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By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner Golden Gecko

Water gardening is one of the most exciting aspects of gardening today. The sight and sound of running water brings a magical, refreshing feel to the landscape. With the modern pumps and filters available today, everyone has the ability to bring water gardening into their lives without great cost or effort. Many people are feeling this lure to water gardening, but are not sure where to start. Ponds and waterfalls are great fun and can be fit into almost any garden. These water features may be little more than some people want to tackle. People who live where a water feature might be better located on a deck or small patio, or where a pond or waterfall is impractical might want to try a water tub garden.

Tub or container water gardens are easy to construct, and can be placed almost anywhere you wish to bring moving water. Put these by the back deck, the front door, or close to your favorite sitting area. All fountains are composed of three basic parts: the reservoir, the pump, and the fountain piece. The one requirement for running water is electricity, so locate the tub water garden near an electrical outlet. If you don’t have electricity you can still have a water garden, just without the running water.

The first step is to choose a reservoir or container. The main requirement is the container holds water. Many beautiful containers are now available without drainage holes and are great for water gardening. Ceramic and concrete seem to be the most popular materials. You can also make them out of wood, metal, rock, or plastic. Try to choose a container at least 8-12 inches deep, or deeper. Twelve inches across or larger would be great. The average size of tub gardens seems to be around two feet across and one to three feet deep.

The pump is the heart of the water feature. Nowadays they are very small and simply need to be placed in the water and plugged in. Usually a small water feature will use a submersible pump with a volume of between 60 to 140 gallons per hour. I have found that the small magnet-driven pumps are relatively quiet, whereas some inexpensive aquarium pumps have proved noisy and impossible to adjust.

The key design element in every fountain is the apparent water source or fountainhead. Stacks of natural objects such as stones, or pottery pieces, when the pump and hose are concealed, can seem to magical pour forth with water. One of the most popular fountainheads is a cylindrical spout fashioned from bamboo or copper pipe. Clay jars, old watering cans, and old iron pumps can be used as fountainheads. Many fountainheads are already created and sold for immediate use. To connect the pump to the fountain head requires a piece of vinyl tubing that slips over the outlet of the pump while the other end goes to where you want the fountainhead to begin. The tubing is inexpensive, so buy extra, and cut it with scissors.

To finish the tub garden, water plants are placed in the tub, while still in the containers they came in. This way you can remove them to prune or fertilize, or just change out one type of plant with another. Water hyacinth, a free-floating un-containerized water plant, should be placed in the tub. Its roots help to absorb nutrient in the water that attracts algae. Small goldfish can also be added to the tub garden. Put only a couple in, and avoid feeding them. They will eat small microorganisms, algae cells, and bits and pieces of mater you can’t see. This way they wont grow too big, breed excessively, and leave too much waste mater, which helps in the formation of algae.

These small water features are a fun way to introduce yourself to water gardening. You might find that with the successful completion of this water garden you might want to build a larger pond or waterfall. Even if you don’t want a larger pond, these small tub gardens are great focal points for your garden and will vastly increase the enjoyment of the garden they are part of.

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