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Gurgling water enhances beauty of home

by on June 22, 2014 1:57 AM

Whether it’s the sound of gently cascading water, watching graceful fish swim or the constantly evolving landscape that people find appealing, water gardening continues to gain a foothold in backyards.

For Dick Farabaugh, of White Township, it’s a passion.

More than a decade ago Farabaugh, a retired engineer from Verizon, decided to use the subtle slope of his backyard to create a 1,200-gallon pond fed by a 35-foot stream, complete with a walking bridge and gazebo off his patio (which he also designed and built himself).

It took him most of a summer, but the result is a spectacular display that has been the backdrop for a number of photo shoots commemorating a multitude of milestones.

“We’ve had people shoot wedding and engagement photos here, graduation pictures,” Farabaugh said.

Sometimes the Farabaughs even get unexpected guests.

“People just show up to see it,” he said.

Not everyone has the space, money or time to install something so elaborate, but, Farabaugh says, do-it-yourselfers can add a water feature with as much as or little of these as they want.

The key, he said, is to plan ahead.

Farabaugh, a Master Gardener since 2005, suggested tying it into the existing space. It’s often a mistake, he said, to put in a waterfall and pond in a location that is not visible — or, just as importantly, audible — from the main living area.

“Most people want to be able to see it from the house,” said Farabaugh, whose wife, Jenny, loves to take in the scenery from the window in the kitchen, where she spends a lot of time.

Key to a visually pleasing water feature, he said, is to work with the existing landscape — a hillside, deck or patio, for instance — rather than just plunking down a fountain in the middle of the yard.

How sunny or shady a location is can be a major factor: Sun warms the water, which accelerates evaporation and algae growth. Too much shade can mean excessive leaves, which, upon decay, can alter the pH level.

And does the area have an electricity supply to power a waterfall or other source of aeration? That’s necessary to combat algae growth.

Conceptualizing the project can be more difficult than actual construction, he said. For that, there are preformed plastic liners and shells in all shapes and sizes that can be set in a level hole, then hidden by surrounding it with rocks, soil or mulch.

To keep the water moving, select a pump size that will circulate the entire contents of the pond roughly every hour. (For a 300-gallon pond, you’ll need a 300-gallon-an hour pump.)

Once the project is finished, there is generally not much maintenance involved, Farabaugh said.

“It does take a little bit of work, especially with the algae,” he said.

You have to think of a backyard water feature as a miniature ecosystem, he said.

As such, it can take on a different look throughout each season.

Shrubs and flowers grow over time, giving the water shade for more of the day. Adding lights can create attractive reflections, he said.

“A little imagination and a little money goes a long way,” Farabaugh said.

Water gardening classes are available through the Master Gardener program at the Penn State Extension office. For more information, call (724) 465-3880.

News editor Jason Levan has been with the Gazette for more than 15 years. He oversees the newspaper’s reporting and photography staff, coordinating much of the local content, as well as planning for various special projects. He is also very involved in the layout and design of the newspaper. He can be reached at or (724) 465-5555, ext. 270.
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June 22, 2014 1:56 AM
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