We thank Rainer Gaide, David Curtright,
Michael Avishai, Fran Bennett, and Charles Leach for their advice
and assistance in preparing this article, and welcome additional
suggestions and comments. Write firstname.lastname@example.org
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Greening the Planet
One Pond at a Time
by Kit Knotts
Click images to enlarge
As we all become more aware of environmental issues facing
our planet, water gardening can help! Not only can we plant a
tree or give more space to our gardens regardless of where we
live, but also water gardens and water gardeners can contribute
in many ways. Ponds, indeed all waterways, are living entities
and as their keepers it is our job to keep them healthy.
Who Should and Who Shouldn't?
Water is precious. In some parts of the world and at certain
times of the year, having a pond for strictly ornamental purposes
may not be the best use of it. If you live in an arid or seasonally
arid climate and have or want a pond, you might consider making
it productive as well as ornamental. Grow a food crop, adopt
an endangered species, share your results.
Rainer Gaide, a commercial grower of waterlilies in Thailand
says, "Thoughtless use takes water away from where it is
needed most, like irrigation for food plants, other plants and
of course for use by people for their daily lives, especially
in places where water is in short supply like Australia, Africa
and some regions in Asia.
"For example, every few years we run into problems with
our ponds during the dry season (if the rains did not fill the
reservoirs sufficiently during the rainy season) because our
ponds are fed from an irrigation canal which also feeds rice
fields and fruit orchards. We then have to let our ponds go as
low as possible just to keep the plants alive for 2 to 4 months
because we feel that rice and fruit should have priority over
Ponds and waterways breathe, absorbing oxygen during the day
and replacing it at night. Unhealthy ponds can use more oxygen
than they replace, hazardous to the planet and to aquatic inhabitants.
Pond health is best achieved through natural balance, without
the use of chemicals or extensive hardware.
The very first green thing we can do as pond owners is to
balance our ponds. Balance is accomplished with the right number
and types of aquatic plants, fish, snails, beneficial bacteria
Water by Kit Knotts, Florida USA.
Sustainable Pond by Jamie Vande, Germany
Ponds can be power hogs if you have elaborate filters, skimmers,
pumps. With natural balance, much of this is not necessary, saving
energy and money. If you must have these bells and whistles,
explore those powered by alternative sources such as solar. A
wide variety of pumps and lights are available powered by the
sun and LED lighting makes your evening experience even more
rewarding by reducing energy consumption. See Joel Police's article
Using chemicals to keep ponds clear is ABSOLUTELY not necessary!
Again natural balance is the best answer. This is true in any
climate and any type of pond. Before you open a bottle that can
have ramifications even beyond your personal pond, do some research
or simply add more plants!
For control of insects that can attack pond plants, natural
remedies are available. Thorough hosing of affected plants is
often enough but if not see Pat Clifford's articles in WGI
Online for other ideas. Properly stocked ponds can reduce
or eliminate nearby mosquito populations as fish eat the larvae,
a bonus in wet climates.
Prudent Use of Water for Ponds
Leaks are not the only waste of pond water. David Curtright,
California USA, addresses these issues in this
article. He identifies problems and offers solutions.
Joel Police, Indiana USA, discussed this from an installers
point of view. The choices you make when planning your pond can
mean everything to its eco-friendliness. See WGI
Lotus growing experiments
at Auburn University
Aquatic Food Crops
Rice is the most important food crop for half the world's
population - and it grows in water. Lotus is an important crop
in Asia and China especially. Daike Tian explores the many values
of lotus, as well as its crop value, potentially in conjunction
with fish farming, in WGI
Online. Waterlilies are food in parts of Africa, though wild
and not cultivated for this purpose.
Saaman Grove, Tobago
On the cutting edge of greening, projects large and small are
being designed especially to clean water contaminated with sewage
and other pollutants using aquatic plants as natural filters.
An amazing example is Saaman Grove in Tobago. Not only has Kevin
Kenny cleaned water that has threatened Tobago's coral reefs,
he has created beautiful waterways that enhance the value of
the site, AND (unexpectedly) made a profit for the developers.
In WGI Online read about The
Saaman Grove Wetlands
The Oregon Garden has pioneered methods for utilizing and
additionally cleaning treated wastewater of Silverton, Oregon,
USA, through their terraced wetlands. Theirs was the first cover
story of WGI Online. The
Oregon Garden Wetlands
The Oregon Garden at sunset >
March 30, 31, April 1
Soak It Up, Phytotechnology Solutions for Water
The Oregon Garden, Silverton, Oregon
Grey Water Recycling
Grey water (household water used for washing people, dishes,
clothes), when it can be separated from sewer water, can be recycled
for the same purpose using pond plants to filter the impurities
and excess nutrients out of it. More on this topic is coming
Storm Water Reclamation
Why do retention ponds, required for new development in the
US and elsewhere, have to be square, ugly and polluted? They
don't! The potential for beautiful, healthy, productive ponds
Fran Bennett, Florida USA, says, "The water gardener's
first contribution can be providing information about plant material
-- what needs permanent flooding, of what depth, what type of
plants can tolerate a more ephemeral wetland -- that sort of
thing. At the University of Florida's Center for Wetlands, they
also touch on the contribution of these 'mini' man-made wetlands
as stopping points, or stepping stones for wetland critters that
are otherwise displaced by the development of land and draining
of natural wetlands."
The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Australia, has a new
Raingarden that substantially improves the water quality of its
lake system by processing street runoff in a very pretty setting.
Read Jeremy Prentice's article in WGI
< Cannas help filter RBG Melbourne's Raingarden
Habitat for Plants and Animals
Healthy ponds and waterways provide homes or waypoints for
many creatures, not just those that live in water. Again the
Saaman Grove project illustrates the point. In some cases, they
are home to threatened and endangered species.
Michael Avishai, Jerusalem Botanical Garden, Israel, says,
"Many aquatics are considered most promising for water purification
-- and this aspect deserves certainly a place in our thoughts
and plans. In my own botanical garden we are currently planning
a facility that will address this aspect as part of an educational
project while at the same time also providing the setting for
the conservation of our rare aquatics as well as some rare native
fish (Aphanius mento).
In Romania, unusual thermal springs are home to a tropical
night blooming waterlily, Nymphaea lotus forma thermalis
as well as the equally rare snail Melanopsis parreyssi
and the fish Scardinus racovitzae. Read about efforts
to conserve this unique ecosystem written by Ana Veler in WGI
Too many people release unwanted animals and plants that into
the natural environment, thinking they are doing them a favor
by not killing them. Instead, they threaten natural habitats
with aliens, including waterways. This has to stop, but can only
be accomplished with education.
Invasive Aquatic Plants
. . . are the scourge of some personal ponds and many wild
waterways. Whether native or alien, they can destroy habitats
and local economies. Our responsibilities are multiple here.
First, we can help by disseminating information by all possible
means about these invasive species. Read The
Aliens Are Coming! or Responsible Water Gardening
Without Invasives by Larry
Maupin, USA. He calls Salvinia molesta "the world's
worst weed". John Dawes, United Kingdom and Spain, is a
crusader against Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth)
and writes about the destruction it can cause in WGI Online here
Next, we can not grow them. If we do, we can be VERY careful
not to allow them to spread. Charles Leach, Ohio USA, removes
seed heads, plucks possible seedlings, and discourages customers
for looking for potential invaders, however pretty.
A difficulty with many invasive species is that what is invasive
in one place may not be a problem in other locales. Charles Leach
has undertaken a project to identify native wetland plants in
his area for use in water and bog garden IN PLACE OF more invasive
native and alien plants. Look for his series in this
and future issues of WGI Online. And we invite others to contribute
information about invasives in their waterways.
We can also participate in manual removal of invasives and/or
participate in research leading to their eradication where we
live. Every small effort helps.
Botanic Gardens Go Green
This may be more difficult for established gardens but a relatively
new garden in Malaysia is one of the world's eco-friendliest
destinations. Look for a full feature on Penang's Tropical Spice
Garden in WGI
Online. Here is an excerpt from their website:
Tropical Spice Garden
"Tropical Spice Garden is more than just a garden, we're
a small group of environmentally and socially-aware individuals
trying to make a difference.
" Most of our team members come from the local community
and live within Tropical Spice Garden's neighbourhood. It's great
being able to rely on a tightly-knit bunch of friendly neighbours!
" During the development of the Garden, we utilized mainly
natural and recycled building materials salvaged from pre-war
shop houses or sourced from local antique stores. After all,
old is gold!
" Our Garden only uses organic fertilizer and integrated
pest control methods to limit the negative impact we have on
the cycle of life.
" We love to recycle! So please help us out by depositing
your rubbish in the appropriately marked dustbins.
" We make it a point to deal with smaller local vendors
and traders to support their businesses and share the success.
After all, what goes around comes around and we want to play
our role as a responsible and caring organization."
Swimming ponds are gaining in popularity in Europe, South
America and to some degree in the USA. These multipurpose pools/ponds
combine swimming area with plants and fish providing balance
and clean water without the use of chemicals otherwise required
in swimming pools. And they can be SO pretty! Renowned photographer
Derek Fell has one, featured in WGI
Golf Course Ponds
Measures are being undertaken to make water features on golf
courses all over the world more eco-friendly. Many are sterile
and thereby rob the planet of what could otherwise be beautiful
and useful. Alvaro Hurtado writes about a huge undertaking in
Guatemala (WGI Online) and Joe Tomocik will have new information
about golf course projects in Colorado USA in upcoming issues
of WGI Online.
Recycling Nursery Plastic
Dave Brigante suggests we conquer personal mountains of recyclable
plastic used by nurseries and individuals. A new company near
Hughes Water Gardens in Oregon USA blazes the way. Read about
this in WGI
Physical and Mental Health
Those of us who have water gardens or appreciate our natural
waterways know how soothing water can be. Between the pleasant
work of tending them and the stress relief, who knows? Maybe
we are also contributing to lower medical costs, another crisis
yet to be solved.