By Chelle Cordero
Add an intriguing focal point to your lawn, garden, entryway or even a wall in your home with one of the many varieties of water features.
Water features can be freestanding birdbaths, fountains, hanging wall fountains, cascading falls, koi ponds or even pools. Ideally, your water addition will have running water to keep it fresh and mosquito-free.
When choosing the kind of feature you would like to add, consider pets, children and wildlife, such as birds and squirrels. Be sure to check with your local municipality for ordinances, which might affect what you can install, where and any regulations regarding plumbing or electricity. Some towns require licensed electricians to install the wiring for a fountain.
You can purchase ready-made water features, statues and fountains that merely need installation, or you can design and build a delightful water feature yourself. Work within your budget. Decide where you want the feature to be and what purpose you want for it to serve. Do you want it out in front of your home to add an eye-catching and aesthetic value, or would you like it in your backyard, where the soft tinkle of flowing water will add to the relaxing atmosphere? A pool designed for family dunking would better-suited in a private area, whereas an elaborate fountain statue could be an attractive adornment to the street-side look of your home.
It’s not hard to build your own water feature. After choosing the ideal location, level and dig a hole large enough to bury a small plastic or concrete basin. Pack the soil solidly around the basin so you can be sure it sits level with the ground and no one trips over the edge. Use a small pump, waterproof flowerpot, hose and rocks to build your own fountain and cascading waterfall. You can also purchase a fountain from your local garden store. The colder your climate, the deeper the pond should be to keep it from totally icing during the winter. The bottom surface does not have to be level. It can be dug with a graduated depth.
Even if you would like to eventually add plants or fish, wait a few weeks for the water to normalize and become a hospitable environment. Make sure that you sink a large enough basin to accommodate any fish or plants you will want to include. Be aware of your seasonal weather changes when deciding what fish or flora you want to include. Pumps should not be run in freezing temperatures, and there are fish and plant foods that work best in specific climates. Floating pond deicers can be used to keep a pond from completely freezing over.
Another attractive feature is to hang a chain from the rain gutter of your home and allow the rainwater to drip down into a flowerpot or other receptacle, but be careful not to allow the collected water to stagnate; use it to water flower beds in drier weather.
Water conditioners are available, which will help keep odors down, reduce algae and deter mosquito larvae. Running your pump constantly will help to keep the water circulated and oxygenated. Oxygen in the water is necessary to maintain floral or fish life. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the pump or fountain, and remember to wipe the pump periodically to keep it free of deposits. It is also important to keep the fountain or pond clear of debris, such as leaves, twigs and other refuse that could break down in the water and clog the system.
Rather than install a traditional reinforced pool for family fun, consider digging a natural man-made swimming hole. Dig a hole large enough to swim in with sloping slides to allow easy walk-in access, and line the bottom with synthetic liner or bentonite clay. Using a small pump will help to circulate the water, but have a certified electrician install the wiring. Place plants in a shallow, rimmed ledge next to the swimming area, and use a pump to circulate the water. The plants’ roots will help to naturally filter the water without the need for heavy chemicals. Meanwhile, the family swimming hole will blend naturally into your landscape.