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Activities / Colorado Livin' / Uncategorized

Make a Splash with Water Gardens on the Cheap!

The sound of water gently trickling into a pond is pure tranquility and absolute beauty. There is something so calming and peaceful about a gentle fountain of water bubbling into a pond filled with green plants and even fish! It’s something you can find only in garden centers and the homes of those with gardeners to care for it, right? Surprise! Anyone can have a water garden in short order and even on a small budget.

Zanza and her husband Harry have three water features in the yard of their Aurora yard with the most expensive and largest pond having cost about $250 in total. Neither one of them set out to have a lavish pond with it’s perceived huge amount of unkeep – especially Harry who came home to find a hole dug in the garden!

Zanza got it in her head one day that a small pond would be a beautiful addition to the garden. Not really knowing the in’s and out’s of the process but with a whole lot of determination she convenience her nephew and his friend to dig the hole. Several hours and a 7-foot deep hole later, Harry came home and knew something was amiss! He told the boys that they weren’t going home until the hole was filled. They filled and he went to Wal-Mart to buy a small pre-formed pond liner.

The pre-formed liner required a hole only a few feet deep. The liner and the pump were purchased new and was the biggest expense of the project. Pumps can be purchased for as little as $30 and go up from there depending on the size of the pond.

The rocks around the pond were brought from Harry’s property in West Cliff, CO. The fountain portion is metal cylinder normally used as a fence post and the wood along the edge were pruned from their own tree.

Plants are a must in the pond to oxygenate the water and keep it clean. Zanza has planted cattail and parrot’s feather in pots sunk into the pond along with floating fairy moss and hyacinth. The fairy moss is also a food source for her fish and it needs to be replenished often. She buys it by the scoopful on the cheap from Nick’s Garden Center.

Living in the pond are 10 goldfish. Mr. Limpet – named after the 1964 character played by the immeasurable Don Knotts – was their first fish and has survived many a dramatic adventure, taking after his name sake, to be the largest fish in the pond. Harry walked into the backyard to find a young Mr. Limpet half way down a snakes mouth, tail fin erratically waving for help! Now a renowned snake-wrestler, Harry valiantly saved the gill-ed critter from the clutches of death. Years later Mr. Limpet has grown up and his beautiful feather-like tail gently fans out as he glides through the pond.

The fish come from Wall-Mart, too, also on the cheap. Purchased for a mere $0.25 a piece, they are all living the high life in a backyard pond.

A small heater is necessary for the fish to survive the winter. Once the temperatures go below freezing the heater comes on. The fountain continues to run during the cold months to maintain the oxygen levels in the pond. In the winter, the fish stay to the bottom of the pond among the plants and a sunken stone tube that was made to hold a garden gazing ball (yes, a Goodwill find).

In the front of her house, Zanza has put together two ponds for just a few dollars – really, only a few dollars.

The trough along the front walkway was purchased at the Goodwill for a few dollars. The little pump was purchased new but was very inexpensive. The fountain feature was created from scrap pieces that Harry had in the garage and welded together in the time it took Zanza to make lunch – from snake-wrestler to expert welder and everything in between, Harry is the handiest guy to have around!

The plants were purchased as small seedlings for a few dollars. Zanza found the little metal turtle at, you guessed it, Goodwill.

Along the front sidewalk, the smallest pond greets visitors and passer-by – which can include deer on occasion. The fountain tube is a recycled pipe that was found at a gas station. The plastic bowl serving as pond liner was found at The Goodwill for $5.00. An amazing find on Craig’s List, the pump was free! Zanza configured a rubber band around the pump housing to hold it together and get it running. Entire cost for the small pond…$8.00. The other $3.00 were used to purchase the used metal chicken sculpture.

Each spring Zanza cleans out the ponds. She puts the fish in bucket, drains the water and gently wipes down the sides of each pond careful to clean off all the algae. The filters on each pond are cleaned once a year as well.

With minimal but regular maintenance along with vigilance and quick reactions when fish are on the snakes menu, the ponds have been a delight for Zanza and Harry, their dogs and all their guests.

For inspiration and directions on how to create your own water garden check out books from your local library. Water Gardens in a Weekend: Projects for 1, 2, or 3 Weekends by Peter Robinson provides lists of suitable liners, plants and designs that can be make quickly and, with a little creativity and an eye for materials at second-hand stores, can be made on a budget. Of course there is a multitude of websites and YouTube videos available for the browsing online.

Need even more ideas? Then check out the 2011 Colorado Parade of Ponds August 27 – 28, 2011 where you can tour 40 ponds throughout the Denver Metro Area from small scale to grand scale. Tickets are on sale now and proceeds benefit local charitable organizations.

Heather Ruch
Author: Heather Ruch

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  1. I am bookmarking this post and forwarding it to my husband. I’ve ALWAYS wanted a water garden but never thought we could afford it!!!

  2. I’m also bookmarking this, and keeping my eyes peeled for materials needed!

    Thanks for the post. Can’t wait to build my own water feature. 🙂

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