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The Water Garden

There are four main types of plants in a water garden, and all are necessary to create a healthy environment in the pond.

Water Garden Plants
          
There are four main types of plants in a water garden, and all are necessary to create a healthy environment in the pond. The four types are submerged plants, deep-water plants, floating plants, and marginal plants.
Submerged plants, such as elodea (also known as anacharis) or caromba, absorb excess nutrients and provide fish with food and oxygen, even though they are not visible on the surface of the water. Deep-water plants, such as water lilies and lotus are useful to shade the water garden.  In shade, algae cannot take hold, and the fish can hide. Floating plants such as water hyacinth or water lettuce also minimize the amount of sunlight at the surface. Marginal plants are those plants that live with their stems partially underwater.  These plants are usually grown on a shallow shelf in the water garden and include iris, sedges, and grasses.

Maintenance of a Water Garden
          
In the spring, the gardener should put the non-hardy plants back into the pond.  Those with solid dirt filled pots should be fertilized.  In the summer, remove dead foliage frequently in order to avoid a buildup of organic material on the bottom of the pond.  Also spray off the filter with a hose periodically. In winter, if the pond is deep enough, some plants will survive if they are lowered to the bottom.  Some fish can also survive in a dormant state over the winter.  A small hole must be maintained in the ice to allow for gas exchange.  Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, check the pond chemistry to make sure that all of the nutrients are in balance.

Characteristics of Any Good Water Garden
          
There are many reasons to create a water garden.  Not only are water gardens self-contained ecosystems; they also attract birds, dragonflies, frogs, and toads to your yard.  In addition, many people find the sound and sight of water to be uniquely tranquil. Surprisingly, creation of a water garden is remarkably simple.  The main problem is digging a hole that is large enough. Consult books on pond construction before building a water garden.

All water gardens also need to have a nearby source of water to replace water lost to evaporation, which can be as much as one inch per day in summer.  Electricity is also required to run the pump. The most important characteristic of a good water garden is a balance of plants and animals.  In order to avoid excessive growth of algae, steps must be taken to oxygenate and shade the pond, mainly by adding plants to the pond.  Most plants need full or partial sun.  Fish keep plants and algae in check.

Bog Gardens

A bog garden can be created next to a pond, in a container, or in a separate plastic lined trench.  Here at the learning gardens, we have a special acidic bog garden located in a container near the front door.  A bog garden can showcase some of the more interesting plants, such as carnivorous plants.  Pitcher plants, sundews, and venus fly traps are examples of these bog plants.  Bogs must be kept continuously moist and must be watered with water without chlorine.  The bog should be filled with a mixture of sphagnum moss and sand.

Our water garden consists of four main parts.  If you start by looking at the top of the hill and let your eye travel downward, you will see the filter, the stream and waterfall, the pond, and the skimmer. The filter is a biofilter, since it uses living organisms to clean the water that passes through it.  Water flows through a plastic filter and several bags of pea gravel.  Bacteria live in this gravel and eat any small debris that is in the water.

The river stone stream serves to filter and oxygenate the water.  Bacteria also live on the river stones.  As the water tumbles into the pond, air is mixed in, providing the fish with a source of oxygen. In the pond, the fish also receive oxygen and food from the plants growing in pots on the bottom. The pond has two depths.  In the center of the pond it is as deep as 34 inches.  On either side, shelves that are 12 to 24 inches deep provide a location for shallow water plans to grow.  The fish in the pond are goldfish.

The skimmer is situated at the end of the pond farthest from the waterfall.  Here water enters a small chamber where a mesh bag traps any large debris such as leaves.  The water passes through a filter and is pumped through a tube up to the biofilter at the head of the stream, where the cycle starts over.