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With the record heat and drought, you and your plants crying for water. The vision of babbling brooks and lovely ponds seem like a faraway dream. These visions seem like the ephemeral desert mirages that only exist in heat stressed minds.
Water gardening is one of the fastest rowing segments of the gardening industry. Unfortunately, with the increased popularity also come many garden myths. Among these are the following: ponds are for the rich or for the high Uintah Mountains. They waste water. They are mosquito-breeding sites, they are too difficult for most people to manage or they are require many harsh chemicals to prevent them from becoming stinky and polluted.
With all of the misinformation about water gardening, it is easy to get confused. Sterling Herman, owner of Desert Water Gardens wanted to help others learn more of this hobby. In the year 2000, he and several others helped form the Utah Water Society and incorporated it as a not for profit organization. To give you some idea of how fast the interest has caught on the club started with nine members and now has more than 100 members.
The current club president is Jeff Allred. His daytime job is public relations for Intermountain Health Care. The rest of the time, he is a water gardener. He grew up in Salt Lake and was always infatuated with water. His ability to indulge the love of water and streams and ponds finally came to reality a few years ago when he purchased his first home.
He has become a preaching disciple of water gardening. He is quick to warn you that the water gardening bug might bite you and you might become as passionate about the pastime as he is.
While many think ponds are only for the rich, it is a much more affordable hobby than it was a few years ago. Many companies now manufacture pumps, filters and other accessories. They are much more reliable and prices are more competitively than even just a few years ago.
One of the biggest differences are the pond liners. Building a concrete pond was a very difficult job. This was heavy backbreaking work and they inevitably developed leaks and many other problems as soils settled and shifted from freezing and thawing.
Flexible pond liners changed all that. These lightweight, flexible liners made it possible to put in a pond of any size and shape with far less cost and far less labor. Do it yourselfers can install a small ponds in just a few hours without any previous experience.
Mosquitoes are only a problem if the ponds are stagnant. Moving water, filtration and fish all work to discourage mosquitoes as do beneficial insects and other predators so that drawback is removed from the garden myths.
Ponds do take some effort and attention to detail to plan and install them correctly and to keep them in good condition. Developing a miniature ecosystem with clean water, healthy plants, thriving fish and other organisms are balanced together are all in harmony takes time and experience but the rewards are well worth the effort.
The inevitable question in this drought year is “These ponds must be wasting a lot of water”
According to Allred, “Ponds loose less water from evaporation than most people put on the lawns. A pond evaporates water but does not lose water to leaching. Most people put way to much water on their lawn and much of that is wasted.
“To further reduce water loss from a pond he suggests covering the water surface with plants. Water lilies, water lettuce and other plants cover the surface of the pond and reduce the
The real measure of the success of his ponds is as follows, “The therapeutic effect of running water is wonderful. I get home from work and the ponds are there calling me. I go outside and enjoy them so much I often am outside until after midnight.”
Water gardening might be a perfect hobby for you to enjoy. To learn more about it, see some of the best examples in the state at the Society tour mentioned under the garden tips section.
The Utah Water Garden Society is sponsoring a tour of 27 ponds from Bountiful to Highland on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person and are available at many local nurseries. For more information, log on to the society's Web site at www.utahwatergarden.com. The society meets the third Thursday of each month and guests are always welcome.