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Spade! ...Thou art a tool of honor in my hands; I press thee, through a yielding soil, with pride

~ William Wordsworth ~

From the GTG Garden and Greenhouse

Unfortunately, some of our new coneflowers did not pass the Belle stress test and others came along with flying colors! The winners from the spring 2013 new introductions are E. Supreme Cantaloupe and E. Secret Love, losers were E. Meteor Yellow and E. Vanilla Cupcake. The remaining new varieties fall somewhere in between and we will have all of the survivors on display at our Driveway Sale this weekend. Stop by for a look-see and chat about your favorite garden moments.
If you can't visit in person, visit us on our web site.
Happy Mother's Day, Belle
Green Thumbs Galore LLC

Ponds - Just DO IT

by Dava Stewart

When my family bought  our house 7 years ago, one of the most appealing factors was the yard. The house we’d lived in before had a tiny yard - our lot was less than a quarter of an acre. Now we have a lovely, mostly flat, one acre lot. I was so excited to have a bigger garden!

Lacking a plan, I just sort of started plopping plants in the ground here and there the first spring. Eventually, a small half circle at the end of our sidewalk became my main flower/herb bed. Last year, I doubled its size, and started planning for this year’s addition: a water feature.

Looking at photos online and in gardening magazines can get overwhelming in the planning stages of building a water feature. You might walk away with the impression that you have to spend thousands of dollars, and hire an architect. So far, I’ve spent around $40, and that was for goldfish and a solar pump that didn’t work.

Here are the materials I used:

  • a sheet of rubber (It may have been rubber roofing, I’m not sure. My dad gave it to me.)
  • rocks from my yard (I live on a mountain, so mountain stone is easily accessible.)

That’s it. Of course we had shovels for digging the hole, and a water hose to fill it.  It took less than an afternoon to build the pond. In fact, filling it was the most time consuming part. My husband, my dad and I dug the hole pretty quickly. I had collected all of the rocks from around my yard the day before so they were close at hand and easy to put into place.

I had a general idea of where I wanted the pond to be, and my dad knew about how big the hole should be for the piece of rubber to completely line it. Our chickens really enjoyed the digging portion of the process because my dad kept feeding them worms. Now, when they see me pick up a shovel they come running.

After we dug for a little while, we put the rubber in, then took it back out and dug a little more. The next time we checked, the rubber liner was just right, and we started filling it with water. Now, if it had been just my husband and me, we probably would have needed a level and it might have taken us longer to get the hole just right so that it would fill evenly and not spill out on one side or the other. My dad has a really good eye, and told us to dig a little more here, add a bit of dirt there, and got the whole thing just right. The final dimensions are roughly 4’ across, 2’ wide, and 18” to 2’ deep.

Next, we put rocks around the outer edge to hide most of the rubber lining. We used the excavated dirt to build a small berm around the rocks so that I could plant flowers around the edges of the pond. So far, I have iris, daylilies, hosta and sedum planted among the rocks.

From the first moment I started thinking about a water feature, I envisioned a small waterfall. I just love to watch water drip and pour over rocks, plus the sound is soothing. So, I started researching. We don’t have any outdoor electrical outlets, and (in case you haven’t picked up on this) I didn’t really want to spend much money.

I found a very small solar pump that looked like it might do the trick. Most of the people who had reviewed it were using it in bird baths, so I was a little skeptical that it could handle a small pond. But, it only cost $17.99 so seemed worth the risk. We built the pond on a Saturday afternoon, and the next Tuesday bought the pump and some goldfish.

The pump worked for approximately 30 seconds, then quit. The next day we fooled with it a little more and got it to trickle for about a half hour. The flow, even when it was working properly was much smaller than that of a typical drinking fountain. Now, I’m shopping for a larger pump and thinking that we will figure out a way to make an electric pump work. I may try putting the solar pump in a bird bath sometime down the road.

We bought 10 small goldfish for $1.70, and one “expensive” one for $8. We’ve had them for about two weeks as of this writing, and we have only lost two of the small ones so far. We really enjoy watching them dart around, and they seem as happy as fish can seem. We are also planning to add at least one or two water plants, but haven’t yet decided on what variety.

The pond has brought about some unexpected consequences. We now sit around it and my garden serves almost as a patio area. Before, we would walk around the garden, now we walk through it. I am definitely going to need a few stepping stones to direct feet around plants! All of this may change as the seasons progress. It’s usually not comfortable to sit in an area that gets full sun in July.

I have also decided to consolidate all of my plants in the area around the pond. Doing so will probably double the size of the existing bed (again) but it will make mowing the rest of the yard easier, and it will make taking care of my flowers, berries, and vegetables much easier later in the summer.

Every spring, like so many other gardeners, I go into a frenzy of buying seeds and plants. It’s so much fun, but this year, I’m also trying to keep in mind that it is also a ton of work! I’m limiting myself to a few carefully considered purchases - most of which will come from the Semi-Annual Plant Sale in Belle’s driveway. It’s coming up soon! May 4 and 5 in Chattanooga. Belle will probably convince me to add a canna or two, she says they make great water garden plants!

Since we are sitting around the pond among my flowers so often I’m going to add some plants chosen for their scents. Belle will have peonies and brugmansia at the sale, and has promised me a quick lesson on caring for them, so those two will be the big additions this year. I’m also planting some zinnias, sunflowers, and nasturtiums for bright splashes of color that will last for weeks.

If you are considering adding a water feature, I’d encourage you to take the plunge (pun fully intended!). It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can add interest and beauty to your garden.

Mark your calendars: Our Spring Driveway Sale is scheduled for the weekend of May 4th and 5th, 2013. Check our web site for directions.


May in the Garden:

Anaconda Love
Blueberry Bliss
Richard Wallace
Tropical Sunrise
Wearing Rubies