Creating A Portable Pond

Creating A Portable Pond

Part of Ep. 1101 Garden Style

Join Olbrich Botanical Garden's horticulturist Melissa Maurer to learn how to build a portable pond.

Premiere date: Mar 01, 2003

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
I've always wanted a pond in my backyard, but I've got a small child, so I'm a little worried about safety. And I don't like digging through solid rock. Then I heard that Olbrich gardens in Madison offers a class called "Portable Ponds." So, I'm here with the instructor, Horticulturist Melissa Maurer to learn how to create my own little portable pond. Melissa, what do you do at Olbrich besides teach this class?

Melissa:
I take care of the perennial garden, the meadow, the big pond around it, and then all the aquatic stuff around, containers and ponds.

Shelley:
So, you have a few things to do.

Melissa:
Just a few.

Shelley:
I assume to start out for a portable pond, we need a container.

Melissa:
Exactly. What you look for in a container is no holes, because you don't want the water to drain out. You're actually wanting the water.

Shelley:
The bricks are here for a special reason, I assume.

Melissa:
We put these in. Usually, I have marginals sitting in the ponds, as well as submerged plants. So, the marginals need to sit up higher. So, the bricks just help.

Shelley:
Bricks, rocks, whatever I have at home.

Melissa:
Right, we sometimes use pots.

Shelley:
So, any container, as long as it's got ten inches.

Melissa:
Right, ten inches. If you get shallower than that, you aren't going to be able to grow water lilies quite as well.

Shelley:
Other than that, the sky's the limit. Have fun. But the bigger they get, the heavier they get.

Melissa:
Exactly.

Shelley:
Okay, well, we've got a decent container. What do we do next? We need plants.

Melissa:
The first plant that we're going to put in is a hardy water lily. It is called Aurora. It gets kind of a mottled leaf with a yellow or orangish colored flower on it.

Shelley:
This is a hardy water lily.

Melissa:
Yes.

Shelley:
When I'm planting in pots at home, I fertilize regularly. Do we do that, here?

Melissa:
Exactly. That was my next point. Before we put anything in, we're going to want to fertilize this. So, these are the fertilizer pellets. And you put them in, sink them all the way into the soil, and then cover them up, because you don't want them in contact with the water.

Shelley:
And we can get those at any place that sells water plants. Now, you've stuck it in what looks to me the worst possible garden soil I've ever seen!

Melissa:
It's pure clay, pretty much.

Shelley:
Oh, good!

Melissa:
Which is what aquatics usually like to grow in, a really heavy soil.

Shelley:
You don't want something light that floats.

Melissa:
Right. Or, you can put it in, this is calcine clay, or baked cat litter, baked clay.

Shelley:
Oh, okay.

Melissa:
No perfumes.

Shelley:
No deodorizers or anything like that. It also looks like you've got some sort of landscape liner.

Melissa:
The reason I put that in is because you don't want stuff coming out these holes in here.

Shelley:
Ah, the soil would just leak out. Well, then, we've got a plant, it's fertilized. It's in muck.

Melissa:
Right. And this is the one that gets completely submerged, so you put this one at the bottom. The leaves are going to float up toward the top.

Shelley:
It looks like we're going to have enough water in there that those leaves will be under water. Is that a problem?

Melissa:
They will be for a little while, but they grow. They'll grow up to the top, no problem.

Shelley:
What's next?

Melissa:
The next one is our hardy marginal. This is Acorus or Sweet Flag. It's variegated and its' also our vertical accent. So, we're that putting one in. It's a marginal, like I said, so we're only putting it half in and half out. That's what the bricks are for.

Shelley:
Okay, so we want it sitting. The water is going to just cover the dirt, basically. Okay.

Melissa:
Then, our next one is a tropical marginal. This one is called Water Zinnia. It gets kind of a small, yellow daisy-like flower on it. It's very viney, so it's going to climb out over the sides and it will be our downward accent.

Shelley:
So, we'll have a floating leaf, something trailing and then vertical.

Melissa:
Exactly.

Shelley:
And marginal, then, must mean it only sits halfway in the water.

Melissa:
Exactly. I'm trying to finagle the brick under there.

Shelley:
This looks crowded to me. We're done?

Melissa:
No, we're not quite done. We need an oxygenator in there. The oxygenator that I have is called Myriophyllum or Parrot's Feather. It's a great little plant. You can pot these in soil, but usually, it will just grow free floating in there, on top of the water. It oxygenates the water, therefore cutting down on your algae.

Shelley:
So, it's a necessary part of this design.

Melissa:
Definitely.

Shelley:
Okay, to me, the most necessary thing is missing. Water!

Melissa:
Yes. When I give this class, I don't usually put the water in, because I get people angry with water sloshing all over their cars on the drive home. So, I usually give them the plants and the container. And when they take it home, they can situate the container in a nice, sunny location.

Shelley:
Full sun?

Melissa:
Full sun. Put your water in it. Let the water sit overnight, so the chlorine dissipates out of the water. And then, go ahead and put your plants in.

Shelley:
Great. What about winter? I assume this would freeze solid, so we have to over-winter these plants.

Melissa:
Yeah, definitely. The winter, you can take most of these plants out. They're really easy to over-winter.

Shelley:
Okay, great. Thanks, very much, Melissa. We'll have information about over-wintering the plants and more on ponds in general at our Web site.

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