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Building A Water Garden

Building A Water GardenYou can enhance the beauty of your deck, patio, and yard by building a small water garden in a tub.

Use a glazed ceramic or plastic container or a wooden half-barrel lined with plastic as the "pond".

Then add a few small aquatic and marsh plants as well as goldfish for color and drama.

Tools and Materials Required

  • Ceramic or plastic container or wooden half-barrel
  • Plastic liner, galvanized screws, and wood strips, (if needed)
  • Optional water pump, nozzle, and electrical outlet
  • Water
  • Plant pots (plastic)
  • Soil mixture formulated for aquatic plants (see your garden center)
  • Aquatic plants (water lilies, etc)
  • Newspaper
  • Decorative gravel


  • First install the barrel liner. If you're using a wooden half-barrel, be sure to line it with a sheet of pond liner which you can purchase at most any garden center. 
  • Next, adjust the liner by making several large folds in the plastic material and draping it over the edges of the barrel. 
  • Partially fill the barrel with water in order to hold the liner in place while you trim it. Fasten the upper edge of the liner to the top of the barrel, just inside the rim. 
  • Sandwich the plastic liner between the barrel surface and the narrow wooden or metal strips. 
  • Fasten together with galvanized screws. If necessary, empty the container and position it where you want your water garden to be located. 
  • Place the container on a sturdy, level surface where it will receive several hours of sunshine each day. The tub will weigh approximately 10 pounds per gallon of water when it is filled. If you wish, you can partially bury the container in the ground. This method is best in hot climates where the summer sun will overheat small above-ground pools. 
  • Fill the container with water until it is about two-thirds full. Allow the temperature to stabilize and the chlorine from your municipal water supply to dissipate for at least 24 hours before adding any plants. If you plan to add fish to the pool, ask your water company if it uses chloramine, which is a common water supply disinfectant. If it does, you should use a water conditioner, such as Amquel, to neutralize any chemicals before adding your fish.
  • Install a  water pump to circulate the water. For the soothing sound of splashing water, you can use a small fountain attached to a re-circulating water pump. Place the pump and the attached pipe and nozzle in the bottom of the container. Be sure to plug water pumps into a ground-fault circuit interrupter electrical outlet to avoid risk of electrocution. Adjust the water flow level as desired. Please be aware that floating plants, such as water lilies, do better without water splashing on their leaves. 
  • You can now add any plants that you want to the water garden. It is recommended that you plant aquatic and marsh plants in plastic pots filled with a special water-plant soil mix (ask your garden center what they have available). Place newspaper material over the drainage holes in the pots to prevent soil from leaking out. After you have finished planting, cover the surface of the soil with decorative gravel. Set pots on bricks or other pots (inverted) to raise plants to the desired level.


Add a couple of submerged plants, one plant that is floating (water lily is recommended), and a couple of marsh plants per square yard of water surface to deter the spread of algae. Plants should cover 1/2 to 3/4 of the water surface. Remove any debris promptly and replace evaporated water, but don't change the water. The water should clear within a few days.

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