In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
Ponds, large and small, can control runoff and nurture wildlife at the same time.
With rainfall unpredictable and municipal water costs rising in parts of our region, it may seem laughable to write about intentionally adding a water feature to your garden. Yet, dealing with water, even enjoying it, is essential. Fortunately, gardeners can conserve rainfall for future use, put it to work as a growing environment, or divert it to prevent local flooding. If water, either too much or too little, has been an issue for you in past years, deal with it now.
More Than Enough
Let's face it. At some point in your life, or regularly during the rainy season, you're going to have large amounts of water in your garden. Know this, and plan ahead to take advantage of the wealth of wise water strategies currently popular in landscape design. Used to be, all our "yards" had ditches, simple swales or deep channels, to carry the water away. But intense and close development puts strains on the infrastructure, and at times the water simply cannot drain away. This situation has led to more use of the dry creek bed in home landscapes. In truth, these are water features -- ditches cut so they can be lined with large rocks and filled with smaller, rounder ones. When rainfall or local flooding overwhelms the soil's ability to absorb it, the flow is directed into the creek bed. By staging the bed so it drops from one level to another, greater amounts of water can be accommodated, pools and waterfalls are created, and the bed becomes a working part of the backyard habitat.
The sound of water muffles the world, and as we live and work closer together, it becomes more important to create sensory retreats in the garden. Yours can be a fountain on the balcony or deck, a small pond and waterfall in the back garden, or a reflecting pool with fountains that fills the front of your property. Because they have moving water, all are wise options for the coast and tropics. The most important consideration when setting up a water feature is its balance. While algae are less prevalent in moving waters, they can still crowd the view and stifle the plants below, especially in sunny sites. Be sure to include plants that grow underwater, some to line the pond and shade it, and enough to float and cover 60% of the water's surface. Once the pond is set up, the key is patience. It may take several months to balance out, and no magic product exists to instantly solve the problem.
Simple Smart Care
Stagnant water is the source of mosquito infestations and must be avoided. If floodwaters stand or if ponds are poorly aerated, it's only a matter of days before mosquito larvae hatch and your family is threatened. Keep "mosquito dunks" on hand and use them, but avoid the situations first and foremost. A larger pump is a small investment if it will prevent mosquito populations from building in your water feature. For the same reasons, rainbarrels and cisterns need covers in our regions. If you cannot use as much water as you collect, find a friend or drain it away regularly.
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