The weather has been unusually warm around here. All this warm weather is making me really impatient for spring and summer to get down and dirty in my garden. So here is a dose of flower power for you guys, the most beautiful thing from my garden last year.
As a kid my mom always used to tell stories about her childhood home. The home they lived in had 3 ponds, ya 3! Back in those days people in Kerala had to rely on their own water supply. Every house in that area had ponds instead of wells. Back to the story…3 ponds; 1 for drinking and cooking, 1 for bathing and swimming, and 1 for washing the dishes. Isn’t that super cool?
Ever since, I have admired homes with water gardens and wanted to live in one with at least a pond (yet to happen). Finally when we moved to the new house, I was all set to put in a pond. A pond in an itsy bitsy backyard? Not very practical. Time to reevaluate priorities; after pondering quite a bit on why I need a pond the answer was surprisingly simple. I wanted to grow water lilies and lotuses. A water garden! That’s what I wanted not a pond! On to Google; after some thorough research and a couple of trips to Lowe’s and Big Lots I had my own piece of water lily action.
Update as of May 2020 – Here’s the video tutorial of how to set up the water garden.
MaterialsContainer – $20 – Big Lots Water Lillies – $3.98 – Lowe’s ($1.99 each on clearence) Water Lettuce – $1.98 – Lowe’s ($0.99 each on clearence) Canna Lilly – $2.00 – Home Depot ( bought a 5 bulb pack for $5. Used the others in the garden) Potting Soil – Already had Fish – $0.75 – Walmart Fish Food – $2.00 – Walmart (still has so much left over) Fish Net ( helps when changing the water) – Already had ( we had tried raising a gold fish earlier so bought it then from Walmart of $1) Mosquito Dunks – $5.99 – Walmart ( again have enough left over to sustain 50 water gardens)
Total – $36.70
Here is how you go about setting up water gardens:
- Pick a sunny spot. Tropical plants love sun.
- Decide on your container. A medium to large size will be better. Mine was a plastic wine barrel planter.
- Select your plants. To add interest, use plants with different visual heights. Use marginals like canna lilies, dwarf papyrus, taro for height. The water lilies or lotuses of course. Their leaves will cover much of the water surface from sunlight preventing algae growth. Don’t forget the floaters; water hyacinth, water lettuce. Absolutely love the latter but couldn’t get it to grow big in mine. May be the spot as too sunny. You could add cascading plants like water mint too that would fall over the container’s edge. I didn’t add it to mine as I felt that my container was already getting pretty crowded.
- A water pump kit to keep the water moving and to stop mosquitoes breeding in your lil water heaven. You need the pond water pump variety, which are expensive. I tried using an aquarium pump, didn’t work :(. Next option was to use mosquito dunk.
- Looked like it was working. They say it is perfectly safe for everyone including fish but my kids always put their hands in the water. So wanted something natural and went with fishes,$0.25 cent mollies from Walmart. Worked like a charm.
- Plant your marginals and lilies in pots that will fit into the container. You can add some height to your lilies by placing the pots on rocks. I used the throwaway pots that you get when you buy plants from stores. Already had them in the garage ( I never throw these away not sure why) and no one was going to see it under the water. You need real potting/garden soil for this stuff not the peat mossy kind. Or else the soil will just float on the water. I skimped on buying aquatic fertilizer and just added in some Miracle-Gro to my soil.
- Add some rocks as the top layer in your pots. Again to stop the soil from floating to the top. I just picked up some small stones from the yard.
- Arrange the pots in the container.
- Add water, your floaters, and your mosquito dunk.
- If you are adding fish, wait for 2-3 days so that the chlorine in the water settles down/ evaporates.
- You are good to go! Wait patiently for your plants to fill out.
I think since I skimped on fertilizer and didn’t start the project until July I had to wait for 2 months for the first Lilly to appear. The Cannas started blooming early though. The only good thing about waiting till July to start the water garden was that all the plants were on clearance and I got them dirt cheap. All in all, the Cannas bloomed 3-4 times and lilies thrice in the two months of the growing season. We had 3 mollies Speedy, Grace, and Shine and tons of fry in there.
Update: I was really lazy about winterizing the whole thing and we had an unusually cold fall, even snow in October! Sadly all the fish died before I could get to them. Since then I have emptied out the container and stored the plants in the garage. Again not the right way. Should have taken the bulbs/ roots out of the pot and stored it in a brown bag. I just stuck the whole pot in my garage. Keeping my fingers crossed for spring. Hopefully will see some signs of growth!
Maintenance: 3 mollies and tons of fry can poop like crazy. So had to change the water may be once in 10 days. It would get pretty murky by then. No high-fi methods here, just make sure to pour 1/3rd of the old water back into the pond so the fish do not get water change shock ( is that even a word?). Feed the fish once in 2 days. The algae was not at all a problem once I had the fish in. If you are using only the mosquito dunk then you will have to clean the container every time you change the water too.
Lesson learnt : I think if I had fertilized more aggressively then I would have gotten more flowers. Have to sneak in one more shot of my pretty water lily!
What do you guys thinks? Isn’t seeing these beauties on your porch/deck worth the effort?
Here is an update of this year’s water garden.