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Tips from a water-garden expert

Posted: May 21, 2010 11:16 p.m.
Updated: May 22, 2010 4:55 a.m.

More people are staying home and enjoying their yards these days, and with that, many are considering putting in a water garden or koi pond.

While the thought of doing so may be a little daunting to those new to the art, if they are given the right information and guidance, it is really pretty easy. A properly set up pond is easier to maintain than a lawn. It also uses far less water.

Mosquitoes: Some people are concerned about mosquitoes breeding in the pond. However, ponds can be the best defense against mosquitoes because the fish in the pond will eat mosquito larvae.

Concrete or pond liner: Neither a concrete pond or a pond liner is a wrong choice - but pond liners eliminate cracking problems that can happen with concrete. A tree root can grow 40 feet and end up under a concrete pond, cracking the pond.

Filters and pumps: The choices in filters and pumps can be confusing. Do you need expensive equipment, or can you just use plants to clean your pond? The key to ponds is balance. Using a bigger filter means you do not need as many plants, and you can have more koi (or other fish). More plants means you do not need a large filter. An all natural pond, with only plants, works well too, but go easy on the fish.
For most, a combination of both plants and filtration works best. This might be a 30 percent to 50 percent coverage of plants and a pump/filter system that turns the water over one to two times each hour.

Water: Can you just add water from the tap? Yes. Just remember to use a product to remove chlorine and chloramines from the water.

Koi: Can koi be added to ponds with plants? Yes, of course. It is best to add smaller koi at the same time you add plants. In this way the fish will become accustomed to having plants and not damage the plants. If an established pond with large koi has plants added, it may be necessary to rotate plants out of the pond until the fish get used to them. Also, adding lettuce to the pond will distract them from the plants. Koi love to eat romaine lettuce - and watermelon as well.

Plants: Water lilies can live four to five feet underwater but do best in full sun at depths of 18 to 30 inches. Bog plants do best in water that is no more than two inches over the top of their pots.

Aquatic plants do best when potted. The plants are easier to fertilize in pots and to remove when cleaning the pond. Use a heavy clay and decomposed granite soil. All plants help to balance a pond because the plants use the same nutrients as algae, starving out the algae.

These are just a few quick thoughts from fielding questions about ponds for 30 years. Water gardening has been a love and a passion. It is great to see the art passed on.

Santa Clarita Water Gardens is located at 16528 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Call (661) 298-1827 for information.


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