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Waterwise water garden

Water is one of Australia’s most precious resources.

Adding a water feature to your garden will provide an instant sense of serenity and relaxation, but if the question of sustainability has been a deterrent it’s time to take another look at how you can incorporate water into your garden in an environmentally-friendly way.

Water is one of nature’s most powerful elements. Humans are innately attracted to water and its stress-relieving properties. The sound of trickling waterfalls has been used to provide a sense of calm in gardens for centuries and, if you’re a parent to young children, watching them engage in a watery ecosystem can be incredibly rewarding.

If your budget, space and time commitments are limited, you might think a pond is out of the question but it doesn’t need to be. Water features are on the rise in properties both big and small and there are ways you can achieve the instant serenity of a water feature with minimal cost to yourself and your environment.

In building a pond you are actually creating a little ecosystem within a confined space that reproduces nature. Birds, frogs and insects (both good and bad) will be attracted to your water feature but the good news is that if you take care of your new ecosystem the positives will far outweigh any negatives.

Tips for a successful water garden

If your budget and your experience are limited, an instant water garden is for you. It’s as simple as adding water to a pot and choosing some water plants to plonk into it. But for the uninitiated there are a few steps you won’t want to miss.

  • Make sure you choose a suitable container. Your container needs to be waterproof — you don’t want the water you add to leak everywhere. If you’re not sure, you can purchase a pond liner and cut it to size to ensure your container is sealed well, or simply buy a bird bath. Not only do you have a guaranteed waterproof container, but with some clever design you’ll be able to attract birds to your new feature as well.
  • Choose your plants wisely. If you have a shallow container you will need to choose plants that like to live on the edge. Water lilies might be your preference, but these need to be grown at least a foot of water over their roots. To help make choosing the right plant easy, the water garden specialists over at Oz Watergardens have grouped plants according to their optimal planting zones. Check out their list before making any purchases.
  • Not all potting mixes are the same. If you’re re-potting water plants make sure you buy a clay-based potting mix. Regular potting mix will disperse in the water leaving you with a muddy, murky pond.
  • Avoid sand. Sand at the bottom of your water garden might look nice but it will also attract mosquitoes. Avoid it and use natural river stones instead.

DIY water feature for under $50

For a quick, simple and stress-free water garden, you can start by creating a water feature using a bird bath. Not only is this garden relatively low on maintenance, it doesn’t require a lot of water to set up and it minimises water waste thanks to its largely still nature.


  • 1 bird bath
  • 3–4 large river stones
  • 1 bag of small river stones
  • 2–3 small bog plants (plants that grow well in shallow water)


  1. Position the bird bath. If you would like to attract birds, try to choose a spot that has some surrounding scrub to help make any visitors feel safe. Don’t forget to consider the position for your plants as well — most will need some sun but try to avoid areas that receive full sun in the middle of the day if you want a thriving garden.
  2. Next, fill the bottom of the bird bath with a shallow layer of small river stones. Place the larger river stones to create a layered effect in the bowl.
  3. Plant the plants in the crevices of the larger rocks, padding out with clay pond soil where necessary.
  4. Slowly add water to the bird bath until it is full. You can sprinkle the open water with floating aquatic plants but try not to cover more than 25 per cent of the water surface otherwise you might find you have an algae problem on your hands.

Once your bird bath pond is well established you can take your watery adventure even further by creating even larger water features using buckets, tubs and barrels to create living ponds. These, of course, come with their own challenges — keeping fish or tadpoles is fun but it does require an extra level of work — but are rewarding for both you and your environment.

More ideas for your garden

Garden tips for beginners
5 Ways to kickstart a container garden
Create a summer vegetable garden with your kids

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