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Pond Design For Planting Aquatic Plants

Pond Design for planting aquatic plants

This article is a guide to creating a pond for planting and for creating the correct levels and planting depths for incorporating aquatic plants into your water garden project, and hopefully will provide you, with  reassurance to developed a happy, healthy pond environment for your plants.

Having been in the water garden trade for over 20 years, it still amazes me every time a customer turns up at my nursery ready for the exciting day of choosing plants for the water garden they have created, only to be disappointed having spent hundreds of pounds and sometimes multiple thousands on a pond, stream or lake! They may have planting plans and lists of plants they would like to incorporate into their project, but quickly find out to their dismay, that the landscaper hadn’t a clue or any knowledge whatsoever for creating a environment for planting aquatic plants! Or even worse, the customer to find out that the endless days of slaving away digging a hole in their back garden is a complete disaster. I’ve seen planting plans and visited lakes and ponds only to bear bad news! Lakes that slope at an angle of 120 degrees down to 40 ft with marginal shelves of 3 ft depth and lined ponds with incorrect planting shelf’s, or none whatsoever and bowl shaped ponds 6 ft deep suitable for growing algae only or maybe some Duckweed!!! It breaks my heart sometimes to bear the news that their dream water garden can only cater for a handful of suitable plants, and on some occasions, NONE! The customer is hugely disappointed! Believe me, there are more rogue landscapers creating unsuitable ponds etc, then there are rogue builders! If you are using a landscaper, my advice to you, is to find out as much information on the landscaper you have chosen for your project, i.e. how long he has been in this particular business, also if he has a portfolio of previous projects he has undertaken, or website with photos and feedback from clients.


Lakes and Natural Ponds

Marginal Planting

Any gradient more than 45 degrees will give you problems when it comes to planting Marginal plants. Ideally, a 30 degree gradient would suit the majority of plants and should continue to a depth of 18 inches as water levels rise and drop throughout the season. So if you are summer planting, shallow growing marginal’s should be planted at least 1 ft above the water line, as they will send down roots to the water level, and deep marginal’s 2-4 inches  as the water level will rise in the winter months. However, in the spring when the water table is high, it is recommended that you should plant shallow marginal’s 2-4 inches below the water line and deep marginal’s 10- 18 inches below. It is important to ask your carefully chosen landscaper when your pond or lake shelf has reached 18 inches deep, to continue at that point, to stretch the shelving out in places in interesting curves and shapes so your marginal plants can be planted further out to give a natural look to your lake or pond. After all this has been achieved, you can then relax and indulge in your final and future vision of a well established pond or lake with maybe Moorhens or Coots swimming around a headland of planted marginal’s into unseen territory.


Planting Water lilies and oxygenators

Most Water lilies and oxygenating plants will happily grow 18 inches below the water surface, so if you want a quick established look, then i would recommend this planting depth. The water is always warmer towards the surface, so water lilies will bloom and spread profusely in this depth and you, won’t be disappointed. Now we have covered gradient shelving, we can now move on to the deeper depths. A dropped shelf of 3-4 ft is great for planting submerged aquatics, oxygenators and larger growing water lilies, but we are faced with a new problem! HOW TO PLANT THEM? It’s easy to plant in 18 inches of water, but in 3-4ft depth, this can prove to be a little trickier, so I have explained how on my planting information page.

OK, now your landscaper can excavate to deeper levels and most ponds or lakes should be dug down to a depth of 5-8 ft. I cannot think of any possible reason for digging deeper than this, unless we are heading for a serious ice age or, you want to practice your sailing skills in your own private submarine!!


Lined and fibreglass pond

This is a hundred times more easier! I recommend you have three different levels, although you may not have a choice if using a fibre glass pond. Marginal shelves should be 7-9 inches deep with shelves that are extra wide in places with interesting curves, unless of course, you are planning to plant in a symmetrical format. Your pond level should then drop down to 12-16 inches to house some deep-water plants and small water lilies, and drop again to 36 inches, so as to house some submerged aquatics, oxygenators and larger water lilies.

I  hope this information has been of some help to you in the first steps of creating the best environment for your water project. My next article will cover the variety of plants that are suitable for creating your desired vision.

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