Adding a water feature to your outdoor area doesn’t have to be difficult, nor particularly expensive. And there are plenty of good reasons for doing so, such as attracting pollinators, birds and, if you’re extra lucky, frogs, along with generally improving the atmosphere and ecology of your outdoor area. In the following we discuss some of your water feature options, including for those whose space is limited to a patio or deck.
Water Gardens in Containers
Just because your outdoor area is on the smaller side, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the joys of a water feature. If you’re looking for something for a patio or deck, a water garden in a container is a great option, with a variety of containers to choose from. The most basic and low maintenance option is a water-tight terracotta or stone pot, which are readily available at most nurseries or garden centres. Another popular option is the wooden whiskey barrel, although you’ll need to treat or line it with plastic to make it water-tight, ensuring that whatever you use is non-toxic. You also might like to visit a few garage sales or have a look on Gumtree or similar sites, as these are great places to pick up containers at vastly reduced rates, and you can find some real gems.
Once you’ve purchased your container or pot, decide what kind of look & feel you’re going for in terms of plants and other accessories. Perhaps you’d like to focus on indigenous water plants, many of which are oxygenating as well as stunning to look at. Do some research and make a list of desirables, then give your local nursery a call to see if they’re in stock or whether they can order them in for you. If you can’t find the plants you want locally, have a browse on Water Garden Paradise, where you’ll find a huge range of water plants – both indigenous and exotic — that you can order online.
Most water plants will grow quite happily in pots that are then immersed in the water, although you might like to add some river pebbles to weigh them down. If you’re thinking of adding a couple of fish to your water garden, to keep the mosquito larvae under control, you’ll need to use rain water or treated water in your container. Speak to your local aquarium about what you need to add to tap water before introducing your fish. In terms of the best breed for a container water garden, we’d recommend a few small Shubunkin or Goldfish, as these are hardy and usually adapt to outdoor living with ease, as long as the water is adequately oxygenated.
While many water plants are oxygenating, you can also incorporate a fountain to help your water garden (and resident fish) stay healthy. These days, you can pick up an inexpensive solar or electric pump fountain at most garden centres or online, which makes creating a stunning water feature even easier. Not only does a fountain add oxygen and keep the water clean, it also provides you with the background sound of trickling water whenever you’re in the vicinity — a sound that is well known for its soothing effect on humans.
For those with a good-sized backyard, you might like to consider installing a pond, which is actually easier than it sounds. While there are a lot of top-end ponds on the market, you don’t have to spend a fortune to achieve spectacular results. For example, an old bathtub makes a great pond, whether above or sunk into the ground. You can even create a series of bathtubs at different heights, running the water from one to the other using a pump or a series of overflow pipes, which is another good way to keep the water in your pond oxygenated.
Alternatively, you can purchase a preformed pond from major garden supply centres, with a variety of sizes and shapes available. In this case, unless you hire a professional, you’ll need to do some research, and probably some digging! But, as with most things, there are plenty of DIY YouTube clips and blogs that provide you with step-by-step instructions for creating a backyard pond, from the most extravagant to something more understated. Note though, installed ponds cannot be more than 30cm for safety reasons; any deeper and you’ll need to put a fence around it.
Once you’ve determined the aesthetic and the position of your pond, it’s time to decide on what kind of plants you want to include and, as above begin to source them. The great thing about a pond is that you can continue to add to it over time, whether it’s a fountain, fish, more plants or even an expansion on the pond itself. Needless to say, with a little bit of effort, care and maintenance, a backyard pond or a water feature on your patio or deck is something that just keeps on giving for years.