Water Gardening

Course CodeBHT307
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn more about water garden design and management

- Create beautiful water gardens for yourself or your clients.

  • Learn to design, build and manage water features in a garden
  • Expand your gardening knowledge, further your career opportunities or start a business

Pursue a passion for water gardens or water plants


Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Scope and nature of water gardens
    • What size water garden
    • Water supply: rain, tanks,etc
    • Water quality
    • Siting the water garden
    • Evapouration rate, water depth, safety
    • Water in garden design: formal, informal
    • Edging, Water sculptures, shade
    • Water effects: sound, reflection, movement, light, cooling,
    • Water life: algae, fish, mosquitos, wildlife, plants
  2. Water Garden Construction
    • Introduction
    • Planning the water garden
    • What effect do you want
    • Matching the effect with the type of garden
    • Shape, size and location
    • Type of construction
    • Surrounds
    • Using a liner
    • Pre formed water gardens (Kits)
    • Pond edges
  3. Equipment: Pumps, lights, filters
    • Submersible pumps
    • Lighting: power source, DC power
    • Lighting design with water
    • Pond filtration systems: sterile or living water
    • Mechanical or biological filtration
    • Swimming pool filtration
    • Sand filters
    • Diatomaceous earth filters
    • Cartridge filters
  4. Ponds and Watercourses
    • Designing a natural watercourse
    • Siting a stream
    • Water circulation
    • Pond design
    • Dams
    • Bog gardens
    • Reed beds
    • Pond management
    • Oxygenating plants
  5. Spas and Swimming Pools: Design and aftercare
    • Choosing a swimming pool
    • What sort of pool do you need
    • Structural considerations
    • Cost considerations
    • Types of pools: concrete, fibreglass, vinyl
    • Above or below ground
    • Pump and filtration system
    • What shape
    • Special features in a pool
    • Heating a pool
    • Pool care over winter
  6. Indoor and Outdoor Water Features
    • Introduction
    • Pot ponds
    • Water barrels
    • Wall plaques and wall fountains
    • Water walls
    • Water spouts
    • Bird baths
    • Fountains
    • Cobble fountain construction
    • Waterfalls
    • Cascades
    • Canals
    • Using water features in a landscape
  7. Water Plants
    • Introduction
    • Waterside trees and shrubs
    • Bog plants
    • Emergent water plants
    • Floating leaf plants
    • Aquatic plants
    • Water lilies
    • Plants to avoid in water gardens
    • Surrounding plants
  8. Aquatic Animals
    • Introduction
    • Conditions needed by fish and aquatic animals
    • Maintenance
    • Fish
    • Frogs
    • Tortoises
    • Water snails
    • Insects
    • Birds
    • Troubleshooting


  • Understand the nature and scope of water gardens.
  • Identify and describe generic construction materials and techniques suitable for water gardens and pools.
  • Select appropriate equipment for use with water features.
  • Specify the design and construction of a pond or watercourse.
  • Specify the design, construction and maintenance of a spa or swimming pool.
  • Specify the design & construction of a Water Feature other than a pond or water course.
  • Identity the water plants commonly used in water gardens.
  • Identify a variety of aquatic animals suitable for water gardens, and their requirements

Tips for Managing Life in the Water Garden

You will get living things in water very easily but they might not be the living things you want. Algae will grow wherever there is water, light and a few nutrients. If you have fish, snails or any other types of animals, or even leaves and dust blowing into the water, these will provide nutrients, so algae will inevitably grow. Aquatic animals will eat the algae, and if you have the right balance of animals and plants, they will prevent excessive algal growth.

If you want crystal clear water, you must keep the algae under control, and remove any other contaminants such as dust, which might enter and discolour the water. Filtration and/or other treatments such as chlorination or bromination might be necessary for this. If you want fish in the water, chemicals can cause real problems and while it is possible to do this and still have very clear water; that can involve a lot of expertise and expensive equipment to perfect and control.

Fish need water with air in it. If you want fish, you need water to splash or move, because that's how it becomes aerated. A waterfall, cascade or fountain can be very beneficial to fish, and help improve their feeding, hence keeping algae down and water clarity up.

Mosquitoes and other undesirable insects can breed in water or moist places around a water garden. In areas where serious mosquito-borne diseases are common (eg. Malaria), it is extremely important to keep these insects in check. Fish or other insect-eating animals in the water will help reduce their numbers. If the water is chemically treated, or sprayed periodically, this can also keep insects at bay.

Attracting wildlife (birds, snakes, toads etc) can be a disadvantage especially with small children and pets. Birds are a wonderful feature in a garden but snakes are generally not welcomed.

If you have a lot of mulch near a pool, spa or pond, small animals such as centipedes which breed in the moist mulch will find their way into the water. Snakes, toads and lizards are sometimes found trapped in a pool or spa. (A beach area or shallow shelf surrounding your water feature may allow them to escape.) Water birds, such as ducks, will sometimes take a swim in a swimming pool and leave their feathers or worse (excreta) behind.

One of the wonderful things about water is that it can allow us to grow all sorts of wonderful plants that are otherwise not possible in the garden. 

Ideally, plants should be selected to try and reproduce the effects seen in nature. Some plants require shallow water, others deeper water. Some float on the surface, some grow submerged in the water, while others grow in the moist soil conditions beside a pond. You are best to visit a specialist supplier of water garden plants to get an idea of those suited to your area.

Oxygenating plants
Plants that are completely (or almost completely) submerged are essential to the health of fish and other water life. If you have too few of these plants, fish and snails will eat them faster than they can grow. If you have too many, they can take over, and clog up a pond. It is important to get advice about what and how much to use from a water garden expert when starting up.

Plant oxygenating plants by burying the base in either compost or mud, and then putting a rock and sprinkling of gravel on top to prevent fish stirring up the material at their base. Eel Grass is one of the most commonly grown varieties. With ribbon like pale green foliage it is well suited to temperate but not extremely cold areas. Potamogeton crispus, another alternative, with slender dark green leaves, is suited to most climates.


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