Wash Tub Water Garden

Lily pads and a fish in water.
  • 2-10 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-150
What You'll Need
Wash basin or other container
Flexible liner

Do you want a water garden but don't have the space in your yard for a large one? A unique idea is to create a water garden in a wash tub.

If you don't have a wash tub, look in the hidden recesses of your basement for one that's been forgotten, or ask older family members and friends if they have one that they no longer use. If you don't come up with one, scour flea markets, garage and yards sales. One can often be picked up for a fraction of the price of a new one. If you still haven't had any luck, go to the local hardware store. Wash tubs aren't usually hard to find, but like with anything else, when you want one, they suddenly become scarce.

If you can't find a wash tub, use an alternative container. Go to a garden center and buy one of the oak half-barrels that are sold as planters. This will give your garden a rustic, down home look. Other choices could be old bath tubs, sinks, copper boilers, wooden buckets or large galvanized pails. There's no end to the vessels you can use for this project. If you want a larger pond, use a child's hard sided pool. Anything that will hold water is a possibility.

As with all ponds, both natural and man-made, you will need to select plants and creatures that will provide balance in your water garden. Add tadpoles, catfish, snails, goldfish, water lilies, water hyacinths, and grasses that will give off life sustaining oxygen.

metal wash basin

Now that you have your container, you'll need to purchase the other necessities for your water garden. You will need a flexible poly-vinyl liner. These can be purchased at home centers, or other stores that sell garden ponds. While there, buy objects to decorate the water garden. Large rocks and glass objects will do nicely. If you can't find those, ask the garden pond staff for suggestions.

You can also get objects to decorate your pond at the local aquarium shop. They usually have a large selection of aquarium décor items. Be sure to choose some that will give privacy to the creatures you're going to introduce to your pond. While you're there, check out the stock of live water plants. Purchase tadpoles, catfish, snails and goldfish. Ask the staff which plants are oxygen generating and how many fish, water creatures and plants you will need to stock your water garden. In order for them to be able to assist you, they will need to know how many gallons of water your container will hold. The bigger the garden, the more you can put in it.

Be sure to pick up some water de-chlorinator. If you don't use something to kill the chlorine in the water, all of your plants and water creatures will die. When all items have been purchased, you're ready to begin the creation of your project.

Place your container in a place where it will get three to four hours of morning sunlight. Also consider where it will give you the most enjoyment. Lay out the design of your garden. Small clay pots turned upside down will give you a "rock shelf" on which to place some of your plants. Place the decorative items in the bottom of the water garden and the oxygen giving plants, which you will have to plant in soil in small pots. Set the pots on the "rock shelf" and then fill your container with water from the house. Do not spray water directly from the hose onto your plants.

Once your wash tub is full of water, add de-chlorinator as instructed on the package. Add the rest of the plants you purchased, being sure to add at least one oxygen providing plant for every 2 gallons of water. Water lilies must also be planted in a pot before adding it to your water garden. Be sure these are submerged eight inches below the water's surface. The other plants will be planted in fine gravel, without soil, in the bottom of the tub, except the water hyacinths, which will float on the water's surface.

Once the de-chlorinator has done its work, add snails, tadpoles, catfish and goldfish to your pond. It takes all of these creatures to create a perfect balance in your water garden. The catfish is an algae eater that will keep the bottom and sides of your tub clean. Snails also eat algae and will clean up any tidbits the catfish leave behind. Snails are living vacuum cleaners and work continually to keep crumbs off the floor. Tadpoles clean up fish excrement and the goldfish eat bugs. The ration of snails, fish and water is one fish and one snail for each square foot of water surface.

To add fresh water to your water garden, fill a pail with water, treat it with de-chlorinator and let it set until the water in the pail is the same temperature as the water in the container. You must use an aquarium thermometer for this task. There is no guessing. Once the temperatures coincide, pour the water slowly into the tub to avoid disturbing the plants.

Clear your water garden of residue daily. This includes dead blossoms, leaves and any other matter that is floating on the surface of the pond.

Fertilize the plants in your water garden once a month until the end of August. This will assure they stay healthy and give your pond a natural look.

Before the first frost, remove all plants, fish and snails from the water garden and take them indoors for the winter. In the spring you will set up your water garden once more.

Once your water garden is complete, take time out of your busy schedule, get an ice cold glass of your favorite beverage, sit back, relax and enjoy. Water and beauty soothe the soul, reduce stress and help you relax.