A garden pool makes a very appealing addition to your landscaping. Planted with colorful flowers and stocked with fish, it takes on a vitality of its own. Waterfalls and fountains add to the visual interest and introduce a pleasing sound.
The first step in water gardening is to select the type, shape and size of the pool you want. A simple tub pool requires no construction and is the easiest water garden to tend.
Other options are a pool lined with flexible PVC sheet plastic that can have any free-form shape; a rigid fiberglass pool that can fit easily into a shallow, hand-dug excavation; or a masonry pool, of concrete or concrete topped with brick, that gives the look of permanence as well as elegance.
When planning, select a sunny site where water flowers can thrive. Keep the pool away from shrubs and trees that will shed leaves into the water and require constant cleanup. For fish or water plants, the minimum depth is 1 1/2 to 2 feet. A reflecting pool or one for strictly shallow-water plants requires less depth.
No matter what type you choose, remember that local building ordinances may require that pools of a certain depth be fenced. Also, pumps or lighting in the pool will require electric power and grounding. Use three-prong grounded circuits and plan the source before building the pool.
Tub gardens--whether half of a wine barrel, an old claw-foot bathtub or a simple plastic pan--can be an introduction to water gardening. The same techniques to keep the water clear or chemically balanced in them will work with larger pools.
Even if you are starting small, use a container that holds at least 4 gallons and make certain it's completely sealed so it won't leak.
Oxygenating grasses replenish evaporating oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, making life difficult for algae. This keeps water clear. Water lilies partly cover the water surface to help minimize oxygen loss and keep the water cooler. Snails eat algae and consume the decaying matter on which algae feed. Fish eat algae and other pests.
Water-garden suppliers can suggest plants and fish. A good formula to follow for each square yard of your pool's surface area is: two bunches of oxygenating grasses, one medium to large water lily, 12 water snails and two 4- to-5-inch fish.
PVC plastic-lined pools can be larger and any shape. PVC liners can also repair leaky pools of any type. Determine liner size by adding twice the depth of the pool to total width and twice the depth to total length.
For a free-form shape, make an outline on the ground using a garden hose or rope before starting to dig. If you plan edging, remove the turf to make room for it. Leaving 9-inch-wide planting shelves 9 inches below the planned water level accommodates shallow-water plants.