In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
June, 2001
Regional Report

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This water lily sparkles in a small container water garden.

Water Gardening Care

I just relocated and have replanted one of my favorite little water gardens. This particular pond was once a cattle watering trough. Although is looks very "rustic," it's also very functional. My container water garden holds water and hardy plants in it all year round and even freezes solid during some winters. Nevertheless, it comes back strong every spring.

Building Healthy Ponds

Healthy ponds are communities. The hardy water lilies, bog plants, and oxygenators work together to keep the pond's ecosystem balanced and the water clear. Fish can also be part of the system. Their waste provides fertilizer for the plants. And lucky for us, they eat mosquito larvae, and so keep our mosquito population at bay. Each pond I have contains a few goldfish who get fat on the bugs they eat all summer.

Ponds are wildlife magnets. There are tadpoles each spring followed by tiny frogs. The smallest birds will perch on a water lily leaf to drink; larger birds will sit on the pond's edge. Even the garter snake lurks near the pond for a quick sip when it gets thirsty.

Algae Blooms

The pond may show a natural buildup (bloom) of algae when first filled and for a week or two in spring. Some gardeners report success placing barley straw in the pond to control algae, but I have always relied on an assortment of plants to do the job. With healthy plants, within a week or two, algae disappears and the water clears itself.

Plants for Ponds

When I hear "water garden plants," I automatically think of water lilies and lotus. Not only are they gorgeous, but they serve the dual purpose of shading the water, keeping it cool for fish, and soaking up nutrients. The non-hardy floating water hyacinths are extra heavy feeders and, consequently, can help clear a pond of algae.

Plant Care

Most water plants are remarkably pest free and easy to grow. During the growing season, I fertilize plants with recommended tablets. I remove faded flowers and leaves so they don't foul the water. Overfertilizing plants or overfeeding fish can contribute to excess algae, so follow directions carefully. Mostly, water garden maintenance chores are pleasant, and I always have time for a break to say hello to the dragonflies.


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