If you have been tempted to add a pond to your garden, but are not sure whether to take the plunge you could make a trial run using a container. Provided that the container is not too small it is possible to incorporate all the elements that you find in a full size garden pond. This will enable you to experience a water garden in miniature and perhaps encourage you to start digging a larger pond. This article by Beth Jarvis from the University of Minnesota Extension website tells you how to create a container water garden.

Water gardening adds a unique, new group of plants to home landscapes. Many, such as water lilies and water hyacinths, grow well in containers. Containers are an excellent way to sample the joys of water gardening before committing to a larger, permanent pond.
Locate your container garden so it can be seen easily from the house or serve as a focal point, drawing visitors into the garden. Consider the following when choosing a site for your water garden:
Most water plants require full sun for at least five hours. A spot that is shaded in mid- to late-afternoon is ideal. Three hours of direct light is minimum for water gardening, but it greatly limits both the number of plant choices and flower quantity and quality.
Falling tree leaves cause extra maintenance by clogging pumps and harming fish and plants. Keep your water garden away from overhanging tree branches.
Easy access to a water supply is important. Water that has evaporated from the container must be replaced to keep the water level constant.
Planting the garden
Any waterproof container that holds at least four gallons of water makes an excellent water garden. Some possible containers include a galvanized horse trough; a large, glazed pottery crock; an old claw-foot bathtub; or a whiskey barrel.
Plants will not overwinter in an above-ground container in our climate. Grow them in pots so they can be easily removed and stored for winter in a cool place where they won’t freeze.
Put a layer of garden soil in the bottom of each pot. Set plants at the required planting depth, then fill the pots with soil. A top layer of sand or gravel about ?-inch deep will hold the soil in place. Don’t use a potting mix that contains perlite or vermiculite, which will float to the surface. Also, avoid any potting mixes which contain fertilizers or chemicals that may be harmful to aquatic life.
Saturate the soil by watering it thoroughly, then set the pots in the water garden container. Place bricks beneath pots to adjust planting depth for each species.
Line whiskey barrels with plastic, such as large, heavy- gauge garbage bags, since the wood may have absorbed something harmful to the plants and fish. A container the size of a whiskey barrel will provide room for only one water lily. Bog plants or grasses may be planted on the outer edges, depending on the container’s size.
Because a water garden is a miniature ecosystem, the plants, water, sunlight and fish must interact together to thrive. If the water you use is chlorinated, let it sit for 24-48 hours to permit any chlorine to evaporate after the container is first filled. As water evaporates, replace it with chlorinated water from the tap; chlorinated water helps to control algae until the garden is balanced, usually 60 days. “Balanced” means that the plant and animal life will hold algae in check.
Many city water supplies have chloramine added, which is a more stable form of chlorine. If you use chloramine treated water, you will need to purchase a product to remove the chlorine. These are available from garden centers that sell water gardening supplies. Water added during the season to maintain the water level does not need to be treated.

See more at University of Minnesota Extension
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