When kid’s say they’re going to do something later, that means they’re not going to do it.

I do the same thing but for different reasons. When I say I’ll do it later, I immediately forget it. My recall is similar to a goldfish’s memory. I have resorted to a complex system of to-do lists to keep my life organized and functional. Some projects are scheduled for the off-season when the leaves have fallen and turf is dormant. Water features are a great example.

Water features don’t have to be elaborate. The trickling sound is soothing and moving water adds visual interest. Additionally, goldfish are low-cost options whereas koi are bit more expensive. Pond maintenance, however, is not for everyone. The level of maintenance depends on the size of the pond and your goals. Pondless fountains are among the lowest maintenance designs.

Pondless fountains require a basin of water that will be pumped upward to eventually trickle back into the basin. Fountains are a precast version of this design.

Pondless water features, though, typically hide the basin and can be assembled in a variety of ways. They can be waterfalls with significant water flow or a small overflowing pot with water dribbling into rocks at the base. What appears to be an endless supply of water magically pouring from the waterfall or top of the pot is actually percolating into a buried basin. A small pump, located at the bottom of the container, circulates the water to the waterfall or up a tube that’s inserted through the base of the pot.


Pots are typically placed upright. Textured surfaces will highlight the water spilling down the sides more effectively. Pots also can be laid on their sides so that water appears to continually pour out.

Instead of a pot, flagstones can be stacked like pancakes. By drilling a hole through each stone, a tube can be fed through the center so that water bubbles from the top and drips down the tower.

Another option is the deer chaser fountain. This is a short length of bamboo that fills with water on one end. The weight of the water will cause it to tip and spill. Once empty, the weighted bamboo tips back into place, knocking the back end on a stone that, as the name suggests, chases off deer.

That’s hilarious. The concept is wishful thinking: Deer won’t stop eating roses because a fountain knocks.


The material at the base can be anything that is sufficiently porous. Mexican pebbles are frequently used because they are dark and perfectly smooth. Pea gravel, decorative glass or any material will work as long as water can quickly pass through it.


A small pump is often sufficient. Water simply needs to be pumped to the top of the feature in order to trickle back down. Deer chasers need very little water to slowly fill the bamboo while a pot will likely need a slightly larger pump so water flows around the entire rim.

Solar pumps are often small and only run during the day when most people enjoy them.


The water basin has to be sturdy enough to be buried with the lid level with the ground. It also needs to support the weight of stones and the feature, such as a pot. Heavy-duty storage containers can often be suitable. A large container is preferable since water readily evaporates or spills outside the area of containment.

Holes are drilled through the lid. In some cases, a column of a bricks can be placed inside the basin to support the feature.

Silicon should be used to seal around the tube that feeds through the feature, such as through the bottom of the pot to prevent water from leaking.

Once everything is working, the only thing you’ll have to remember is to occasionally refill the basin. Just don’t ask your kids to do it. They do it later.

Tony Bertauski is a horticulture instructor at Trident Technical College. To give feedback, e-mail him at tony. bertauski@tridenttech.edu.