regularly. This is quick, easy and done with a garden hose. Annually, equipment, tubing, and the liner should be examined to ensure proper operation, and the pond should have a general cleaning.
Maintenance instructions are available in publications, online, and from pool kit companies.
The water garden is a spot for relaxation and a source of sensual pleasure in the midst of a hectic world. For the myriad creatures that call it home, or merely stop for a quick drink, it is both a haven and a stage to swim, croak, sing and play for the enjoyment of all who take a few moments to reflect upon the beauty and wonder surrounding us. Eunice Steimke is a Master Gardener student currently enrolled in the Extension Master Gardener volunteer class.

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