A guide to garden water features

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As the sun creeps out, the clocks go forward and the weather gets a little warmer, we can start to look forward to long summer days. This is the ideal time to get some practical work done in the garden in advance of us spending more time outside. Much like light from a fire can convince us we’re warm even if it’s just electric, a water feature can help you feel cooler in summer sun, as well as attract all kinds of wildlife.

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Water features come in all shapes and sizes, from a simple trickling fountain to a full-blown pond. But before you install one, here are the five things you need to consider.

Water feature safety

It’s important to think about how you use your garden and who’s likely to visit. If you have toddlers, then it may be worth waiting a couple of years before you get a large pond but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a small elevated pond, or a fountain that feeds a bird bath instead. If you already have a pond and you’re thinking of giving it a refresh, then you could consider installing a fence around it if children will be using the garden. You can also use a firm mesh across the pond. Alternatively, something like a bubble fountain gives you a safe way to enjoy water in the garden without worry. Keep any water feature in easy view of the house, rather than hidden away at the back, too. You’ll want it in sight if children are playing outside, even if it is fenced off.

Pond maintenance

Most water features will look after themselves to an extent, but anything with running water will need to be maintained from time to time, including cleaning of the spout and the drainage. You may also need to clean out a pond, especially if you plan on keeping fish in it. Many gardeners will offer services such as a spring clean for your water feature, but do think about how you plan on looking after it yourself in the meantime. Getting a skimmer to remove leaves or other debris is a must and you will have to top up the water from time to time, especially in summer months, due to evaporation. Keeping plants in the water should save you some cleaning work since they directly compete with algae for nutrients and sunlight, but do make sure you check and clean filters at least annually.

Read more: Things you can do in the garden in under an hour. 

Choosing a feature

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A good gardener should be able to help you decide what to install. In most cases, they’ll be able to supply all the necessary materials too. Fountains and decorative features are usually down to taste, but ponds will have all sorts of practical considerations, from size and the types of filters you may need, to how deep to dig and the right materials for your pond liner. Do research more on this if you have specific wildlife you wish to attract or particular types of fish you’re thinking of keeping.

Installing a water feature

Small, static water features can easily be installed by the most amateur of DIY-er, but anything large or with running water may require the assistance of an expert gardener or landscaper. This is especially important with ponds, as they are a living and breathing thing once set up. You’ll need some deep areas in the pond to help maintain plant life, wildlife and water condition. Many will have the necessary plumbing skills where a water feed is required, but do check with them first.

Read more: Big ideas for small gardens

Lighting a pond, waterfall or fountain

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For safety reasons, it’s always best to consider lighting when installing a water feature. This will stop anyone bumping into it or falling into water in the dark. It will also pick the feature out nicely and allow you to enjoy it more on a summer’s evening. In most cases, you can do this with simple solar-powered lamps that you can pick up in any garden centre but you should be more careful if you have a pond that’s at ground level and could easily be walked into. In that case, asking an electrician to help you install spotlights or mood lighting is a better idea both for safety and for showing off your fountain, waterfall or pond.

Discover more ideas for working with a small garden and get the lowdown on outdoor entertaining, including picking a BBQ.