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Kountry Life How-To

How to Make a Small Watergarden
Water gardens are an exciting new addition to many home owners' gardening repertoire. Once you've mastered vegetable gardens (and are comfortably feeding your family of four plus the rest of the neighborhood), you are ready to tackle water gardens.

Consider making your first attempt with a tub garden. Tub gardens are easy to build and maintain and work great in a small-space garden.

Select a location for your tub that receives at least three to four hours of sunlight a day. Remember that, once they are filled, tub gardens are almost impossible to move. Almost any container can serve as a tub. If you use a barrel, such as a wine, olive or whiskey barrel, line it with PVC sheeting to avoid problems from the bacteria remaining from fermentation.

A balanced should have four basic components; water, plants, snails and fish. For each square yard of water surface, you need one bunch of oxygenating grasses, one small to medium water lily, one bog plant and/or ornamental plant, two to three guppies or mosquito fish and three to six water snails.

To start, fill the pond container with water. Use chloramine- and ammonia-deactivating products because water out of the tap has sometimes been treated. Keep the aquatic plants wet, and install them one at a time, each in its own pot about six inches across and six inches deep. Use heavy garden soil rather than potting mix, which will float out of the pots.

Place the water lily in the center of the tub. Place grasses and bog plants aroung the outer edges. For height, set bog plants on a brick or block that lies on the tub's bottom. Next add water snails and fish. Water snails are scavengers and will feed on algae and fish waste. You can expect to achieve a good balance in your tub within 30 to 60 days. Trickle small amounts of chlorinated water into the tub daily for about 30 days. This will help to control algae until the garden is balanced. Small amounts of algae are necessary as food for fish and snails, but too much may indicate excess nutrients or insufficient sunlight. Periodically remove excess or old foliage and fallen leaves or twigs. Do not continually change water. Each time you change water, the tub environment will need to regain its balance. Once a tub is balanced, it can remain so for years with only occasional water addition to make up for evaporation.

KP, from WA, entered 1999-12-17

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