Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Container Gardening & Ponds

Making a Water Garden in a Tub (page 2 of 3)

by Ann Whitman

Choosing Containers

Nearly any watertight container can hold an aquatic garden. Let your imagination guide you. Floating water lettuce or shallow-rooted watercress will live in a birdbath, and a clump of cat tails will be happy in a 5-gallon bucket. An old bathtub or livestock watering trough accommodates a full-sized water lily.

Keep in mind, though, that it is easier to maintain stable temperatures and ecological balance in large volumes of water, and that dark-colored containers can really heat up in the summer sun. Partially burying containers in soil or shading them keeps them cooler. Placing the pots where they will receive an hour or two of shade during the hottest part of the day also helps.

When choosing containers, select ones made of nontoxic material, such as untreated wood, plastic, glazed ceramic, or terra-cotta. Half barrels previously used to store liquor or food should be lined with PVC sheeting to prevent harmful residues from leaching into the water. Set a 5-foot-square liner into the tub, pleating it where necessary. Staple it into place around the top, and trim off the excess. Use liners to make leaky containers watertight, too.

Setting up the Tub

Whenever you turn over fresh garden soil and plant a row of vegetable seeds, what comes up first? That's right--weeds. New water gardens are like that, too. At first, the water will probably get cloudy with suspended algae "weeds" and turn green. Don't panic! You don't need a filter or a degree in chemistry--just simple setup instructions and patience.

Select a site where the container will receive at least 6 hours of full sun in the morning or afternoon. Fill it with tap water, and let it sit for a day or two to dissipate the chorine and allow the water temperature to moderate before introducing plants.

There are many ways to create a tub garden and a multitude of plants and fish to select from, but for a thriving, low-maintenance container garden, the key is balance. Like any ecosystem, a healthy, self-sustaining water garden must contain a balance of essential elements. The Basic Tub Garden recipe below offers a simple formula for creating a successful container water garden that's suited to a broad range of climates. Before choosing more exotic or demanding plants and animals for your tub garden, consult local specialists or mail-order gardening sources.

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