Garden ponds and fountains were once mainly for the very rich. Today, anyone can have a garden pond. A fountain or waterfall can be included almost anyplace--even if your "yard" is limited to a patio or balcony.
Adding water to your patio can be as simple as setting out a shallow dish of water for use as a birdbath. Any shallow container at least 6 inches wide and a half-inch deep will work. Pie pans, garbage can lids, or flowerpot bases work well in small spaces. Fill the container with clean water and wash it every day or two. The wildlife attracted to the water will depend on where you place the container. Containers set on the ground usually attract the greatest number of wildlife species, from birds and butterflies to squirrels and toads. Hanging birdbaths or ones on pedestals will be restricted to those creatures that can fly or jump high enough to reach the water, and give birds a chance to escape from neighborhood cats and other predators.
If you want to grow water plants--and perhaps a fish or two--you can add a tub garden to your patio or yard. Many products are on the market today. Frequently, half whiskey kegs with plastic liners are used. Numerous plastic tub gardens are available in a variety of sizes and have the advantage of being lightweight and inexpensive. Small pumps can be added to any of these containers to allow for fountains or cascades of water. Moving water is pleasant to listen to and attractive to wildlife.
Here are some considerations before adding a small tub pond to your patio or yard.
If you want to grow water plants, choose a container that is at least a foot deep. While some water plants do well in shallow water, other species--including some water lilies--require deeper water.
Consider adding a variety of plant species. Depending on the depth of your tub, place pots of plants either on the bottom or on bricks to achieve the proper depth. Floating plants such as duckweed also can be added. Floating plants reduce the amount of sunlight that enters the water, which helps reduce the growth of algae. When adding potted plants, place a layer of stones on top of the soil before setting the pots in the water. This will help hold the soil in place and help prevent any fish from "digging" into the pots.
If you live in a cold climate, consider what you will do with the tub garden in the winter. Small tubs can be moved inside if a suitable location is available. Other tubs may need to be drained to prevent damage from freezing.
Caution: Use caution and take security measures if small children have access to your pond. Even small tub gardens can be hazardous. If you intend to have a fountain or waterfall, be sure a grounded electrical outlet is available.
Above all, have fun. Water gardens provide habitat for wildlife, but also can be an enjoyable hobby for you and your family.
For more information on ponds and other Backyard Conservation practices, contact your local conservation district or the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Or call 1-888-LANDCARE (toll free) for a free colorful Backyard Conservation booklet and tip sheets.
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