Making the most of your pond: fountains, cascades, filters or still water
By Andy McIndoe •
Both still and moving water add magic to any garden. Still water is reflective and changes with the movement of the air, the clouds and the light. A fountain or waterfall will add movement, sound and a different dimension. Many are put off the idea of a fountain or waterfall because of the need for a power supply and the sheer challenge of installing it. Will a fountain pump cost a fortune to run? Is it safe? The idea of engaging a qualified electrician to install it is yet another obstacle. I thought I would try and answer a few commonly asked questions about ponds, fountains, cascades and filters to help you make the right decision.
Do I need a filter and moving water to achieve clear pond water?
The simple answer is no you do not. If you achieve the right balance of plants in your pond then a still pond can be crystal clear. You need marginal plants that grow around the edge, submerged oxygenating plants and water lilies or other subjects with floating leaves. The latter cut out some of the sunlight entering the water and in so doing reduce the growth of algae which make the water go green. Basically a balanced pond is a clear pond.
Do I need a filter if I have fish in the pond?
Again it is all about balance and depends on the size of the pond and the number and type of fish. If you have a large pond with a good balance of plant life and a few goldfish then your water will stay clean and clear without a filter. However the more fish you have the more waste there will be and this will upset the balance resulting in dirty water. If you are keeping Koi carp then most certainly you will need a filter pump to filter the waste out of your pond water. There are various sizes of pump designed for different pond volumes; it is important to choose the right one.
I want to grow water lilies and I would like a fountain. Does that work?
There are many different varieties of water lily; choose one that is right for the size and depth of your pool. Don’t be tempted just to accept a piece that someone offers you if it is too vigorous for your pond. Water lilies do not grow and bloom well in moving water and they do not like the splash from a fountain. One solution would be to leave out the fountain but use an ornament to give you the height of a fountain in the pond, perhaps as part of the grouping with the lilies. This calla lily fountain works well in this formal pond.
However you can have a fountain in the same pond as water lilies providing it is not too vigorous and the fountain spray is falling away from where those lilies are growing.
I would like the sound of moving water but I haven’t got the space for a pond?
As long as you can incorporate a vessel that holds a reasonable volume and depth of water, you can have moving water with the aid of a small pump. There are plenty of self-contained water features available, or you can be innovative and make your own. A small feature pump costs just a few pounds and providing you can site the feature close to the house and a power socket with a little ingenuity you can plug in indoors with the feature outdoors. Feature pumps are designed to deliver just the right amount of water to deliver the effect you are looking for. Providing that the cable is kept intact there is then no need for a qualified electrician. I always recommend using large stones in the container. That way the water stays cleaner and the pump is hidden.
I want to incorporate water into a paved area, so I don’t want plants, or fish?
No problem. Formal pools work particularly well in paved areas and showcase moving water beautifully. To keep the water clean you may need to add an algaecide periodically, but most importantly you need a filter pond pump. This removed the dirt particles and algae leaving you with clean water. It has a strainer cage to allow smaller particles to pass through it and to the filter. Filter pond pumps are fairly easy to maintain but need regular spot cleaning to maintain efficiency. Choose a pump that is large enough to pump sufficient volumes of water to achieve the effect you want without overworking the pump. Conversely do not choose a pump that is too powerful; you may find it difficult to regulate the flow sufficiently.
How do I know what size pump to buy?
A good pond equipment supplier Such as Swell UK will provide an easy to follow guide to calculate the volume of your pond on the website. You will need to know the dimensions of your pond and enter them into the calculator. You also need to know the height you need to raise the water by – whether you are installing a fountain or a cascade. Pond pump specifications tell you the amount of litres per hour pumped and tell you what a pump is used for: from a tiny water feature to a lake. Take a look: http://www.swelluk.com/pond/pond-pumps-62.html. For example, if installing a cascade you need to know the distance from the surface of the pond to the top of the cascade. You need to know the depth and volume of the pond. You also need to decide whether you want a torrent or a trickle. A cascade isn’t difficult to create but it is important to do it carefully so that your pond does not drain when you turn the pump on.
How long will a pond pump last?
A little regular maintenance helps to prolong the life of your pump. All you really need is a screwdriver, a stiff brush, and ideally a hosepipe. You need to remove blanket weed, algae and leaf litter and general slime on a regular basis if your pump is going to operate properly. Manufacturers recommend removing some pumps from ponds in winter; others can be left in place. A lot depends on the climate in your area and the situation of the pond. For example the pump in my rill, which surrounds the terrace by the house has been in situ working day and night all year round for 14 years. We do clean it regularly and it doesn’t push the water anywhere; it just bubbles away in a corner giving the effect and sound of movement.
The rill around my patio adds life and movement to an area of hard landscaping. Originally it was just meant to be a strip of moving water but we did add a few plants and wildlife has settled in. I have newts, frogs and water dwelling insects. Although I have two other ponds this brings water close to the house. The pump is plugged in in the conservatory and I passed the flex through a piece of hosepipe under the gravel. I wouldn’t be without movement in this strip of water: it cost little and delivers so much. Anyone can easily have water in their garden. It gives so much and costs so little.
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