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Water Gardens: Help - Newbie to Water Gardening looking for easy plans

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jlp222
Hammond, LA
(Zone 8b)

February 7, 2009
4:49 AM

Post #6104732

Hi there, I am looking to build an easy water garden, probably just plants, and maybe a few small fish. I don't have too much room.

Should I start out with a container water garden or "dive" (no pun intended) into an in ground.

Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Thanks, Jennifer
snapple45
Holland, OH
(Zone 5b)

February 7, 2009
4:25 PM

Post #6106127

Hopefully someone from Zone 8b will get on here. There a lot of really knowledgable warm zone water garden DG's. Be patient. They'll be along. I've been ponding/water gardening in zone 5. There is much the same, except for the heat, which has to be managed if you want a few goldfish. I would suggest that you see what shade you can provide for an above ground tub garden for part of the day. Tub gardens can heat up pretty quickly because of the exposed sides. If you choose an in ground installation, like a small preformed, you can shade the water some with water plants, but again some afternoon shade might be a benefit there too. In both the tub garden and the small pond you will need circulating water. So plan on having a electrical outlet nearby. Even though small, tub gardens do better with a small recircualting pump if you want a fish or two. Even if you have no fish, recirculating water reduces algae and mosquitoes.

I've helped my neighbor install his preformed pond. ( My ponds are a 2500 gal koi and 480 gal goldfish both rubber lined.) It was fun and not a lot of horrible work. It's still going after 7 years. I've done tub gardens. With my first one I had a smelly algae mess of green water until I added a tiny recirculating pump. But up here in the frigid north we spend a lot of time managing the cold winter weather. You have the opposite to contend with, although from I've read here it's not nearly as difficult. Two things I can guarantee you. First - you'll love it! Second no matter what you start with, in two years you'll want a bigger one. It's the most addictive gardening outdoor activity ever invented.


MerryMary - Your needed here.

This message was edited Feb 7, 2009 12:06 PM

This message was edited Feb 7, 2009 2:30 PM
AZgrammie
North of Heber, AZ
(Zone 6b)

February 7, 2009
5:12 PM

Post #6106348

Hi, 222, I'm in zone 6 but have put ponds in when I lived in Scottsdale, AZ and Los Altos, CA. All were inground ponds with heavy plastic liners, except my first one in Scottsdale, which was a simple plywood tank about 2x2x2, lined with plastic and with a board deck on top which also held a few potted plants & rocks with fossils (the rocks were from south of San Francisco). Very pretty but small. It was in mottled shade most of the day but the water lilies bloomed well. Right now, in northern AZ, I've tried the same kind of a tank but it freezes solid in the winter, so I am planning to put in another in-ground pond, but the ground up here is very rocky, so it is way down my list of things to do. BUT, the thing I want to tell you is that one of the most important things is to make sure all sides are level on top! Water will always be level, so if the sides don't match, it will never look right. This is not always easy to do but my first pond in CA, my then-husband very carefully leveled the bottom of the pond, which of course was not important at all -- in fact, it wasn't even desirable. You need a deep spot on the bottom so when you empty the pond (yes, sometimes you need to) the last of the water in that one spot is easy to dip out. Other comments: My kids & I dug a really big pond in CA that even had a bridge acoss it. Plastic liner. One morning I came out and ALL the water had drained out of it, and ALL my beautiful koi were dead! Found a gopher hole in the bottom -- a gopher chewed through the liner, and all the water had drained out into the gopher tunnels. We started over with a smaller pond nearer the house, but then we had raccoons eating the koi . Oh, well. From then on I stuck to goldfish, much cheaper. My other big pond, in Scottsdale, was a little too close to an olive tree so I had a problem with leaf-drop all year round. Of all my ponds over the years, the big one in Scottsdale was the only one that I had a pump for recirculating the water in. The others just did their own thing. Oh, another thing about goldfish & koi. You want the fish to come up to the surface so you can watch them, right? (In a natural pond, the water is greenish and the fish mostly stay at the bottom where it is cooler, anyway.) So use floating fish food -- and make a particular noise just before you toss it in. Before long, the fish will all come up when they hear that noise. I slapped two rocks together (tap-tap-tap-tap), and used Friskies fish-flavored cat food, which floats. A purist would probably cringe at that, but my fish thrived on it and were very healthy -- and it was cheaper. Unfortunately they have changed the formula since then so when I get a pond up here, I'll look for something else. BTW, you MUST have some fish or you WILL have mosquitoes! Good luck and let us know what you decide to do and how it turns out!
snapple45
Holland, OH
(Zone 5b)

February 7, 2009
5:29 PM

Post #6106416

I am cringing at the use of cat food for koi food. Koi absolutely need several things not found in cat food. One of the most critically important is a minimum perecntage of stabilized vitamin C, found in most quality koi feeds. Goldfish are less demanding in the quality of the feed. Adequate filtering and algae management keeps water clean and clear so you can always see the fish.
AZgrammie
North of Heber, AZ
(Zone 6b)

February 7, 2009
8:47 PM

Post #6107029

Thanks, Snapple, I am sure you are right! At least that's what they told me at the places that sell the expensive koi food. I am 70 years old but have only had ponds, koi, and goldfish since about 1966, so I am sure I still have lots to learn! 8^)

Regarding the "clean and clear" water, the "clear" part is personal choice. I prefer the natural-looking pond to the artificial-looking, and my ponds were always clean and healthy. The only fish I ever lost were due to predators (the great gopher debacle & raccoons as I stated). None ever suffered from any disease.
jlp222
Hammond, LA
(Zone 8b)

February 7, 2009
9:05 PM

Post #6107085

Thanks for the responses! I am looking for a few sources online too. I appreceiate everyone's input, I will definitely keep this page bookmarked.
snapple45
Holland, OH
(Zone 5b)

February 7, 2009
10:04 PM

Post #6107257

A great beginner book is "The Pond Doctor - Planning and Maintaining a Healthy Water Garden" by Helen Nash. It has great illustrations with simple directions and explanations. Also there are several old threads here that discuss tub gardens and there are some real gems. Search back through the water garden forum. You'll be amazed. Happy water gardening!

I'm looking forward to see what you choose and how you go about it.
Mary

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snapple45
Holland, OH
(Zone 5b)

February 8, 2009
12:29 AM

Post #6107800

Read through this thread. This an outstanding tub water garden.

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/728314/
jlp222
Hammond, LA
(Zone 8b)

February 8, 2009
12:34 AM

Post #6107817

Thanks : )
tetleytuna
Columbia, MO
(Zone 5b)

February 8, 2009
8:52 PM

Post #6110955

I was trying to think of the site that had some good plans and some good info and finally remembered it. http://www.sacramentokoi.com/
evesta
Kearney, NE
(Zone 5a)

February 8, 2009
10:04 PM

Post #6111258

I'm not anywhere near your zone, so can't help you there, but definately go slow with whatever you do. I rushed things because I wanted to have my pond right away(this was still after about 3 months of planning) and because of it made lots of mistakes. Maybe get a small preform or stock tank so you can have a little pond, while you think out your options. This stuff is addictive and you will know if this ponding business is for you right away:) Have fun!
mothermole
Deer Park, IL
(Zone 5b)

February 8, 2009
10:09 PM

Post #6111279

I recently checked out an old book on ponds and the care of fish and they actually recommended the cat food. This must have been the way it was done 30-40 years ago. My fish are always sick and dying and I feed the good stuff. Maybe I need the cat food. . . LOL!
evesta
Kearney, NE
(Zone 5a)

February 8, 2009
10:12 PM

Post #6111298

Makes for shinny coats, er scales;)
snapple45
Holland, OH
(Zone 5b)

February 9, 2009
12:00 AM

Post #6111755

There has been a lot of change just since I got started. You have to keep up on this stuff. The biggest changes have been in the information to diagnose and treat diseases and parasites and in algae control products. It is addictive that's for sure. This year I'm trying something new ( to me anyway) - probiotics. I just ordered some for spring start up. Have any of you tried them?

http://www.pondpetsusa.com/water_treatments/aqua_medzyme.html
tetleytuna
Columbia, MO
(Zone 5b)

February 9, 2009
1:04 AM

Post #6112109

That looks like some good stuff. Stop trouble before it starts.
mothermole
Deer Park, IL
(Zone 5b)

February 9, 2009
6:49 AM

Post #6113591

This is interesting. I use them for my IBS (Probotics). How did you come to hear about this product?
snapple45
Holland, OH
(Zone 5b)

February 9, 2009
2:46 PM

Post #6114407

I have used a product in the past called KoiZyme. It was quite a bit more expensive. When it first came out it absolutely had to be rerfrigerated or it didn't keep at all. I see now they have slightly changed the storage instructions. I did not like parking it in the fridg and when DH had to move it out of the way once to get a Heinekin it led to a bit of a row! I decided to try it agin this year and when searching for the cheapest sources came across the dry Aqua MedZyme product. Also, the KoiZyme wasn't effective in water temperatures below 50 and less effective in temperatures under 60 or there abouts as I recall. So it didn't really help when the koi are the most vulnerable at spring start up. Today, I can't find any specific dosing instructions for the KoiZyme that relate to temperature. This year as soon as the water temp hits 40 In goes the Aqua MedZyme.

http://www.koienterprise.com/KoiZyme/KoiZyme-p-82.html
AZgrammie
North of Heber, AZ
(Zone 6b)

February 9, 2009
9:23 PM

Post #6116216

mothermole, the reason I got koi in the first place was that I visited the San Jose (California) Japanese Water Gardens, and admired the huge, beautiful koi in their lagoons. I found that you could get some small, pretty, generic koi quite cheaply at the local tropical fish places. While I was at the Water Gardens one time, some guys drove around in a pickup, opening cans of Friskies cat food, and throwing the contents into the lagoons. Talk about a feeding frenzy! So that is why I used cat food! I will admit this was about 40 years ago, and I'm willing to admit times have changed. Maybe they don't even do that at San Jose any longer. The pond I had that the gophers drained had some koi that had grown to a a foot or more, and ate out of my hand, but after losing them I went back to the small ones. I always seemed to have to move and start over before the koi got big. I looked up koi on google and see that they sell from $150 to $5000 now. If I had fish that expensive, I might serve them filet mignon (joke).
MerryMary
Ocoee (W. Orlando), FL
(Zone 9b)

February 11, 2009
5:01 PM

Post #6124266

Sorry for posting late, I've been swamped (ok a "little" pun intended) here.
jlp222, trust me, no matter what you start out with, you will not be happy with one year later, and will want it bigger or deeper or whatever. Ponding is very addicting...most of us here are in some sort of fish 12 step program at this point!
If you start small, with just a water plant pond, you definitely will want fish in there, even if they are just mosquito fish (which breed like crazy) Small comets are fine too, as are the rosie barbs they use as feeder fish at the pet store. If you contain your water plants in planter basket/tubs, it keeps the water clearer, and allows you to move them around, or divide them, at a later date withouth upsetting your whole pond area.
My theory is this ...We all want to keep up with your progress, so one year from now we can talk to you about how to go bigger and better,lol. We've ALL been there! You should see how many large koi I have squashed into a little yard!
:)
ic_conifers
Iowa City, IA
(Zone 5a)

February 11, 2009
6:22 PM

Post #6124581

Some of the old books are terrifying on the advice that they give. I came across one that said it was absolutely not necessary to quarantine new fish and that it caused more stress for the fish than it was worth. That book was written before KHV.
snapple45
Holland, OH
(Zone 5b)

February 11, 2009
6:51 PM

Post #6124695

Makes you wonder what we'll be doing differently ten years from now that today we think is the gold standard for koi care. My money's on vaccines. Wouldn't you just love to get koi that are immune to not just KHV but gram negative bacteria? No more ulcers or dropsy or septicemia? There's research going on out there. Most of it comes from aquaculture for fish farms. They fight the same battles we fight with diseases.
ic_conifers
Iowa City, IA
(Zone 5a)

February 11, 2009
7:34 PM

Post #6124920

Heck...forget vaccines...genetics are what we want. Tweak a gene here and there to make them immune from the start! No more need for vaccines! Fish are fairly simple creatures - if corn geneticists can create strains that are immune to bugs, I bet fish are not far behind. Make them immune to bacterial infections, parasites, etc. While they are at it, they should make fish that can live with high ammonia, low oxygen, etc.
mothermole
Deer Park, IL
(Zone 5b)

February 11, 2009
7:40 PM

Post #6124946

The genetics is what makes the koi so fragile in the first place. Carp aren't fussy at all but add the colors and now they get super sensitive to everything and are called KOI. Designers fish! I love them though!
snapple45
Holland, OH
(Zone 5b)

February 11, 2009
8:34 PM

Post #6125153

Glow in the dark perhaps?
tetleytuna
Columbia, MO
(Zone 5b)

February 12, 2009
1:19 AM

Post #6126351

Snapple, here ya go ---- http://www.glofish.com/
snapple45
Holland, OH
(Zone 5b)

February 12, 2009
1:31 AM

Post #6126402

I can't believe that! I'm shaking my head in complete dismay. I knew researchers had genetically altered some fish for research purposes but to get them out commercial retail? I would definitely not want any koi that glowed.
kathy65468
Eunice, MO
(Zone 5b)

February 12, 2009
4:08 AM

Post #6127016

I have raised tropical fish for more than 30 years. I have been aghast for a very long time over the painted fish and the geneticly changed fish. The fish were very pretty as nature created them. Merchandisers want to have something new and different every year so they take fish and make them different. This is progress?

There are some good aquatic plants in the agristarts co-op going on now til the 16 in the co-op forum
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/948948/
Just thought that I would mention it since this thread started out asking about plants.
MerryMary
Ocoee (W. Orlando), FL
(Zone 9b)

February 12, 2009
7:25 PM

Post #6129288

With aquaculture on the rise in general, I think you will see healthier fish (and better ways to keep them healthy) on the horizon. It will slowly trickle into the entertainment fish, but will start first with the food fish farms.
jlp222
Hammond, LA
(Zone 8b)

December 31, 2009
9:35 AM

Post #7412565

Hi guys, checking back on this thread. It's almost a year later, and I am still interested in a small pond. It's kind of like a tattoo. Wait ayear and see if you still want it. (I don't have any tattoos)

What I would like to do is have a raised garden area, maybe 4X6 and maybe 18" tal. I would like to put a pre-made pond into the raised are and fill in the rest with soil.

I could put plants in the soil, and have a few fish/plants/frog babies in the pond.

I am going to move slow, and try to collect as many "reclaimed" ingredients as I can.

Anyone have any input on this?
shrubbs
Beavertown, PA
(Zone 5b)

January 1, 2010
3:24 AM

Post #7415225

Your idea sounds like a good one. Many people are installing small ponds and fountains due to the economy (which will be getting harder this coming year).

Prefab ponds are very hard to keep level when adding soil under them. Make sure that the prefab pond is supported by blocks or pressure treated wood (blocks are better). You are best to keep the prefab separate from the planting garden if you are not installing it into the ground.

If you have fish then you will want a filter of some kind (external is the best). If you just want some water movement you will only need a pump for a fountain.

There are many small plants that can be purchased to fit into small ponds. I used to have a dwarf waterlily that flowered very small bright pink flowers.

Personally I would not use any old rubber liners, filters, pipe, and even plants if I knew they could possibly be carrying a disease of some sorts... I would keep pump and prefab ponds (unless they were cleaned with bleach or a chemical product. NEVER use building product materials! Many contain ingredients that will harm living material (fish, plants, or bacteria). 5 gallon buckets are one thing, but beyond that I would never trust building materials.
jlp222
Hammond, LA
(Zone 8b)

January 1, 2010
5:28 AM

Post #7415497

Thanks Shrubbs! So maybe lay the preformed pond down first and "wall" it in with pavers or bricks?

Just a question, why should the pond be kept seperate from the planting garden? I would imagine that the soil would be a few inches below the top of the pond.

Thanks again for the info!
snapple45
Holland, OH
(Zone 5b)

January 1, 2010
4:01 PM

Post #7416387

The most common problems with installing prefab ponds are keeping it level and backfilling along the sides. The place a preformed usually fails is along the top edge. If there are air pockets along the sides water pressure can start a crack that starts at the top lip. (This is a major issue up north. In zone 8b you dont have to worry about winter freezes.) There is a very easy way to make certain the preformed is snug all around. Dig the hole 3" deeper and 3" wider than the preformed. Lay a 3" layer of builders sand in the hole. Builders sand on the bottom of the hole makes it easy to adjust for any uneveness and will eliminate any low spots. When you have the bottom tight and level fill the pond nearly full with water and use the water weight to make certain you have the pond level. Then slowly run water down the outside of the preformed all around. When the water drains away and the pond stays level then you know you have the bottom settled and snug. The last step is to fill the hole around the edges with sand. This is important. The sand will flow and settle easily. As you go water the sand down. You want the sides and edges 100% snug. Builders sand is cheap and using it ensures that you will have an installation job that looks good and lasts 20yrs.
shrubbs
Beavertown, PA
(Zone 5b)

January 2, 2010
3:44 PM

Post #7419689

snapple45 mentioned the issues with soil and prefab ponds. The ground is freezing and thawing ... always moving when the the ground gets wet and drys out. You notice a difference with a prefab pond because of the water. You can look at a flower pot and never notice that it is not level because there is nothing that would indicate this fact.

If you create the proper foundation with stone, build up the sides and bottom with block (any type) for support, and then you can put your prefab pond as you desire. This option is good for a raised bed. At that point you can pack soil all around the block and you are good to go. This also allows the pond to be repaired or majorly cleaned without disturbing the planting bed. The key is making sure that your base of stone (use a coarse mixture with 3/4" stone in it) is at least 6" deep and level. Without a proper foundation this will not work.

If you are planning to put the prefab pond in the ground then make sure you follow snapple45's instructions. They are excellent.

In both cases you will still have some settling, but it should be very minor. The key is this ... prepare and take your time.
jlp222
Hammond, LA
(Zone 8b)

January 2, 2010
11:00 PM

Post #7421002

Thanks shrubbs!
blkraven2
Wells, TX
(Zone 8b)

March 8, 2010
3:09 PM

Post #7613920

Im a little late in chiming in but... I started out with a whiskey barrel water gardenback in the in the 80s. It had room for 3 potted plants and my floters like water lettuce ect. I grew tadpoles in them.. 2 seasons later I dug and built my first in ground water garden.. 8 x 12 in size.. I loved having it.. I moved again and dug a new water garden, this time 10x 18.. it had a waterfall and I loved it even more.. it was easy to care for. I didn t have all the stuff one seems to have to have now.. I had one pump for my water fall and one for my bubbler.. My plants and fish thrived. I never fed my fish.. I tried for a long time but they refused to eat it so I said what the heck... ..
if you havent dug it yet my 2 cents is to go for bigger than you think you need and or want.. youll save yourself labor and the I shouldas woulda couldas when you are kicking yourself for not going bigger the first time ...lol... Good Luck!!!

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