How to Make a Water Garden (Water Feature)

How to Make a Water Garden (Water Feature)

Part of Ep. 801 Landscaping for Birds

Join Duane Barmore, owner of the Chickadee Depot, and discover how water features appeal to birds.

Premiere date: Mar 04, 2000

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
We've already talked about how adding a water feature to your garden can increase its appeal to birds. I'm with Duane Barmore, owner of Chickadee Depot, a wild bird supply store in Madison. Duane, why is water so attractive? Why will that increase the appeal of my garden?

Duane:
Well, water is one of those things, just like food and shelter, that we all need, and the birds do, too. And water in the wintertime is especially important because all the natural sources are frozen.

Shelley:
Solid!

Duane:
And you can put water out in a small bird bath with a heater in it and offer water year round. That will certainly attract more birds. It also attracts more birds in the summertime, too, because you an attract birds that might not normally come to your feeders, like a warbler or a robin. They don't normally come to your feeders, but they'll certainly be attracted to water. And you get the opportunity to see them, then.

Shelley:
So, it's the water. I've never seen my robin eat my food, but I've seen it in the bird bath.

Duane:
That's right, they love bird baths. You can use something as simple as this little plastic plant saucer. Just put it on the ground or on a tree stump, on the deck, wherever, and use that. Now, this of course is still water. You could also do moving water with pumps or by hooking it up to your faucet.

Shelley:
Is moving water better?

Duane:
It certainly is, because birds have excellent hearing. They'll hearing moving water up to half a mile away.

Shelley:
Wow.

Duane:
And they also see it at a great distance, as well. So, you can use a device like this. This is an ABS plastic bird bath that has three levels and several depths. It uses a pump to recirculate the water.

Shelley:
So, they're hearing trickling noises with this one.

Duane:
They are. This one is a little smaller, but it also has a variety of depths. It hooks up to your faucet and gives you a drip of water, which creates a little sound, but also is a visual cue to the birds that this is water. And you can use a little timer, here, so that the water doesn't run all the time.

Shelley:
So I'm not cranking my water bill up too high.

Duane:
That's right. Now, there's a way to do this all more permanently and maybe a little more aesthetically, too. And that is by putting a pond right into your yard.

Shelley:
When you say pond, I think, wow, lots of work, lots of labor. Is this something I could do?

Duane:
It certainly is. It doesn't have to be difficult at all. We've got some materials here that we can use to build a pond with. We have rock. We have a pump that we're going to put on one end of our pond. This is just a little pump that's going to pump water up to a waterfall that we'll build.

Shelley:
That will recirculate the water, then.

Duane:
That's correct. And we have a heater that we could use in the wintertime to keep the pond open. We also, because we're mixing water and electricity, using what's called a ground fault circuit interrupter. That's just a safety device for electricity. And this is a little device that makes our waterfall work a little better. It's kind of a diffuser for our waterfall. This is actually going to be hidden under rock.

Shelley:
Now, the other two things I see that are needed for construction are a level and a shovel.

Duane:
That's right. You want to use a level because water, of course, is going to find its own level and you need to make this water go the right way. You also need a piece of vinyl liner. What I have here is a three foot by five foot piece of vinyl liner. And it's got a ten-year warranty against ultraviolet degradation, so it won't break down from ultraviolet light. We're going to put it in this pond that I've already dug.

Shelley:
This is the pond?

Duane:
This is it.

Shelley:
This isn't very deep.

Duane:
No, it's not. It's just a couple inches deep on the end that you're standing in. And then, I've made it about eight or ten inches deep at the other end. That's where the pump is going to go.

Shelley:
So, this isn't water gardening. We're not trying to give them something to swim in.

Duane:
No, the birds don't do laps and we're not building this for geese. We're building it for song birds. And we're going to put the liner right into the opening. And we're going to press it down into the deep end.

Shelley:
That's where the pump goes.

Duane:
That's where the pump is going to go. And what we do is put rocks around the edge of this, making sure that the liner is nice and tight in the pond opening and just put our flagstone around the outside edge. After I've done that, I'm going to start working on the waterfall. We're going to take a separate piece of liner that I'm going to cut out of a larger piece, put it up the waterfall pile of dirt that we have, decorate that with stone...

Shelley:
So, hiding the edges, again.

Duane:
I'm going to hide the edges and make it looks as pretty as I can. I'll put my waterfall diffuser at the top of that, cover that with stone, also.

Shelley:
So it's hidden, too.

Duane:
Right. Before I do that, I'm going to connect the tubing from the pump. And then, I'm going to add water, plug my pump in and make sure everything works before I go any further.

Shelley:
Okay, test it.

Duane:
That's right, because it's very easy to tweak it a little bit and make it level. After I've done that, I'm going to cover the pump with some stone. You could use pea gravel. I'm going to use stone in this case. You could add a simple plant, like an arrowhead. That would work real well.

Shelley:
Something in shallow water.

Duane:
That's right. Shelley, here we are with the finished product. We could use a few more rocks around the edge. You can change the sound of the waterfall by changing these rocks a little bit. We've added some plants around the back, but don't add too many because you don't want cats there.

Shelley:
A shelter for predators of any kind.

Duane:
That's right.

Shelley:
Duane, thank you so much for showing me how to make this. This is really beautiful.

Duane:
Thank you.

Shelley:
You don't have to have a lot of land to build a sanctuary for the birds. In fact, you don't have to have any land at all. If all you've got is a patio or a small balcony, you can create a garden that is attractive to you and to the birds. Just remember the basics: food, water and shelter. A small tree like this provides shelter. A simple bird bath, like this one, can provide water for the birds. And you can supply food by selecting plants that produce nectar and later, edible seeds. Supplement that with a hanging bird feeder. The birds will come and you'll enjoy looking at them and at your garden. Thanks for joining me. I'm Shelley Ryan and I'll see you next time on The Wisconsin Gardener.

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