Water features are an attractive custom touch to any garden. Stock image

SPRING IN THE GARDEN: Must-haves for the pond or your water features

Ellen Presley

Special to The Record

Research has shown that being near water can create a long list of benefits, such as lowering our stress and anxiety levels, increasing an overall sense of well-being and happiness, and lowering our heart and breathing rate.

The sound of water induces a flood of neurochemicals that increase blood flow to the brain and heart which induces relaxation.

You can create your own water feature in your garden or on your deck. It can be an elaborate pond or simply a large pot filled with water. What makes them interesting is what plants you use to decorate and keep them algae free. Try not to get caught up in the latest gadgets or gizmos, by knowing the basics of pond dynamics you easily create your own natural biological ecosystem.

Many plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, but too much light increases algae growth. Remember ‘balance.’ Once you have sunlight and a pond remember these key elements.

Oxygenators: These are the plants that often lie below the surface of the water and keep the water clean and provide oxygen for the plants and fish. Whereas filters can remove harmful ammonia from fish waste and plants ,which decay into nitrite, it does not remove the nitrate from the water, which can be the cause of excessive algae growth. The best way to remove nitrates and phosphates is with plants. Most aquatic plants will have a beneficial effect on the water quality and clarity. Parrot’s feather and mare’s tail are excellent examples and add beauty and texture.

Fish: use goldfish. They are inexpensive, hardy and you don’t have to feed them. They will eat the insects, mosquito larvae, and algae. If you feed your fish you will create too much waste and your fish become tame with predators. Shubunkins, sarasa, fantails and comets are all lovely additions.

Floaters: These are plants that provide shade to keep the water temperature cool for the fish and prevent the sun from causing algae. You should have 60-75 per cent of your surface area covered. Lilies, which you place deep in your water, have outstanding flowers. Their roots feed on nitrates and provide shelter for baby fish. Water hyacinths, water lettuce, salvinia, duckweed and floating heart are all amazing and add wonderful texture and design. Don’t get too carried away as they do multiply and throw any excess in your compost.

Marginals: This is where your creativity can go crazy. These plants can go along the water edge or beside the pond. Cattails, water calla, purple taros, towering cannas, umbrella papyrus and irises are fantastic choices. This is where individuality and your own aesthetic taste come in: play with colour, texture and heights. For something a little different try fibre optic grass – really cool looking.

A few cautionary notes: Don’t use algaecides or anything metal as it can kill the fish. And don’t keep changing the water as it adds too many minerals and chloramines.

When you create that perfect balance you attract wonderful creatures like dragonflies and frogs. Soon you will be relaxing by your own oasis and letting Mother Earth treat you to another level of her magic.

Happy gardening.

Ellen Presley is the owner of Anderton Nursery. Her columns appear weekly in the Comox Valley Record throughout the spring months.

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