No-Fuss Water Gardens
About 15 years ago, garden water features burst on the scene. Everyone with the space and means dug up their backyard and installed a pond. However, not everyone wants to mess with liners, pumps, filters and electricity. Also, nobody aspires to become a municipal mosquito control officer. Good news – a tabletop water feature allows you to grow water plants without all the work of ponds.
Choose a waterproof container at least 6 inches deep. If small enough, sit it on an outdoor table in the sun. Larger containers look good on the ground.
If using terra cotta, seal the pot. To waterproof anything with a drainage hole, cover the hole on the outside with tape then fill the inside hole with plumber’s putty. Pick a location for your container, and fill with water. Getting this sequence right saves your back later.
Now comes the fun part – choosing your plants. As with most containers, pick a variety of foliage shapes and sizes. Full-service nurseries offer a water plant section to facilitate shopping. Read the labels and choose plants that work in your water depth.
You will need at least one floating plant, but more are better. Algae grow slower in shaded water. Try water lettuce and water hyacinth, two fast-growing floaters. Just toss them on top of the water.
Your other plants come in pots. Water plants actually benefit from clay soil, which tends to stay put in the pot instead of floating to the surface and muddying the water. To be on the safe side, cover the surface with small stones. If the pot floats, add some heavier stones to weigh it down.
Water plants come in different sizes. If the pot is too low in the water, use a brick or inverted pot as a stand to lift it closer to the surface.
Look for bog lily, papyrus, dwarf umbrella palm, variegated umbrella grass, canna lily, Japanese iris and Louisiana iris.
You can add a pump if you want to mess with one, but you don’t need one. Yes, algae will grow and turn the water green. Fear not! You can tackle it in two ways.
One, just let it be. Add water when the level drops, but eventually it seems to stabilize on its own.
The second way also helps prevent your water feature from becoming a breeding medium for mosquitoes. About once a week, flood the container with fresh water.
Let it flow over the top, flushing out the green water and mosquito larvae that soon dry up.
Take care when disposing of the plants at the end of the season. Water plants populate many invasive plant lists. Take care when composting them or destroying them by.
Ask the Expert
When do I treat the bagworms on my spruce tree?
Provided we had normal spring weather, treat in late June for central Illinois, adding or subtracting a week for northern and southern Illinois, respectively. For just a few, they don’t have to be treated if they’re low enough on the tree to be removed by hand. Put them in a zip-close bag and throw in the trash, or burn them.
I overheard some gardeners talking about yellow flag. What is it?
The flower Iris pseudacorus, also known as yellow flag, grows in boggy soil and water gardens. The blue form, Iris versicolor, is a little smaller.