This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Creating a Balanced Garden Pond

Waterlilies are an essential component

The ideal garden pond is one that has a natural and harmonious balance. This can rarely be achieved where the reflective quality of the water is its paramount attraction, or where major moving water features play. However, in the traditional well-planted garden pond with its modest complement of fish, it is a realistic and long-lasting proposition. It is essential that every component involved achieves harmony from the beginning.

When looking at the principles of natural balance it is clear that there are two important aspects that require immediate consideration - the provision of abundant underwater growth and surface shade. Submerged plants perform an invaluable and often diverse role. Their main task is to mop up nutrients in the water and to release oxygen during the day to sustain fish and other aquatic life. They are also to some extent a food source for fish and often serve as a nursery for fish fry. So they clearly have a major impact upon a pond’s ecosystem. By removing excess nutrients from the water, submerged aquatics deprive green water-discolouring algae of the opportunity of becoming established.

Green water can also be controlled by the amount of light that is permitted to fall into the pond. Algae, like most other aquatic plants, must have full uninterrupted sunlight in order to prosper. However, planting trees and shrubs to shade the pond is ill-advised as this will prevent the desirable plants like waterlilies and marginal aquatics from growing properly and will have an adverse effect upon their floral display.

The solution is to provide shade on the surface of the water by means of floating plants and waterlily pads. These should not cover the entire pond, for cutting out the light completely beneath the water will cause the submerged plants to perish. No more than one third of the surface area of open water should be covered with foliage if green suspended algae is to be controlled successfully and the submerged aquatics permitted to continue in healthy growth.

Ornamental fish also make an important contribution to the balance of a pond. They are invaluable for keeping pests under control, not only those that attack the plants, but also mosquito larvae, which if left unchecked pose potential discomfort for the gardener. The waste matter that fish produce is also of benefit to the plants. Snails can also make a contribution, for if suitable species are selected, they will graze upon filamentous algae, which is largely unaffected by the competition created by the submerged aquatics.

When establishing a pond there is a formula that can be used to provide a general guide for planting. In assessing the area to be shaded by foliage and occupied by submerged plants, calculate the surface area of the pond excluding the marginal shelves. This is the area that should be covered for approximately one third with floating foliage.

When calculating the number of submerged aquatics required, allow one bunch of cuttings for every 0.093sq m (1sq ft) of surface area. That is not to say that the plants must be distributed over the pond floor evenly in such a ratio, it is the specific number required for the given surface area. With fish a maximum stocking of 6ins of length (including tail) to every 0.093sq m (1sq ft)of surface area, although initially 5cm (2in) to the same surface area is sensible. Water snails of suitable species can be introduced freely.

The foregoing is one of a new series of Gardening Guides about water gardening that has been added today to the GardenMessenger web-site. Although the Gardening Guides were only started a few days ago they are receiving a warm welcome. As new subjects are published I will mention them here and provide the link.

To visit the water gardening titles added today click here.

Happy Gardening



If you have enjoyed this publication, you may also like to visit the monthly SeedMessenger gardeners’ seed saving and seed exchange blog click here.
and the weekly water gardening blog PondMessenger click here.

To join the GardenMessenger gardening community
click here

To visit the SeedMessenger seed exchange web-site
click here

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