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Container Water Garden

Container water garden picture

Water gardens are living art in the yard or garden. If you haven’t tried water gardening yet, you’re missing out on some extra movement, beauty and life in your garden. Water gardens also offer a cooling effect on the yard.

Being a beginner at water gardening is no excuse. You can always start with the simplest of designs – the container water garden. The container water garden can be made with over-sized glass bowls, a ceramic planter, plastic planters, galvanized buckets or tubs, water troughs and even bathtubs.

Aside from being fast and easy to do, water containers can be moved to a different location and they can be arranged in pleasing groups on a porch or patio. There’s a lot of flexibility in creating them and very little in the way of hard and fast rules.

Choosing a container

The container you use should be strong – a heavy ceramic planting pot is perfect. Water is heavy and usually using a basic terra cotta flower pot will end up seeping out water as it breaks down the pot’s structure. Make sure your container is water-tight. If it isn’t, use clear caulking to like the areas where water can escape. If you have to go that route, let the caulking set up a couple of days before to fill the container with water.

Make sure you pick an area of the yard or garden that gets lots of sun if you want your aquatic plants to thrive and bloom. That being said, you may have to modify that if your container is quite small as it could really heat up in heat of the summer. If that's the case, place the water garden in an area that gets afternoon shade.

Purchase Aquatic Plants

Once you know the size and location for the container, apply the “thriller, filler and spiller” philosophy for adding aquatic plants.

Thrillers are plants that create drama from a distance. These provide the focal point and draw attention to the container arrangement. Fillers, such as water lettuce, give the arrangement “body” and fill the center with plants that either complement or contrast the thriller. Finally, spillers are plants that break up and soften the edge of the pot by cascading over the edge. Not using a spiller causes a clear separation between the bowl and plants.

Your container plants will rarely need watering. Container water gardens only need to be topped off occasionally due to evaporation.

Submerged plants (oxygenators) will help control algae and contribute oxygen to the water. There's decorative marginal plants, deep-water plants, and mosquito-eating plants to choose from.

Pick only aquatic plants and choose a variety – but be judicial. A little goes a long way! They are going to grow and the idea isn’t to completely cover the water’s surface. Start with choosing one main plant as your focal point and then add a few more plants to enhance the garden.

Create A Simple Water Garden

Sink your potted plants into the filled container and put some pea gravel into the pots to keep them sunk. The gravel also holds the soil in place to avoid making the water muddy. By the way, the soil used in aquatic plants is designed especially for them, it is not regular potting soil. So, if you need more be sure to buy the right stuff.

Make sure when you plant that the leaves are above the water line (with the exception of submerged plants like the parrot feather). If you need to, hill up some pea gravel to make a little podium for the pots if they are too short for the container.

There you have it your very first container water garden. Trust me, you will not want to stop at just one. Chris McLaughlin can be reached at sfgardeningexaminer@gmail.com or her website The Savvy Plant

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Tips for Containers

  • To keep down the weight of containers filled with soil, fill the lower half of large pots with foam peanuts, perlite, or any other lightweight material that will not compact over time. Put potting mix in the remaining space, and plant as usual.
  • To keep up with the heavy feeding most container grown plants need, add compost to the planting mix or add liquid seaweed or a fish emulsion/liquid seaweed combination to the water every few weeks to ensure a well-balanced supply of all essential micronutrients.
  • Pinch off dead blossoms regularly to keep container plants bushy and full of flowers.
  • To automatically water containers, bury one end of a long wick (such as those sold with oil-fueled lanterns) near the plant’s roots. Insert the other end in a bucket of water. The wick will gradually soak up the water and provide a slow, continuous source of water for the plant.
  • If a plant is root bound, prune the roots by cutting back the outer edges of the root ball instead of transplanting it to a larger container. Then repot it in the same container with fresh soil.

Water Gardens In Containers

Water Gardens In Containers

One of the easiest ways to try your hand at water gardening is to create a miniature pond in a Container Water Garden. You can use something as elegant as a ceramic planter or as rustic as an old horse trough, kettle, or half whiskey barrel. Choose a container at least 18 inches in diameter-24inches is better.

Place your container water garden where you can enjoy it often, such as on a deck or a patio. Because it will overheat more quickly than a pond, situate the container so that it gets some shade during the hottest part of the day. It will also need frequent topping off and cleaning, so consider how you will drain and refill it; a spot within reach of a hose works best.

To keep your container from rusting or leaking and to keep any toxins it might contain from harming plants or fish, you should line it. There are now fiberglass shells specially made for half barrels. For other containers, use a piece of PVC liner.

Although you should not cram the container with plants, it is possible to enjoy a half dozen species in even a small one. If the container is too deep for a marginal species, grow one in a pot set on one or more bricks. A few small goldfish or mosquito fish will help keep your mini-pond free of mosquito larvae. Unless you live in a warm-winter climate or can sink the container into the ground for the winter, you will need to transfer the fish to an indoor aquarium for a few months each year. Plan on replacing most of the plants each year.

If you have a sunroom with a tile floor, you may be able to move the whole display indoors. In the case of a particularly large container, you may want to have a contractor do an inspection an verify that your floor will support its weight when filled with water

Container Gardens From "Complete Home Gardening" by Miranda Smith

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