Posted on April 30, 2014
Some of the coolest trends and ideas in gardening that have come out in the past few years have had to do with making gardening more accessible to those that, for a variety of reasons, aren’t able to have a traditional garden. Primarily, these have to do with a lack of space, having no outdoor space, being a renter, being on a conservative budget, and difficulties with the physical labor or time involved in keeping an outdoor garden. Most gardeners have to deal with one and likely more of these obstacles to do what they love, and as a result, have gotten pretty innovative with containers.
As our post about DIY container gardening will show you, there’s basically nothing you can’t do with a good container, and it’s allowing a lot of gardeners to embrace their hobby despite these challenges. Take water gardening, for example. Installing a garden pond is impossible if you don’t have a yard, and the liner and materials required can get pretty pricey pretty fast. For that matter, digging the hole for that liner is amazingly taxing, even for a small pond. But, a container pond eliminates the need for digging, cuts out some expensive equipment, and can be done even if you don’t have a yard. Renters can have all of the relaxation and beauty of a garden water feature, and will be able to take it with them if they move. Those without a lot of time to tinker with an involved in-ground water garden will appreciate how much easier it is to maintain a container pond.
A container pond, sometimes called a patio pond, starts with a sturdy water-tight container. Just like with container plantings, you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to what kind of container you can use for your little pond. First, you’ll need to consider the size that’s most convenient for you; a container water garden can be as small as a table top fountain or much, much bigger. Consider the size of the space you have, and how manageable you want your pond to be—a large patio pond is going to be extremely heavy and hard to move, and it might require more attention or cause more mess during maintenance than a smaller pond. Second, you’ll need to figure out if your chosen container can retain water. The material has to be very sturdy—a gallon of water is well over eight pounds. If you’re using something that’s holding ten gallons, like the smallest sizes of commercially available patio pond containers, that means it is supporting quite a bit of weight despite appearing small. You’ll also need to make sure it won’t leak. Ceramic planters make excellent ponds, but they do have to be sealed on the inside. Look for ceramic pots that have been completely glazed on the inside, or seal it yourself using a waterproofing liquid. You can also line the inside of your container with a small piece of pond liner or PVC. You will also need to keep this in mind if considering a whiskey barrel container.
Next, decide if you want a fountain or a trickle in your pond. Having a little fountain in your pond will mean installing a pump and tubing. No worries, though. Small submersible fountain pumps can be very inexpensive and easy to install, but your pond will need to be relatively close to an outlet to power the pump. You can even look for fountain kits that will include a pump and tubing as well as your fountain. Adjustable fountains that rest on the rims of container ponds are a great option, or you could attempt to make your own fountain, as some gardeners have, out of inexpensive bamboo shoots and twine. If you want to avoid the expense or hassle of dealing with pumps and filters and fountains altogether, you can still have a successful water garden. Just keep an eye on the water—water that isn’t circulating can become a mosquito breeding ground or can become stagnant. If you’d like to add fish to your pond, it is advisable that you include a pump and filter in your pond. They will keep your water clean and oxygenated, and your fish will be much healthier. On a side note, please be sure that your pond is big enough to accommodate fish, and consider whether or not you’ll need to or be able to bring them inside for the winter.
Make sure you’ve cleaned all of your equipment thoroughly before you start putting things together. Just give your container, tubes, fountain, and pump a good scrub with water. Avoid using any soaps or detergent—you don’t want any of that in your pond.
Now, the fun stuff. What decorative elements do you want in your pond? You can put sand, gravel, or river rock in the bottom, and include larger decorative rocks. You can add driftwood, shells, or other decoration (don’t forget to give these a good rinsing, also). Arrange your hardscape items, and fill your pond with water!
You will also have to choose what plants to put in it. If you want to know more about the planting and care of pond plants, check out our post on water gardening. In a nutshell, not all pond plants grow the same, and you’ll need to be aware of their light, space, and planting depth requirements the same as you would planting in the soil. You will also need to trim, repot, and fertilize them as you would your houseplants. We recommend adding a pond water conditioner before planting to remove harsh metals and chlorine, and make the water safe for your plants.
When it comes to routine maintenance of your container pond, there really isn’t much. If you aren’t using a filter or pump, it’s as simple as keeping the water level up, and draining some of it off and replacing it once in a while when there gets to be a build-up of algae or decayed plant material on the sides or bottom of the container. If you are using a filter or pump, you’ll need to occasionally scrub it to get any gunk off and rinse out the filter. Just keep your water clean and take care of your potted aquatic plants.