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Plan for a Water Garden

by Don Janssen, Extension Educator

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If you've been thinking about adding a water garden to your landscape, fall is good time to install it. Fall is a good time because it's a slow time for vegetable and flower gardening and the weather is usually still favorable for working outdoors.

Liners, accessories and even plants are widely available at nurseries, home centers and lumberyards, and through specialized catalogs. Before you buy, however, visit a library or buy a good book and maybe some magazines on water gardening. It's better to spend $15 or $20 on a book to find out what's possible and then think it through carefully and decide what you want then to spend $1,500 or $2,000 on a water garden that may not meet your needs.

Water gardening is like any other sort of gardening - you don't just plant it and forget it. Depending on the size or your garden and the time of year, you can figure on spending one or two hours per week or more on upkeep and maintenance.

Once you decide that water gardening is for you, multiple other decisions remain to be made. First and most important is location. A water garden needs full sun, at least six hours per day or more. It's difficult to get everything to bloom otherwise. A spot that grows tomatoes and peppers or sun-loving annuals is a good spot for a water garden.

Second, the site must be level and the liner must be installed level. Otherwise the water will look as if it's about to spill out over one side.

Gardeners have a variety of liner sizes and shapes to choose from. Today's prefab liners are much easier to install than the old type concrete-lined ponds. Now you simply dig a hole and pop it in the ground. It's not quite that easy but close.

Another consideration is how you'll finish the edges. A popular way is to overlap the top of the liner with slabs or stone. Another popular option is to create a bog-type setting around the pond. How much you spend getting your water garden installed and planted will vary with the decisions you make about size, liner and edge treatment, and whether you want to add a waterfall and pump or install a filter. Basically, you can spend as much as you want or keep costs fairly low. If you install the pond in the fall, you should probably hold off planting until spring, and that will spread the initial investment out over many months.

If a water garden is for you, good luck and have fun.

(This resource was added September 2002 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office