Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
May, 2005
Regional Report

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This waterfall actually prevents erosion of the slope and provides a rock channel for overflow.

Water Wise

With record rainfall in parts of our region, it may seem laughable to write about intentionally adding a water feature to your garden. Yet dealing with water, even enjoying it, is essential. The sound of water muffles the world, and as we live and work closer together, it becomes more important to create sensory retreats in the garden.

Creating Water Ways
Let's face it, at some point, maybe even regularly during the rainy season, you're going to have large amounts of water in your garden. Know this, and plan ahead to take advantage of the wealth of wise water strategies currently popular in landscape design. Yards used to have ditches, simple swales, or deep channels to carry the water away. But intense and close development puts strain on the infrastructure, and at times the water simply cannot drain away.

This situation has led to more widespread use of the dry creek bed in home landscapes. In truth, these are water features -- ditches cut so they can be lined with large rocks and filled with smaller, rounder ones. When rainfall or local flooding overwhelms the soil's ability to absorb it, the flow is directed into the creek bed. By staging the bed so it drops from one level to another, greater amounts of water can be accommodated, pools and waterfalls are created, and the bed becomes a working part of the backyard habitat.

Even if you don't have a problem with excess water, you may want to incorporate a water feature into your garden. It could be a fountain on the balcony or deck, a small pond and waterfall in the back garden, or a reflecting pool with fountains that fills the front of your property. Because they have moving water, all are wise options for the coast and tropics.

Keeping a Clean and Healthy Water Feature
The most important consideration when setting up a water feature is balancing the mini-ecosystem. While algae is less prevalent in moving water, it can still crowd the view and stifle the plants below, especially in sunny sites. Be sure to include plants that grow underwater, some to line the pond and shade it, and enough to float and cover 60 percent of the water's surface. Once the pond is set up, the key is patience. It may take several months to balance out, and no magic product exists to instantly solve the problem.

Stagnant water is the source of mosquito infestations and must be avoided. If floodwaters stand or ponds are poorly aerated, it's only a matter of days before mosquito larvae hatch and your family is threatened. Keep mosquito dunks (containing the bacterial insecticide B.t.) on hand to kill the larvae, or keep the water moving with a pump -- well worth the investment if it prevents mosquito populations from building in your water feature.

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