Water Gardening Basics

By Kit & Ben Knotts
Click images to enlarge


All you need to begin water gardening is a container that will hold water! It can be small or large, ambitious or modest, but we promise it will be fun! A pond can be anything from a teacup to a natural bottom lake and the plants can be diminutive moisture-loving herbs or gigantic water platters, Victoria.

Most people begin with a small pond. It can be a preformed plastic container, above the ground or sunk into it, readily available at garden centers and discount stores. It can be a "liner" pond, made with the excellent flexible materials available. Or it can be concrete, not practical in some areas but our personal choice. Water gardening in containers, such as big fish bowls, half-barrels or other decorative pots, offers all the same opportunities - just in smaller spaces, perfect for the patio or condo gardener.

Building a concrete pond | Building a liner pond

Once your pond type and style has been chosen, the next consideration is plants for it. We strongly suggest that you see if a garden center in your area specializes in or is knowledgeable about aquatic plants. (If they know about this web site they probably know their stuff :>) ) They will be able to help you make the right plant choices for your locale. What look do you want? Do you want colors and textures, tall or short, lily pads and flowers or a combination of all? Our galleries can help you decide.

Waterlily Galleries | Aquatic & Marginal Plants Galleries | Lotus Galleries

Most people want at least one waterlily. Sometimes you can buy them already potted and other times you will receive them bare root and have to pot them. "How to" is here -

Potting Waterlilies | Differences Between Tropical and Hardy Waterlilies

Probably the main thing that all of us want is clear water. This is best achieved by letting the pond attain natural balance. We do not believe in expensive filters or the use of chemicals. We prefer to let plants, fish, snails, good algae and beneficial bacteria do the job. We don't recommend that you have fancy fish or snails but stay instead with gambuzias or other very small native fish and ramshorn snails. If you just have to have fancy fish, at least don't feed them very much if at all. Feeding them contributes to excess nutrients in the water.

Fountains and waterfalls are wonderful additions to the water garden, adding sound and movement to the tranquil scene. But they require a recirculating pump that can muddy your water.if placed on the pond bottom. Be sure to elevate the intake where it can't pick up soil or debris from the bottom.

We NEVER clean our ponds. In fact, when we have a new one, we put dirt on the bottom right away and toss in debris groomed from other ponds, letting it rot there. This encourages quick development of beneficial bacteria. Algae that grows on pond sides, pots and other objects absorbs excess nutrients, thereby discouraging other types of algae.

It's important to remember that, in the warm months, 70% of the water's surface should be covered with foliage of some kind. In cooler months, 40% coverage will do. There is a time for all of us every spring when the water warms up before the plants really get going and algae can run rampant. Don't panic, fertilize your plants and be patient. It will go away when the plants provide enough coverage of the water.

If your pond still hasn't cleared after several days or weeks, we recommend obtaining some water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes) if they are legal where you live. They can be extremely invasive in waterways, in fact are banned many places, but are the workhorses of the personal pond. They absorb excess nutrients, heavy metals and chemicals better than any aquatic plant we know. Even though hyacinths are floating plants, they do not like to float AROUND the pond. To thrive they must be anchored to the side of the pond where they will multiply and bloom.

We hope you enjoy your water gardening adventure! Links bars appear at the bottom of every text page on the site that will take you to main pages for each section. These main pages have more links to lots of articles and galleries. If you don't find answers to your questions on the pages of the site, please feel free to write us! kit@victoria-adventure.org

WGI's series for Beginners by Joel Police
Introduction - Your Water Garden
Water Features, Water Gardens, and Specialized Ponds
Planning: Location, Design, Action
Materials and Components for your Pond
Filtration Systems for Water Gardens and Koi Ponds
Pumps | Lighting

Index of Water Gardening Articles

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