Would You Like to Have a Water Garden in Your Backyard?
Easy Tips to Build a Water Garden
Know all about water garden and how to build one
A water garden can bring you peace and quiet and turn your backyard into a small outdoor sanctuary where you can enjoy the sound of water and you can even have fish and watch them dart back and forth around the pond. Water gardens come in all different shapes and sizes, from large koi ponds to the small wall fountains to water “garbage can” fountains.
There are also kits available that include everything you need to build a small pond. However, if you want to be original and creative, it is better to build the water garden from scratch. Water garden and pond kits are for those who are just getting into building a pond or water garden and are more expensive than buying the parts separately.
Water gardens without ponds
If you like to hear the sound of water, but think that having a pond with fish is too much maintenance, you do not need to worry about not being able to have a water garden. There are several water gardens that can be built without having a pond to clean, filters to change or leaves to fish out of the pond water. Some of these kinds of water gardens are described below.
1. The garbage can fountain is the easiest one of these types of water gardens to build. You do not even need a kit to build a garbage can fountain. To build a garbage can fountain, you need some simple materials that you can get at your local hardware store and are as follows:
a. A plastic garbage can without any drain holes. The size of the garbage can depends on how big a fountain you want to build. The function of the plastic garbage can is to hold the water.
b. A pump is needed to circulate the water. You need to calculate the height of the geyser, how big is the garbage can and how high do you want the water to shoot up. Typically, for the average garbage can fountain built with a 56 gallon plastic garbage can, a 700 to 1500 GPh or gallons per hour is sufficient to make a nice water feature.
c. Piping and fountain heads are needed to create the water feature. The pipe should be screwed into the outtake of the pump. The fountain head is screwed to the top of the pipe with different openings to spray the water into a decorative pattern. Some fountain heads are throffers, which are fountain heads that have a funnel opening that allows the water to come out into a throthing and bubbly pattern.
This type of fountain head makes a loud splashing sound. Another fountain head is a bell head, which has a funnel opening, like the throffinng, but at the top there is a flat lid that allows the water spray out into a bell form. This is a very beautiful water feature and works well with lighting. Yet other fountain heads look like flower sprinklers and generate different decorative sprays. You can even make your own fountain head.
d. A wood or metal frame with chicken wire to place the cover on top of the garbage can. In the middle of this cover you should have a hole that can allow for the pipe leading to the fountain head to go through.
e. Decorative stone, pebbles, and brick to conceal the plastic of the garbage can. The pebbles should be placed on the chicken wire cover that would conceal the garbage can and the mechanics of the fountain. You can bury most of the garbage can and have about a foot of it above ground which can easily be concealed with decorative stone or bricks.
You can mortar the brick or even fieldstone and have a stable position for the fountain. Before putting the pebbles on the top of the can cover, have the fountain head installed to set the desired effect.
Have the fountain run and make sure that no water over-shoots the garbage can. You want to make sure that the water feature to be big enough to create the desired effect, but at the same time small enough so water comes back in the garbage can to minimize water loss.
For those of you who like the bell fountain head, you should get an industrial garbage can, unless you have the bell low to the pebbles. The bell head, if not installed properly can lose a lot of water on very windy days.
f. Winter maintenance is crucial in colder climates. As water freezes, it expands. This can crack the garbage can, causing a leak in the next operating season, causing massive water loss. If water freezes in the pump, it can break the impeller, which is the part of the pump that moves the water.
General maintenance for garbage can fountains is to remove the fountain head from the pipe and attach a hose to drain the garbage can. You want to this in the fall as freezing temperatures begin. Let the pump run until it won’t pump any water anymore.
DO NOT RUN YOUR PUMP DRY. This can cause the motor to burn out, especially for most submersible pumps. Mag drive pumps should not be run dry but they can for some time. Mag drive pumps do not have motors, but they have two magnets with negative energy.
As electricity is applied to the large electromagnet and the negative energy will force a smaller magnet to rotate, thus spinning the impeller. These kinds of pumps are the best because motors tend to burn out after a while.
You should set your pump up on a cinder block, so it will not sit in the water when you drain the can. Even when the garbage can is drained, there will still be a bit of water at the bottom. You might want to take an air compressor to blow through the fountain pipe after you drained the garbage can to blow remaining water out of the pump. Freezing during the winter months is the main cause to damage to water features.
2. Hardscaping is another type of water feature you can have without the need for a pond. This is a more difficult water feature to build because this involves some masonry skills. If you are skilled in stone masonry and can create beautiful stone features, hardscaping might be the right thing for you. For hardscaping, you will need the following:
a. Knowledge of mixing mortar is key to hardscaping. Avoid using premixed mortar bags where all you need to do is add water. These are usually made from lesser qualities of mortar and many of those premixed brands usually lack the proper amount of Portland cement needed for a strong bond. A good cement brand of cement for stonework is LaFarge. LaFarge has nice smooth clay like quality and shapes well.
Whatever cement brand you choose to use, you should use type M, which is high strength mortar mix and has about 75% Portland cement in it. Then, you want to get enough mason sand to mix with the cement mix. Theoretically, you want to mix two-parts sand with one part cement mix and then add enough water to make the mortar into a viscous muddy consistency thick enough that you can shape.
b. Freeze proof PVC pipe and hose clamps to link the pump to the out put, where the water is to come out of the wall. The hose clamps should be of metal and are used for the cement to anchor to the pipe. Cement will not anchor to the PVC pipe. Theoretically, you should have three or four hose clamps fastened tightly to the PVC pipe when cementing it in.
c. Create a catch basin deep enough or big enough to house the pump with an area where the power cord from the pump can be concealed and has access to a nearby GFCI outlet.
d. Mortar prep and waterproofing needs to be done before you can have the water in the catch basin. Preparing the mortar for water proofing is done by applying muriatic acid and then quickly washed with water.
The muriatic acid etches the mortar and neutralizes the alkalinity of the lime which is a major component of most cement. You need to aware that too much muriatic acid can eat away and corrode the cement, weakening the structure.
It is very important to wash off the muriatic acid right away after it has been applied. Waterproofing is best done by using epoxy-based solutions. Epoxy is great because once it hardens it does not secrete toxic residues that could be harmful to fish, for those of you who want fish.
Many people who use hardscaping for water features like to use the catch basins as bird baths. If you desire to do that, you should have a pit at one end of the catch basin big enough and deep enough to conceal the pump. One of the best epoxies available is under the brand Pond Armor.
Pond Armor is a two-part liquid epoxy solution that is made especially for water features sculpted out of concrete or brick, stone, and mortar. Pond Armor is the easiest to use of all the epoxies available.
Whereas most epoxies are like a goop, Pond Armor epoxies are liquid and can easily be applied with a paint brush. To mix the epoxies, you need a power drill with a mixing paddle. Add part A with part B and mix until uniformly mixed. Hot weather is the best weather to apply epoxy and when it is above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 degrees Celsius, which is when epoxy hardens quickly, about a half hour. Pond Armor has clear epoxies as well as epoxies with color pigments.
4. Pondless Waterfalls are also a rather easy water feature to build without having a pond to maintain. What you need to build a waterfall without a pond, you will need the following:
a. Pond liner is the best way to lay out your waterfall. There is special pond rubber available, but if you are not going to have a waterfall go into a fish pond, roofing rubber will work just as well. You should dig a pit deep enough to house a pump and hold enough water for circulation. You can cover the pit later using the same method as for a garbage can fountain, making a metal and chicken wire cover that can be covered with pebbles.
The area where the waterfall or rushing river is to go down should be in a trench going down hill. This type of water feature is ideal for those of you whose backyard has an upward slope away from the house. Waterfalls work from gravity. Line the trench and rubber with stones. You can mortar the stone in or dry stack them, but you need to make sure that the trench is deep enough for the water not to seep out of the trench.
b. Stone is needed to add the beauty to the waterfall. The best stones for a natural waterfall are boulders of all different sizes and flagstone. If you dig the trench in a stair step format, you can set the flagstone on each step and the boulders on the side with different flagstones set beneath the larger pieces of the flagstone that the water flows over.
c. A good size pond pump should be used, like as if you were building a pond. Waterfalls can go up a substantial height and the best pump for this type of water feature is a 3,000 GPh. You can always create a manifold with control valves to control the water flow.
d. Freeze proof PVC piping is needed to connect the pump to the water feature.
A bog garden is another type of low maintenance water garden. A bog garden is a garden that has a shallow water basin which can hold all kinds of bog plants or marginal plants. You can have a water feature go into your bog garden with all kinds of water plants. If you have a sunny area, think about having lotus flowers in your bog.
There are a large variety of cold-hardy lotus plants and hybrids available. Cat tales are another nice bog plant, but they are very invasive. Taro plants are also nice, but they are very large and are tropical. If you live in a cold climate, you should bring it inside for the winter. Water irises can add some spring color to your bog garden. Steps on building a bog garden should be as follows:
1. Dig a pit in the ground about the size of how you want your bog to be. A bog needs to be shallow. The pit should be no deeper than one and a half to two feet deep. Bog plants are shallow water plants and the roots need to be constantly in water, but the crown and above must be above the water, so it is crucial that your bog should not be too deep, otherwise the plants will not survive.
2. Use pond rubber to line the pit and then bury the rubber with a combination of sand and pea gravel. If you choose to have a water feature in your bog, it should be a small trickle, like a stream or a small figurine.
The water feature should be before the bog plants because some bog plants can grow quite tall. The area for the pump should be a bit deeper than the bog, but the pump should not be on top of the sand because sand can get trapped in the water intake and jam the impeller, causing the pump to malfunction.
Ponds are the most high maintenance water garden you can have, especially fish ponds. You can have simple small ponds that are too small for fish where you can have some small plants, or you can have large koi ponds. If you choose to have fish, you will need filters for the pumps. For colder climates, you should have a heater and aerator for fish. If a pond freezes over without those two devices, the fish will not get any oxygen and suffocate.
There are many ideas for water features. Some simple and some more involved. Whatever you choose to do, the end result should be a cool relaxing water garden in your backyard.
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