The Plant Man column
for publication the week of 05/23/04 - 05/29/04
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
Container water garden: a fun and easy project!
A water feature is a charming addition to your landscape. But with
comes the potential problem of mosquitoes!
If you aren't able to live by the ocean or beside a lake or river, you
always bring the water to you in the form of a water garden. Today
you some ideas and resources for a water garden and hopefully show you
water does not always come with a "skeeter farm!"
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about "rain gardens" as a way to make
stormwater run-off in a way that served both practical and aesthetic
purposes. If you missed that column, you can find it (and all previous
columns) at www.landsteward.org Click on "The Plant Man" then scroll
find the rain garden column.
Unlike a rain garden, a water garden is a decorative feature that you
filled with water, rather than allowing it to dry up between rain
Water gardens can vary from a large pond to a small pot on your patio.
long as it includes both water and living plants... it's essentially a
garden! If this is your first venture, I suggest you consider a
water garden as a way to test your interest and skill level without
investing a lot of time or money.
I found an excellent resource on the Internet that you will find very
helpful if you're thinking about adding any kind of water feature to
landscape. You can find a direct link to their web site
from this column archived at my web site. The horticultural experts
Colorado State University offer a lot of practical advice and many
pictures of water gardens.
If you decide on a container water garden, a good size would be 12 to
inches wide by 12 to16 inches deep. You can use just about any type of
container, as long as it is non-porous and non-toxic. Placing a liner
a wooden barrel (or a half barrel) can provide a rustic look, and of
plastic containers are both lightweight and easy to use. Consider
two or more water garden containers – of differing heights and sizes –
really pleasing effect.
The Colorado State horticulturists point out that the "golden rule" is
the plants should not occupy more than 2/3 of the water's surface to
for growth and essential air circulation.
There are four different categories of plants for water gardens:
Floating plants float freely on the surface and shade the water,
the amount of sunlight needed by algae. Examples: Water Hyacinth,
Lettuce, Parrots' Feather.
Although surface plants also float on the surface, their roots are in
soil below the surface. Examples: Water lilies, Lotus, Water
Yellow Floating Heart.
Submerged (oxygenating) plants
These plants maintain the water quality by feeding on the nitrogen
decaying plants (depriving algae of a food source) and creating
Examples: Hornwort, Cabomba, Jungle Vall.
More suited for pond-type environments than container water gardens.
Examples include: Horsetail Rush, aquatic Canna, purple or pink
Rush, variegated Water Celery, Black Taro.
I suggest submerging a low-flow pump to your container as way of
water fresh. If this was a pond, or a larger, more permanent water
you could bury the electric cable. That's not practical with a
water garden, but if you use a dark-colored cable (not the neon orange
kind!) it can become fairly inconspicuous.
You'll want to position your self-contained water garden where it can
about six hours of sunshine per day. If you place your container on a
dolly, you can even move it around!
As for mosquitoes, container water gardens are far less likely than
water to be a breeding place for mosquito larvae because living plants
the water from becoming stagnant. If you DO notice skeeter larvae,
fill the container and let the larvae gently flow over the top with
In a future column, I'll suggest ways for keeping mosquitoes and other
away from your landscape. Meanwhile, enjoy the sight and sound of
container water garden, and drop me an e-mail if you have questions or
The Plant Man is here to help. Send you questions about trees, shrubs
landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and additional
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