Spring brings great hope to home gardeners. Even before the season officially arrives, we find ourselves dreaming of all the planting possibilities we can do in our back yards. If you’re ready to take on a new project this growing season, try one that’s relaxing, as well as good for the environment: Create a garden pond! Water gardens bring peace and intrigue to outdoor living spaces, help conserve water and energy and create a haven for delicate wildlife. When planned and installed correctly, your garden pond can become a beautiful, well-balanced ecosystem to be enjoyed for years to come. Just take it one step at a time.

Patio pond

Whether installing a simple or elaborate garden pond, planning as much as possible in the beginning of construction will save you time and money in the end.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of TetraPond

Garden waterfall

When adding a waterfall to a garden pond, consider installing an additional pump specifically to power that feature – this way you can conserve energy by only running the waterfall when you’re around to enjoy it.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of TetraPond

Tall fountain spray

The sight and sound of moving water adds an extra dimension to a garden and enhances “pond appeal.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of TetraPond

Planning the pond

Take the time to dream and visualize a garden pond in your yard – where it would go, how it would look and how you’d like to enjoy it.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of TetraPond

Step One: Design Your Pond Oasis

If you want to enjoy a long, successful water gardening season, you can’t just wake up one day and decide to put a pond in later that afternoon. You need to plan, plan, plan! Take the time to dream and visualize a garden pond in your yard – where it would go, how it would look and how you’d like to enjoy it.

When you’re done dreaming, get writing. Put those dreams on paper and ask yourself a few more questions: How big will the pond be, where will you put it, will it be on a slope, how much sun will it receive, what will grow in it (fish…plants…both)?

Next, plan all water features, including waterfalls, spitters, streams or fountains. Keep in mind that more than half of all pond owners change their land and waterscapes regularly, so if you’re not sure what kind of “feature” you’d like now, you can always add something later.

Just as in choosing a home, pond location is everything. There are benefits and drawbacks of too much sunlight and too much shade. Typically 5-6 hours of direct sunlight on a pond is plenty. More than this will likely cause an algae problem, inhibiting the enjoyment of the pond. Your plants will need sunlight, so find a location that offers sun and shade.

When deciding on the size of the pond, opt for larger than what you originally imagine. There are many benefits for the fish that will inhabit the pond, such as greater movement area and more stable temperatures. Ponds with fish should be at least 30 square feet with a depth of at least 18 inches. This will allow for an overall balanced ecosystem.

Step Two: Understand the Equipment

When setting up a pond, it’s extremely important to understand how the equipment works and why spending a little more on a durable system will benefit the pond (and you) in the long run.

Pumps. Pumps are the heart of the pond, while the filter and UV clarifier complete the filtration system. The primary purpose of a pond pump is to circulate water to the pond and maintain the overall health of the ecosystem. Purchase a pump that’s large enough for your pond, taking into consideration the size of the waterfall or stream you desire (if any).

As a general rule of thumb, pumps should circulate the entire water volume of the pond every hour (including waterfall spillover). If there’s any question as to which size pump to purchase, ask your garden center for guidance or choose the more powerful pump. Over-filtration is not harmful, but under-filtration will lead to poor water quality, extra work and overall frustration.

Filters and UV clarifiers. There are two basic methods to filtration: mechanical and biological. Mechanical filtration uses foam filters to trap dirt and debris, while biological filters use the natural biological process to improve the water.

Be sure to implement both aspects of filtration in your pond. To further ensure clear water, install a UV clarifier to eliminate suspended microscopic algae that cause “green water” and to destroy its reproductive ability. Microscopic algae are so tiny, they pass through even the finest filter. Most UV clarifiers remove heavy algae blooms within five days, keeping the pond algae-free. For optimum efficiency, replace the UV bulb every spring or every 11 months of continuous operation.

Some pressure filters are equipped with a complete filtration system (mechanical, biological and UV clarification) in one rugged efficient unit, eliminating the need for separate pieces of equipment. These feature a convenient reversing valve, which back flushes the filter, removing sludge and debris easily. This reduces the amount of effort needed to clean sponges and bio-media during the season.

Step Three: Provide the Best Water

The key word in “water garden” is “water,” and taking care of the water in your pond is as important as taking care of the plants and fish that grow in it.

Only about 50 percent of pond owners claim to use a water conditioner when adding tap water to a pond. But it’s very important to use one – especially if you’re adding fish. Water conditioners remove chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals to make tap water safe for your underwater friends.

In addition, the No. 1 complaint of pond keepers is the presence of algae and sludge buildup in their water feature. Algae compete with aquatic plants for nutrients in the water and deplete valuable oxygen. But with a few simple treatments for healthy water, algae can be eliminated. (Try an algae-control product that’s proven to combat green water, string algae and blanket weed. There are also water clarifiers available that work fast to remove contaminants.)

Water gardening is a very enjoyable hobby if you understand the various aspects of how to keep a pond healthy and balanced. By starting to plan on paper before you dig, you’ll be off to a good start. Then visit your local garden center or pond retailer to get a better idea of what kind of equipment and water-care needs you’ll require to create that garden pond of your dreams.