Plants aren’t the only option when it comes to adding interest to the outdoors. Enjoy the life aquatic by installing a pond.
A pond is a delightful focal point, providing a soothing watery backing track, remaining relatively low-maintenance, adding value and functioning as a mini ecosystem that attracts birds, butterflies, dragonflies and frogs. Here’s what you need to know:
Ponds can be large or small, formal or so natural in appearance that they might well have been there forever. Decide on what appeals to you and what suits your garden. Even a large pot or an unexpected object such as a claw-foot bathtub will do. Most professional installation companies offer premoulded fibreglass designs or a flexible plastic liner, allowing for a more natural look. Finish with a border of plants and rocks.
Sealed cement, ceramic, porcelain or a wooden barrel that has been lined with heavyweight plastic make great nontraditional ponds – as long as the container is designed to hold water and the material is nontoxic. Filled with water plants and goldfish, the only maintenance required is preventing mosquitoes from nesting (a water feature or pump should take care of this, as it keeps the water moving, and mozzies prefer stagnant water), making sure algae doesn’t get out of control and topping up with fresh water.
A full day of intense sunlight will encourage the growth of algae, burn exposed parts of water plants and be detrimental to residents such as frogs and fish. Partial shade, or morning or afternoon sun only, is the best bet.
Must-haves and maintenance
Some of the initial costs will be for a pump, filtration system and electrics. After that it’s a world of choices: plants only, plants and goldfish or koi, a skimmer for debris, decorative stones or paving, cascades or waterfalls….
Ornamental fish are hardy but require daily feeding. You’ll need a kit to test the water’s chemical balance and products to keep water clear and fish healthy. Water-plant fertilisers are available but can be harmful to aquatic wildlife, so go for the organic option.
While it’s best to visit a specialist shop, superpumps.co.za has lots of products including all-in-one kits, plus good (free) advice.
Water plants 101
A balance of floating plants (to prevent algae from spreading and protect fish from sunlight) and oxygenating grasses is essential. Unless you have a natural earth-bottom pond where they can take root (and with the exception of floaters), plants should be placed in pots. Water lilies are iconic pond plants and they come in many species. They require deeper water (about 30cm above the root) and good spacing, as their foliage spreads.
Take the plunge
Natural swimming pools are creating a splash as an alternative to traditional ones. Although man-made, their design and how they are integrated into the landscape make them virtually identical to natural ponds. A biofilter system of water plants and minerals provides clear, purified water without chemicals. A filter traps debris, while a pump circulates and oxygenates the water. A natural swimming pool is lovely to swim in, is low-maintenance, has many health benefits and will evolve into a living ecosystem, attracting and benefiting wildlife, and also benefiting the environment.
Originally published by Good Housekeeping.