Water feature design and maintenance

Water features can make properties inviting, but add another level of maintenance to landscaping tasks.

FALLBROOK – Homeowners can employ many different design techniques to create one-of-a-kind properties. Adding a water feature to a landscape is one such technique.

Water gardens, koi ponds or fountains have been home landscaping trends for the past several years. Although water features can add an element of relaxation to landscapes, such features require maintenance to keep them attractive and running properly.

The right design

Homeowners should create a water feature design that is fitting with the scale and style of their homes while also keeping their lifestyles in mind. Ponds are popular water features and, like pools, come in both inground and above-ground styles. Above-ground ponds are easier and faster to build than inground ponds and may be safer options for parents of young children. Streams and waterfalls also are popular and can make use of natural variations in property grading. Fountains can be freestanding structures or a component of a pond or another body of water.

Recognize that the location of the water feature can impact its maintenance. For example, a fountain or pond located directly under deciduous trees will require more frequent cleaning to remove leaf and tree debris. Ponds that receive direct sunlight may have more pronounced algae growth. Homeowners should work with a skilled water garden expert in planning the feature’s design and location with safety and upkeep in mind.

Maintain pumps

Water features require the constant flow of water to prevent stagnation and proliferation of mosquito and other insect larvae. That requires a pump to push the water around. According to Grounds Maintenance, a green industry professionals resource, the pump should be securely situated on level ground so that vibrations will not cause the pump to move around and eventually loosen fittings.

Even pumps protected by an intake filter or screen can become clogged with debris. It’s necessary to routinely inspect the screen and the pump filter and remove any obstructions. Otherwise, the pump motor can overheat and malfunction. Keep in mind that debris also may include animal life, such as frogs, snakes, turtles Ñ anything that may be drawn to the water feature.

Finding balance

The wrong balance of conditions in the water can cause problems. According to the experts at This Old House, which offers ideas and advice for old house enthusiasts, algae can be the root of all evil in garden features. Controlling nutrients, which may involve watching the levels of nitrogen compounds and phosphorous, will help control the algae.

Avoid locating the water feature where lawn and garden runoff will find its way into the water. Filtration and routine testing of water levels also can help. Water features that are not meant to become wildlife habitats may benefit from a mild sanitizer to keep algae at bay. A thorough cleaning of liners at the end of the season to eliminate materials that build up on the bottom can help, too.

Winter preparation

When colder weather arrives, homeowners must decide if they want to keep the water feature running or shut it down. Many experts say smaller ponds should be drained, cleaned and left empty until spring. This is also a time to cut back the dead plant material and remove any tropicals from the water. Remove pumps and drain water feature lines so they can overwinter without freezing.

Water features can make properties inviting. But such features add another level of maintenance to landscaping tasks.

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