Documents: Special Interest: Water Gardening:

The Joys Of Water Gardening
by Carole McCollum
October 22, 2000

1pt.gif (86 bytes)Water gardening came to me by chance. An old wheelbarrow was lying in the yard, a tripping hazard, and ready to go to the dump, when inspiration hit me. Take the legs and handles off, fill the holes, and use the rest of the wheelbarrow for a water accent in the garden. A few coats of dark blue enamel paint later, voila!… a new highlight in my garden. Of course, who could resist a few goldfish for the water… and some water plants. The goldfish lasted until the first really good rainfall, and then swam their way to sure death. At least, that's what I assume happened, because I never saw them again. A solution was obviously needed, so holes were drilled at the top edge in the old barrow, and a rubber pipe installed which, everything going right, should draw off the excess water in a heavy downpour. So off to the pet store I head again, feeling quite cocky that I had been able to solve the problem. Two bright gold shiny new goldfish were soon making their home in my garden. One week later, my not-so-shiny goldfish were floating on the surface, and no amount of resuscitation could help.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)This time, it was off to the library to read up on ponds and fish. As there were only a few small fish in the pond, it didn't seem that overcrowding was the problem. What about water temperature? It had been pretty warm the last few days, and although there was a tree overhead, the area did get a substantial amount of sun. Check the temperature of the water - 75° - no problem. Acidity, Ph? (new words in my vocabulary) - a test kit showed no problem.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Off to the pet store again. Two more shiny goldfish (the price went down - quantity purchases you know). Everything done right I hope. Floated them in the pond encased in their plastic bag for several hours, just like the book said. Checked the temperature in the pond. Checked the ph and water quality. Somehow, the concept that fish need oxygen still bypassed my brain. There was no pump, no aerator, but somehow I had faith that these fish would survive. Of course, this was not to be.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)I considered plants. Nice green plants, that need only a little stone to hold them in place, a little sun to grow in, and not much else. Attractive, but not fulfilling. Fish were still the answer.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)The wheelbarrow ended up in the dump, and I purchased my first piece of pond liner. Digging my way around tree roots, I managed to carve out an area that was roughly the size of the liner and which my calculations figure would result in a pond approximately 200 gallons in size. Some nice Lake Superior rocks graced the edges, and a small waterfall area was put in place, ready for the small pump and filter I had purchased.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Off to the pet store. They know me by my first name now. This time, I am convinced by the staff that some Japanese carp (Koi) would be more appropriate, and hardy for my pond. They are just as pretty, or prettier than the goldfish I have been buying, but more costly. Considering my previous history with goldfish, I am concerned about the cost, but decide to make the investment anyway. There are few people at this time putting in ponds in Thunder Bay, where the temperature drops to -30° in the winter, and spring and summer are, well, "short". People look at me oddly when I tell them what I am doing. There is no one to turn to for advice, and the concept of the Internet is just in the fledgling days. I decide to wing it.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)One month later, and I still have fish and plants. Living in harmony. I am amazed every time I walk over to the pond and hear the running water, and see my fish swimming about. They are growing! It is Fall and my thoughts are turning to winter. Obviously, they cannot stay outside - I couldn't find any literature that indicated fish could be fast-frozen and revived in the Spring.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)I am at the pet store again. Now they know me by my first name and my chequeing account number. An aquarium ( a small one, mind you), a new filter and an air pump, some chlorine remover, gravel, and so on are purchased. To top things off, a net to catch those elusive fish so that they can begin life in their new winter home.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)It's Spring now, the fish have made it through the winter and have been growing. The pond has thawed out, new plants purchased, and a new cycle is ready to start. I can't imagine being without water in my garden now, and I enjoy sitting on the bench and listening to the water, and feeding the fish. I feel a strong satisfaction having made it through this trial year and into the next, and of course, I can see the outline of my new and larger pond, complete with a small stream, bridge, and waterfall!
1pt.gif (86 bytes)The pond did grow - now 5 years later to 1800 gallons, complete with bridge, stream, and several very large Koi. As the pond grows, so does the need for more indoor equipment to keep the fish over the winter. A pond requires a commitment to both the fish and plants on an ongoing basis, but no more than a flower garden. Ponds have become popular, even in our Northern area, and some of the knowledge I have acquired through trial and error has been passed on to others who are building their first ponds. They will probably be saying wonderful things about me when they find out what an addictive hobby this can become. Needless to say, the pet store is still doing well.

Carole McCollum is an avid " ponder" living in Northern Ontario and maintains a personal website for those who seek information on establishing and maintaining ponds.

Visit Caroles site at

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row