Pond Article

Pond Article

By Christina McDonald

I love water and I adore gardens, so when my family moved from our urban home to our dream acreage in the country, one of our most exciting plans was to build a large water feature that would be the centerpiece of the landscape. (Let me rephrase that – one of my most exciting plans was a large water feature.) My husband, Pierre, who generally is quite tolerant of my gardening schemes (and, believe me, there have been many over the years), was sorely tested by this particular family project.

I eagerly began by purchasing a huge PVC pond liner. Pierre, good sport that he is, agreed to dig the hole for the pond and I gave him my usual clear and concise gardening directions.

“I need a hole, over there, about so-deep, in this shape,” I directed, handing him a not-exactly-to-scale drawing and leaving him to it. When I returned, hours later, a list of pond plants in hand, I realized that something was wrong – very wrong. “Honey, it’s not even close to being deep or wide enough!” I exclaimed, helpfully handing him a cold beer for inspiration, silently asking myself why he chose to dig on a day when the temperatures reached 30º C.

This scenario repeated itself a few times that afternoon, until Pierre, looking the worse for wear, climbed out of the hole, brushed off the clay and stomped over to measure the liner. “This is very large,” he said quietly. “In fact,” his voice growing louder, “ had I known how large, I would have hired a backhoe!”

He persevered; however, returning nightly with the rest of the family to what lovingly came to be known as “the pit”. While Pierre struggled to dig up the seemingly endless sticky clay gumbo, I hauled away heavy wheelbarrows of the stuff and the kids, as they tend to do, got in the way. As the days passed the pit became something of a spectacle, drawing curious onlookers. My parents even arrived, offering words of encouragement. “Aren’t you clever,” my mum admired. “You’re a better man than me,” my dad winced. Pierre, nevertheless, gritted his teeth and forged on. Finally the hole was the right size, the sides sculpted perfectly and shape beautifully defined.

Time passed and something, or more accurately nothing, happened. Did we run out of time, energy or patience? While it is hard to say exactly why, the pit sat untouched for not only the rest of that season, but also for the entire next year.

During this hiatus, the pit took on some unexpected functions. Our two war-mongering boys delighted in using it as a trench, causing the sides to collapse with each grenade launch (you would never know their mother is a pacifist). Our slightly superior teenage daughter used it as a fine example of how adults also start projects they don’t finish. Giant weeds found a happy home and the Northern pocket gophers established an extensive paradise resort.

Eventually, our pit attracted too many uninvited guests and pests, and a little too much scrutiny from family and friends, who had come to expect a certain level of accomplishment from us. Pierre and I, therefore, regrouped, planned and committed ourselves (and our children) to finding the necessary energy to, in Pierre’s words, “finish the damn thing.”

Thinking that the hardest part had already been accomplished, we optimistically gave ourselves a week to gather the necessary rocks and finally fill the pond. After all, we asked ourselves, how hard could it possibly be to gather rocks? I mean, we live in the country and certainly every farmer had a pile of rocks, conveniently hanging about, just asking be adopted by a kindly pond builders. Right?

Not a chance. Instead, we spent countless hours scouring the sun- drenched landscape without finding a single stone larger than a potato. Edging on desperate and our patience at the limit, we finally received a hot tip – rocks were to be had in ditches along a stretch of road about 50 kms from our home. Like vultures we descended, and some 20 trips later we were exhausted, our poor old truck’s axles bowed, and our finances lighter from the $5 a load we bribed paid our sons to help. We had, however, enough rock to get to finally get down to work.

If you’ve used up all your money on cheap child labour and gas, you have to find fun where you can. Moving the rock from our driveway down the steep hill to the pit was, therefore, a satisfying challenge. You see, it is my considered opinion that with the men in my life, as long as you can make a competition out of task, it will be heartedly pursued. To that end, we fashioned a barricade at the bottom of the hill and, like a crew of mighty Olympians, launched the rocks. Some were hurled shot-put style, others were bowled downward, crashing and occasionally bouncing over the barricade to shouts of glee from adults and children alike (including earlier mentioned surly teenage girl).

It was now my turn to place each stone with artistic care around the pond’s ledges. Reason was beginning to stray at this point, and for some reason I got it into my head that I should fill the pond with water as each ledge was finished. This created slippery conditions and of course, I took several less-than- graceful falls, arms flailing and feet skyward, which amused my family, gleefully seated gallery-style in lawn chairs.

When the entire project was finally finished with cattails planted and a pump installed, Pierre and I realized that we hadn’t removed our wedding rings during the rough work and that they were now terribly scratched and slightly misshapen. A year later, our rings are buffed and smoothed by everyday life, and our pond is the centerpiece of the garden, drawing family and guests to watch fish, dragonflies and water striders enjoy the environment our family created together. One morning, as Pierre counted 16 types of birds bathing and splashing about, I asked him if he’d ever build another pond. “Sure!” he replied, “As long as you dig the hole.”

A New Way To Water

Best advice on watering: Water in the morning, water thoroughly, water less often.

As you will see when you read this article, nothing drives me crazier than seeing water being wasted. That’s why the development of a new drip-irrigation system gave me such pleasure – at last, an easy-to-use watering method that will help people conserve this precious resource. I hope you’ll consider giving it a try too!

Few things irritate me more than the sight of precious water pouring out of the tap and straight down the drain. A childhood spent in a small, drought prone Saskatchewan town taught me how precious water is. Gardens in particular consume plenty of water, especially during hot spells in July and August. Thankfully, reducing our consumptions is not difficult.

When people think of watering the flower or vegetable garden, they usually picture water wands, hoses, watering cans, sprinklers, or rain barrels. What doesn’t immediately come to mind is drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is a very efficient method of distributing water to plants – one drop at a time. This is not new technology, but it is almost unknown to home gardeners; it is much more common in large-scale operations. In our greenhouse, we use hundreds of metres of drip tubes to irrigate crops like hanging baskets and geraniums. In California, thousands of kilometres of drip-irrigation tubing are used to water strawberry fields.

Drip irrigation saves water because the pipes are laid on the ground in rows close to the plants’ root systems. The water has less opportunity to evaporate, since it is not being sprayed into the air and onto foliage, as is the case with overhead sprinklers. Not splashing water onto the foliage has one major side effect: the incidence of leaf diseases is greatly reduced. I remember ruining one string bean crop by aggressively irrigating it with overhead sprinklers. Almost overnight, all of the leaves were covered with bean blight, a rust-like disease properly referred to as Xanthomonas phaseoli. Sprinklers tend to splash mud laden with soil-borne diseases right onto the stems and leaves of plants. When the leaves are left dry and clean, fewer bacteria and fungi have the opportunity to become established.

With drip irrigation, patience is a virtue. Since the water is applied a drop at a time, irrigation in unspectacular and often seems interminable. But it does work, and well. As the water drips out of the emitters, it seeps into the soil vertically and horizontally. (Sandy soils have the least horizontal movement, while clay soils have the greatest.) Drip irrigation is best suited to plants that have been established for several weeks, rather than seedlings, since the root systems of many seedlings are too small to reach the moisture.

Drip irrigation systems are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. The pipe is surprisingly lightweight. I’ve picked up a 150-m roll of pipe and I’m sure it didn’t weigh any more than 5 kg. To illustrate just how simple this stuff is to use, imagine a vegetable garden with dimensions of 6 m by 6 m with 10 rows of vegetables. The drip is laid down along each row, so that there are 10 6-m lengths of tubing. At one end, all of the individual lengths of tubes are plugged or just folded and clamped. At the other end, they are all connected together. Barbed plastic connectors are simply pushed into the tubing. No tools or clamps are required, and even someone who is severely mechanically challenged (like me) will have no problem hooking the pipe together. Connect the system to your outside tap, and voila, you’re on your way to conserving hundreds of litres of water per year. One tip: before you begin, leave the coiled tube in the sun to heat up for a while to make it soft and pliable. Otherwise, it jumps around like an angry snake when you’re trying to install it. Drip tubing is especially convenient to lay down alongside rows of crops like carrots, onions, or corn, or even in beds of annuals and perennials, providing that it’s installed early, before the plants have become too dense to allow tubing to slide in between. Dependable and relatively inexpensive water timers can be attached between the water faucet and the drip tubing to set the frequency of irrigation: once a day, once a week, twice a day, or whatever you prefer. Duration can be set as well: two minutes, ten minutes, and so forth. If you know what the flow rate is in litres per minute and what the water requirements of the crop are, you can calculate exactly how long you should leave the tubes on to meet the plants’ needs. Removal in the fall is simple. Just pull it up, pull off the connectors, and store.

Of course, there will always be times when conventional watering will be more efficient than installing drip irrigation. If I use a hose to water, I always attach a water wand rather than one of those dreadful gun-like nozzles. Water wands deliver a focussed but gentle spray, and if you’re careful and hold the wand close to the plants, little water is wasted. And of course, sometimes low-tech solutions are still effective. Water collected in rain barrels and distributed with a trusty watering can is still one of the best ways to irrigate your plants while also being a conservationist.

-Lois Hole


For more information on drip irrigation systems, please visit us at Hole's Greenhouses

How To Properly Water Your Lawn

Watering is an important part of a healthy, green lawn. 

While watering anytime will work, there are serious advantages to watering at certain times of the day that will save you a whole lot of time, money, and most importantly water.

Watering during the daytime can work well. Generous amounts of water can be applied and allowed to soak in, but since the sun is out in full force, a lot of the water you're applying will be lost to evaporation. Which means it will take a lot more water, and time, to fully soak your lawn.

Watering in the night or early evening seems like the most convenient time to water your lawn. Since the sun is down, very little water will be lost to evaporation. However, the major disadvantage of this is the water will not soak into the grass at this time; it will only sit on top of the blades of grass, therefore providing a breeding ground for molds & fungus.

So when is the perfect time?

Watering before daybreak, or right at dawn is the most ideal time. Evaporation is at a minimal, and the rising sun will quickly dry the grass, reducing the likelihood of disease.

Of course, if you have things to do, waiting for your sprinkler to finish can be a pain. That's why a water timer from Dramm is so handy.

This timer easily attaches to your hose to automatically shut off your sprinkler for your desired time. Up to 120 minutes. And like all Dramm products, it comes with a lifetime warranty. (And comes in a variety of colours!)

When it comes to choosing a sprinkler type, there are lots of great options to choose from. Here are a few great options:

Spinning Sprinkler - Spinng sprinklers work well with water pressures between 20 and 80 psi, and are ideal for "well" systems with low water pressure.

The head atomizes water into fine droplets for less water usage and thorough watering. And creates a very unique and beautiful spray pattern covering an area up to 38' in diameter


Oscillating Sprinklers - Oscillating Sprinklers are designed for increased stability, and deliver water over a rectangular area.  They feature large pattern controls for easy use with variable settings to cover up to 3,000 sq. ft.

Whirling Sprinklers - Whirling sprinklers give great even water distribution over a square area, and spray droplets rather than mist, so there is much less evaporation.  

Water coverage is up to 68" in diameter.


Spike Sprinklers - Spike sprinklers are mounted on a spike to push into the ground.  They give good even coverage. It has adjustable height, and the spray is easy to adjust between mist, stream, or spray, so it can be used in other parts of the garden if needed, such as flower or perennial beds. They also feature a  flow-through spike base so that multiple sprinklers can be connected into a series of sprinklers. 

Turret Sprinklers - Turret sprinklers give great, even coverage. Great for lawns as it covers square areas and holds the square pattern quite well. It gets into the corners and spreads the water perfectly for lawn and turf.  

Turret sprinklers spray droplets rather than mist, so there is much less evaporation.

Stop by Hole's Greenhouses to see all the Dramm watering accessories we carry. All backed with a lifetime warranty!