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Water features are easy, soothing additions to gardens

Sun., June 24, 2012

A bubbling container fountain adds movement and the cooling sound of splashing water to the garden. (Susan Mulvihill)
A bubbling container fountain adds movement and the cooling sound of splashing water to the garden. (Susan Mulvihill)

The dog days of summer are fast approaching. That’s the time when we seek out the shade and any means of keeping cool. Wouldn’t the sound of a bubbling, splashing water feature be soothing?

Well, if you think water features have to be expensive, involved projects, you’re in for a nice surprise.

Master Gardener Vi Tiegs has been creating her own for 15 years and knows they are a quick, fun and inexpensive project.

“I first learned how to make container fountains at a county extension class,” Tiegs said. “To me, ponds are a lot of work, but the small water features appeal to me. Most of my experience has come from trial and error.”

She feels the sound of the water is calming and relaxing, especially after a long day at work. “Or on a hot summer night when the windows are open, I love hearing the sound of the water. It also adds another aspect to gardening.”

Recently, Tiegs demonstrated how easy it is to make a container water fountain. All it took was about 15 minutes of hands-on work. Refer to the accompanying step-by-step information box for assembly instructions.

The supplies you need to make a fountain include a container that will hold water, a pump and a nozzle. Tiegs has also purchased water garden fountain kits for about $20. They usually contain a pump, extension tube, different nozzles and a foam filter.

“I buy my pumps on sale for $10 to $20, often at Harbor Freight Tools, and they last a long time,” she said. “The stores also sell solar-powered pumps which work great when you want a fountain in an area that doesn’t have electricity or that you don’t want to run a cord out to.”

Tiegs found a nice, sky-blue glazed container at Big Lots for $10. “It had been discounted because of a flaw in the container but if you’re going to tuck it in among the plants anyway, you’ll never see it.”

Always on the lookout for anything a container water fountain can be made out of, Tiegs has used objects like an old washtub, galvanized bucket, watering cans and even an old metal mop bucket.

“Don’t limit your imagination,” she said. “Even if the container you like has a drain hole, there are products you can use to plug the hole.”

Once Tiegs has installed the pump and fountain parts in the container and covered the pump with water, she listens carefully to the sound of the water.

“The sound of the fountain varies depending on how much water is in the container,” she said. “You can tune them like a piano and get the sound that is most pleasing to the ear.”

She recommends using larger containers since there will be less evaporation to contend with. Refilling the smaller fountain containers has become a part of her daily watering routine during the summer.

Tiegs also cleans the larger fountain containers once a month and the small ones about twice a month. Sometimes she dumps out the container, washes it out and reassembles it. Other times, she will flood the container with a hose to float out any debris that has accumulated at the bottom.

There are also water garden products available that can be used to discourage algae growth.

Tiegs gets a lot of enjoyment from the container water fountains throughout the gardening season, especially from watching the birds attracted by the sound of the water.

“A fountain is an inexpensive garden accent that doesn’t involve a lot of time or labor,” she said.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at Visit her blog at susansinthegarden. for more gardening tips and information.

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