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Backyard Habitat: Create a Garden Pool

Creating a garden pond to beautify your landscape and provide habitat for wildlife is a project that's easy and fun.

This outdoor project is similar to redecorating your kitchen and bathroom and starts with doing your homework to help you make decisions.

Seeing is believing
The first step is to look at a variety of different garden pools and fountains.

Browse through water garden catalogs and books, check out nurseries and home improvement centers, talk to local garden club members and visit local water gardens. If you're not sure where to find these resources, let your fingers do the walking through your area phone book and the Internet.

Things to consider
After you've seen different garden pools and fountains, you'll realize there are a lot of questions to answer before the work ever starts. The following list will help you get your thoughts in order:

Which pond style is for you?
Here's the fun part of almost any project, imagining what it will look like when it's done. Do you like more formal reflecting pools, fountains and symmetrical landscapes created from brick, cut stone, marble or ceramic tile? Or do you prefer the more natural, casual look of an informal pool. An abstract-shaped pool that blends into the environment is the perfect oasis for frogs, birds and butterflies.

Garden pools don't necessarily have to be in-ground. Above-ground pools are a great alternative if digging will be difficult, the water table is high in your area or you want something that's more at eye level when you're sitting down enjoying it.

Another style decision is what plants to feature in your garden pond. There are many choices--from floaters (think water lily) or shallow water plants (think iris) or submerged plants (think milfoil). What you plant depends on the look you want to achieve, how much time you have for maintenance and your interest in attracting wildlife.

Adding fish to the environment will make your pond sparkle! Before you decide to include fish, understand that pond size and depth, water temperature and availability of shade are important factors in fish survival.

Other pond features to consider are fountains, streams and waterfalls. The sound of moving water whispers pure relaxation and is a good way to lure songbirds to your garden.

Where will you put your pond?
Ponds can go anywhere, in the yard, on a deck or patio. Do you want to see it from your kitchen window, or do you want a private place tucked away in the corner of your garden? Don't forget to think about the need to locate it close to electrical outlets and a water source. Before you start construction, see if there are any city and county ordinances that would apply to installing water gardens.

How large do you want your pond?
A big pond could overwhelm a small yard and also pinch your money and time budget. On the other hand, a small pond could get lost in a big yard. One part of the equation that's easy to forget is how much time do you have for weekly pond maintenance. The bigger the pond, the larger the commitment.

What can you afford?
Ponds can range from something as simple as a container water garden to an elaborate pool with streams and waterfalls. Pond building materials you may invest in include a liner, pump, biofilter, stone edging, fountain head and plants. Check a catalog, Internet site or store for different levels of quality and prices before you write that check.

Should you go it alone or hire the job out?
This isn't really one question but a series of questions. To find the answer, you'll need figure all your costs in advance, decide how much time you have to devote to the project and evaluate your strength and construction skills. A more elaborate pond may require electrical work, fountain installation or masonry. It may make sense to do part of the project yourself and hire someone to help you with the more difficult tasks.

Once you've thought these options through, you'll be ready to tackle the next round of decisions such as what type of liner, edging, filters and pumps are best for your project.

If you answer these questions and plan ahead, creating a garden pond is a project that's fun to work on and will be a beautiful haven you can enjoy for years to come.



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