Friday, October 19, 2012

Edible Pond Plants

As we continue to plan our garden pond, we have noted that many aquatic and semi-aquatic plants are edible or have edible parts.

Edible Sagittaria also sports atrtractive blooms.
Lotus root, for example, is available in Asian groceries. Although most lotus grow too large for a backyard pond, there are dwarf varieties with stunning large flowers. Like water lilies, they are vigorous, and need dividing periodically. Roots, therefore, will be available for stir fries. Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) is sometimes called “duck potato” because of its edible rootstock. The young leaves and seeds of pickerel rush (Pontederia cordata) can be added to salads, as can duckweed (Lemna minor). Cattail (Typha species) spring shoots and pollen are edible, too. Celery is among the more common vegetables that can be grown in bog conditions. Water chestnut, water spinach, and watercress are all possibilities, too. A few water herbs, for example Bacopa caroliniana and Hottuynia cordata, are used like lemon balm and cilantro, respectively. Mint, of course, is famously vigorous in marshy conditions. Plant with care.
Indeed, this could be said of all water garden plants. If the pond is located in full sun, they can be amazingly productive. Most water gardens need an annual renovation to avoid looking overgrown. Certainly, every three years in all but the largest ponds, it will be necessary to reduce the plant population.
Fish, too, can become overcrowded in a garden pond. Goldfish, the recommended variety for beginning water gardeners, often produce offspring after they are over six inches in length. These can number in the hundreds, and only a few of them will bear the bright coloration of their parents. It is advisable, therefore, to thin the herd on a regular basis. Ponds under 5000 gallons may need this every 5 years.
It is worth mentioning that we have considered the possibility of raising food fish. We rejected this idea because the pond is too small to accommodate a reasonable number of winter hardy fish. (The typical home aquaculture set-up is focused on Tilapia, a tropical fish.) While we could certainly add a few bluegills and/or catfish, the effort would hardly be justified by the meager harvest we could expect. Pond fishery managers tend to think in terms of pounds per acre, not per square foot. Besides, the only way to catch them without disrupting the plantings would be on hook and line. We will probably stock the pond with local fish rather than goldfish, but not for eating. We would emphasize that every garden pond should be home to a few fish for purposes of mosquito control. Otherwise, the pond will require regular treatment for the pesky insects.
A lot of planning has already gone into our pond project, and we have more work to do. We will post updates and images as we have them. It will be next spring before we begin planting, and next summer before the fish will arrive.

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