Containers Create Mini-ponds for Small Spaces

Containers Create Mini-ponds for Small Spaces

Here in the Rogue Valley we take August heat for granted. But there's no sense in entirely retreating indoors. If you have enough space for a 5-gallon pot, a glazed ceramic pot or even a waterproof wooden barrel, a small water garden will preserve at least the illusion of coolness.

T.J. Thompson, manager of AquaSerene in Ashland, says he's built lots of 5-gallon water gardens, but a larger pot might mean less maintenance year round, and a lower risk of evaporation damage. With small pots, watering must happen on a regular basis and these small gardens must be brought inside for the winter. That's not all bad, since you can set up a small T5 fluorescent light and the plants should perform well indoors, he says. Today, those lights come in both tube and bulb form.

Seal a ceramic pot's drainage hole with a rubber plug sealed with silicone and you're ready to start. The simplest gardens are made by setting the water plants into the container still in their pots, says Dennis Trost, co-owner of Medford's In Thee Garden. Stack them on bricks to bring them to the correct height and add floating plants. Voilà, water garden.

In larger containers, you can use pond soil. "It's different than regular soil, more like silt," says Thompson. "It better encapsulates the roots and protects them against disease. It's what's been naturally found in river and pond soils from the sediments that have filtered down." Trost says to add a filter to prevent that soil from souring, or use aquatic soil, a ceramic-like product which won't cloud the water.

Many of the beautiful plants that thrive in larger ponds will enhance your micro water garden: water lilies, cannas, iris, horsetail, water hyacinths, umbrella palm and the noble lotus. Maintaining their health should be easy with the addition of a time-release nitrogen fertilizer in tablet form. "If leaves are yellowing or the plant stops growing, it probably could use a little nitrogen," Thompson says.

Plants for sun, part-sun and shade are available, so make sure you know the conditions for your garden before you make a selection.

Add a new dimension to cool and keep the water moving by attaching a small decorative fountain to the container. Draw the water up from the pot and send it cascading back in, says Thompson. This increases the amount of oxygen in the water, always healthy for plants. In small containers, water filtration is usually not needed, although protecting your pump from debris will prolong its life. Place it in a PVC container covered with cheesecloth or check with pond stores for filter medium. As the container size increases to over 15 gallons, a pump usually becomes necessary.

That will prevent mosquito larvae from populating your mini-pond. (Use mosquito dunks if the water is still.) Since you may want to leave larger containers outside during winter, a good-sized pump will keep the water from freezing and damaging ceramic pots, says Trost. Most water plants will survive our winters. Remember, no fertilizer is needed during dormancy. The other option is to drain your micro pond and protect your ceramic pots once weather dips below freezing.

Add another dimension of interest with floating spheres in Medford. Handblown glass spheres are available at local glass shops, and garden centers have a choice of decorating items that will give your pond individuality. Pumice stones can be drilled so water bubbles up from them, says Trost. "It's up to your imagination."

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