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Archive for Sunday, May 23, 2004

Home owners can create watery paradise in back yard

May 23, 2004

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— The guy next door has a beautiful pond in his back yard. The sound of the water spilling over the flat rocks is hypnotizing. The tune lulls you to sleep. The problem? It's too far away.

When the kid with the dynamite stereo drives past the house, the bass drowns out the tranquillity. So why not create an exotic water garden of your own? It might not be as difficult as you think.

The man-made pond of your dreams doesn't have to be mammoth, or cost a month's salary. In fact a water garden can be as small as a whiskey barrel, though that size will probably be tougher to maintain than something larger.

Bill Hoffman Jr., owner of Hoffman's Garden Center in Green, Ohio, recommends a medium- to large-sized pond, 500 gallons minimum.

"The reason for that is if the ecosystem is so small and it gets out of balance just a little bit, then you have a problem," he explained.

An ecosystem in a water garden consists of fish, plants, bacteria and other organisms living in harmony.

"It's basically a balance in nature. If there's an overpopulation and not enough food or clean water, things become sickly and die," Hoffman said. "That's why a larger pond may be better. It's more forgiving and easier to maintain than a very small system."

Perhaps you know of others who are considering water gardens for their yards. It's a trend that has been growing rapidly over the past 10 years.

Water gardens can relieve stress and be lots of fun.

"Some people even name their fish," Hoffman said with a chuckle. "Fish have personalities just like cats and dogs."

Where to start

First step: Find someone, probably at a garden center, who is knowledgeable about water gardening and can serve as a guide for your project.

Before digging your water garden, check with your local zoning and building departments for any permits or restrictions. Hoffman recommends that ponds be a minimum of 22 inches deep.

In determining the type of liner to use for the pond, Hoffman suggests a flexible, rubber liner, rather than a pre-formed liner.

"People think the pre-formed liners are easier to install, but actually, they are a little harder to get into the ground and keep level," he explained. "Flexible liners are easier to install and there's lots of room for creativity."

Make certain that the liner, which is available at garden centers and some pet and home improvement stores, is specially formulated to be safe for fish, plants and humans.

Sometimes, anxious gardeners make the mistake of using rubber designed for use as roofing material. The chemicals from that material can be toxic to fish.

Materials to build a water garden can range from $50 to $8,000 -- depending on size and complexity. But regardless of the size, the water will turn green and scummy if you simply put it in the sun and do little else.

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