It creeps upon me like a slow death, void of meaning or romance. From my bedside I can hear the daily lessening of its once mighty cry as it slowly dies. A single tear forms in the corner of my tired eye as I realize in the dreamy state that something is terribly wrong. The deafening roar of water that once dominated my senses begins to weaken to a soft purr of drip-drop failure.
My failure. My shame.
My waterfall pump.
Were I a better man, I would have cleaned out its sterile, dwarfed and paltry mini micro filter daily. But I didn’t. Because it’s @#&*+$% God-awful annoying to do that. I curse the pump filter demons that have taken hold of my once amazing water feature! Just look at this pathetic thing; after three solid days of “work” it’s all gummed up.
Okay, I feel better now. Sorry about that. But seriously, maintaining a custom, hand-crafted, multi-level double waterfall with upper and lower ponds running 24/7, enclosing a rambling brook through the willows, requires the most attention of any landscaping project I’ve ever been involved with. That includes the time I dug the entire Panama Canal that one weekend in the nineteen aughts.
But it is home to fish and other benthic organisms and has countless daily visits by every bird in a six mile radius. I want it running constantly for them. I also want it on 24/7 for me because I want to be fooled into thinking there’s an actual waterfall/stream/ponds in my backyard. It also serves to supply my young willow tree with all the water she can drink.
The maintenance goes on and on: from random leaks and misdirected flow from overturned rocks caused by overzealous chickens in search of buggy yum yums, the regular trenching of fetid swamp slime from gloomy depths, keeping algae and green water at bay without using chemicals so my dog can drink the water, all the way to the @#&*+$% pump getting clogged up weekly! Mother @#&*+$% @#&* eating son of a @#&*+.
There I go again. Sorry. Breathe.
Too many depletives (deleted expletives). Okay, here’s the real deal with water features and your (and my) unreasonable demands. Most likely you’re using a fountain pump for a feature this size. A pump made for clear and sterile chemical baths that have some H2O sprinkled about. Trying to use this particular pump for a pond teeming with life and sediment, instead of for a fountain, is foolish. But that’s what I bought, and if you’re here, chances are that that’s what you have too. It’s just more cost effective with smaller water features to use one of these cheaper and simpler pumps. But don’t dismay, there is a solution!
I’m going to share with you, brave reader, how you can turn that bi-weekly chore into a bi-annual one! It will cost you the whopping sum of $4 initial investment and $2 bi-annually. Interested? I know I am. I’m obsessed with water feature solutions. I’m riddled with awe and absorb functional and natural problem-solving techniques like a sponge.
Which brings me to my secret: the scrubby sponge. Or pot scrubber. Whatever you call it, it’s the cheap plastic sponges found in any dollar store worth its ilk.
These cheaply made plastic whatsits make for a perfect filtration device! They’ll last you about six months and then will have to be replaced. I’ve tried to clean them out and reuse them, but they seem to get clogged up much sooner if you do that. I think that it’s too much of a closed cell system to properly clean out. For another $2, just do yourself the favor of buying some fresh ones and toss the old ones.
You’ll also need some device to hold your pump and the scrubbers all together. Guess what, you can also find this in the dollar store! Two plastic strainers, colanders, or mesh storage bins work perfectly. I bought two storage bins because they were the perfect size and were also black so they’d be more hidden beneath the roaring waves of my mighty waterfall. They look like this…
Whatever product you buy, you’ll need to drill a hole in one of them to accommodate the pump hose and electrical cord. Not to state the obvious, but make certain that it’s made of plastic so as not to rust or change the pH levels of your water! You knew that already right? Good! You’re so smart! Also, you’ll be sandwiching them together and you’ll want to fasten them in some form or fashion. The fastener should be made out of something non-ferrous as well. I use bonsai wire made out of aluminum because I have it on hand, but a rubber band will work just as well. Keep it simple and cheap so you can retain the most pride and awesomeness.
Next, you’ll line the bottom bin with the pot scrubbers to create a lovely and cozy little cradle for your pump.
Once my test fit was done, I inserted the hose through the receiving hole I drilled out of the makeshift lid. I placed the power cord out of the side because it was already well buried under rocks and I didn’t want to “thread” it through this hole.
Once you new filter setup is ready to go, you’ll want to keep it together somehow. Just don’t make it too complicated as it will only add steps when you change it out in six months. As I mentioned, non-ferrous metal wire or rubber bands will be the easiest thing to use.
Place the pump as far as you can from the waterfall for the best circulation. You can also put an easy-to-move rock on top of it to weigh it down as well as hide it. Just do yourself a favor and keep it accessible. Also, the deeper you submerge it, the longer you can run the water feature between refills. Here’s my hiding spot before I topped off the pond.
Well folks, it doesn’t get any easier than that! This setup should last you for about six months before you have to deal with it again. Even then, it’s only another $2 to get two packs of pot scrubbers and a few minutes to change them out. A HUGE difference from bi-weekly filter cleanings. If you don’t wish to invest in a whole elaborate filtration system, this is the next best thing! And now I feel much calmer and can get back to more enjoyable gardening tasks. Here are my waterfalls both going at maximum volume. Nothing beats the sound of moving water, and the birds have returned to bathe and sing (and eat all my grapes). Such an oasis I have now in place of the desert wasteland this yard was three years ago.