In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
May, 2012
Regional Report

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Waterlilies perform best in still pools.

Soothe Your World with Water

Water is a fundamental part of nature that can be calming or energizing. It brings movement to the garden, totally different than that of swaying grasses or fluttering leaves. Whether a quiet ripple when the wind brushes across a pond or softly falling water through rock waterfalls, no one can resist the soothing sounds of water in the garden.

Select a Water Feature
Garden water features range from formal waterfalls to streams, still pools to simple tub gardens. Add fish, toads, and salamanders and you have a wonderful ecosystem in your yard.

Time for Care
As you begin to plan for this new element, it's essential to think about its place in your overall garden design. You also need to be honest with yourself about how much time it will take to care for it.

Site in Full Sun
Most water elements will be much more successfully managed if they are in full sun. Site your pond or stream as a natural focal point in view of the house and outdoor entertaining areas yet away from natural traffic patterns, children's play areas, and buried cables.

Avoid Trees and Low Spots
Try to avoid areas with trees to because of leaf drop, and make sure the site has plenty of good air circulation. Also, make sure it's accessible from three sides. Avoid the temptation to site your pond in a low area which may be a collection spot for debris and pollutants in runoff.

Size Your Pond Appropriately
Design the largest pool that you can possibly handle since larger a pond will be easier to keep environmentally balanced than smaller pool. The minimum pond size for ease of maintenance is about forty to fifty square feet (about 400-800 gallons). If you want to keep fish in the pond, it needs to be at least 18" deep to avoid the temperature extremes of a shallow pool, which can damage or kill plants and fish. Otherwise, it's necessary to remove all plants and fish for the winter.

Contact DNR
If you plan to build a pond within 500 feet of a navigable stream, river, or lake, or if you plan to dam a river or stream, you must get a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Keep Clean and Work for Balance
Even small tub gardens can be effective garden design elements as long as they are cleaned regularly. They will seldom be balanced, and it's not a good idea to use fish because of the temperature extremes that can occur in a tub. Although some ponds make use of aerators and filters to keep them absolutely clear, skillfully combining plants and fauna can achieve natural balance that needs no assistance.

Decide on Pond Materials
Once you've put your plan in motion, you need to decide on the type of pool you will use. Prefabricated pools are fairly easy to install, but your excavation must be exact. These are usually set on base of peat moss or sand. They are an excellent idea if you have a slight slope since they retain their shape.

Reinforced concrete is an option that lasts a very long time but it is a major construction project. And, if it develops cracks or leaks, it's quite a feat to repair it. The more common option is to excavate and install a PVC pond liner. This allows the formation of plant shelves of varying depths at the edges of the pond.

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