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Streams can liven up backyards

Home and garden experts agree a backyard stream can be a great way to liven up your home. Setting up a stream can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,000, depending on the length and supplies used. -- Special photo

As the summer months continue to heat up, now may be the perfect time to sit in your backyard and create your very own private oasis — a dream stream.

Woodland streams have been in existence for more than one thousand years, but you can harness a unique mini waterfall of tranquility within a matter of days.

Home and Garden experts say with a lot of work and maintenance, a home stream is possible.

“Any site with a slope of 1 inch per 10 feet will support a stream, but more slope expands the possibilities for building waterfalls,” said Home and Garden expert Ed Beaulieu.

Four Seasons Garden Center owner Greg Bjelke said because Selma is leveled, building a stream may be difficult and depending on the stream’s length, can cost anywhere between $800-$1,000 for total supplies and pumps.

“One end will have to be built up higher — about 3 feet high, with mounds of dirt or rock (and) on the low end you can have a pool to get water that spills down,” Bjelke said. “For a novice, something quick and easy (to use) could be a kiddie pool, washtub or fish pond, and disguise it with stones on the edges. Pumps are really important.”

Placing a stream in a private place, away from public view Bjelke said, is key.

“I see so many done wrong — in the middle of the front or backyard,” Bjelke said. “It should be as close to where you enjoy the outdoors … a little shady … an oasis feel … like next to a patio, where you can enjoy and hear.”

And to keep the Eden-like feel to your stream, polished with various flowers, plants and stones, Bjelke said maintenance is crucial to its longevity.

“It has to be maintained constantly,” Bjelke said. “It’s not something you can plop down and walk away from. It takes work.”

Experts give the following stream planning checklist before beginning your water project.

Identify underground utilities and easements. Build the stream on your property, not in easements, and know ahead of time where utilities are buried.

Check on building permits. In most areas building codes for swimming pools apply to water features.

Think about wiring needs. In addition to wiring for a pump, decide where you want nighttime lighting. Plan ahead to enjoy your stream after dark.

Plan truck access. A large dump truck will need a place to deliver several tons of gravel and stone. Your pond’s inflow can be anything from a winding stream to a rushing waterfall, so shape and place it carefully to blend with the soil contours, plants and pond itself.

Create the illusion and sound of rushing water by repositioning rocks. Don’t slope the streambed so steeply that gravel and pebbles wash away. Run a 1½-inch pipe underground from the sump pump to the stream head, concealing the end so water appears to flow out from among the rocks.

Excavate the bed. The depth should be 18 to 24 inches, sloping upward toward the shoreline to accommodate three types of plant growth. Line both pond excavation and streambed with a ½ inch thick layer of damp newspapers, which will later decompose, covered with 20-gauge PVC return tpipe that will carry water from the bottom back up to the top.

Avoid large growing shrubs to preserve views of the stream. Be sure to include a variety of sizes for natural appearance. Select plants for various bloom times for continual streamside color.
Home and garden experts agree a backyard stream can be a great way to liven up your home. Setting up a stream can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,000, depending on the length and supplies used.