Recent world events and health concerns make the idea of vacationing at home —dubbed a Stay-Cation— more appealing. With an investment in waterscaping, homeowners can get the rest and relaxation they formerly sought on a cruise ship right in their own backyard. The resulting sights and sounds of cascading waterfalls, peaceful lily pads and colorful fish
can combine to drain away any cares and concerns and do it year ‘round, not just for a week or two.

“It’s invigorating to step into a waterscaped yard,” says Jason Steele, owner of Steele’s Landscaping in Wichita, Kansas ( “And the sound of the water tumbling over the rocks and boulders in a waterfall or stream is very soothing.”

Steele, the self proclaimed Water Boss, has installed water features for nearly 40 years for customers spread across multiple states. “Landscaping is my life and water is my passion,” he says.

That passion is on display just outside the home he shares with his wife Stacy. A small, pond-less waterfall greets visitors at the front door, while the backyard is an oasis featuring a large, stone-lined waterfall, a babbling brook, two ponds stocked with brightly-colored goldfish and koi and all surrounded by a cascade of flowers, plants and aquatic vegetation.

Jason and Stacy Steele have turned their backyard into an oasis with the addition of a waterfall which feeds a rock-lined stream connecting to a pair of ponds holding 2,000 and 7,000 gallons of water.

“People can spend money on game rooms, garages and man caves or they may have a beautiful green lawn with a couple of trees, but we think our waterscaped yard is an investment that returns more in terms of rest and relaxation, and it’s also a great place for family and friends to gather,” says Jason.

It’s a lifestyle. Waterscaping is the fastest growing lifestyle trend in America, according to Jodi Tyler, with Kingdom Landscaping in Sabillasville, Maryland ( “A recent poll by USA Today found water features are the thing homeowners would most like to add to their property—ranking above decks, pools, patios and gardens,” she says.

The wish list of entry-level water features typically includes either a bubbling rock fountain or a waterfall with costs beginning around $2,000. “These features are popular because they fit in small areas of the landscape, the sound of running water cancels out traffic noise, they require little to no maintenance and there’s not the safety concern with having a pond and small children,” says Steele.

“We encourage homeowners to include at least a bubbling rock fountain even in what is otherwise a hardscape design,” says Tyler. “Invariably, that single feature becomes the highlight of the project.”

A simple waterfall consists of a pumping system that recirculates water from an underground reservoir to flow over the falls. A typical system would utilize a 2,000 to 4,000 gallon per hour pump, an EPDM liner and 3 tons of rocks, boulders and river gravel.

Pond paradise. Including a pond with a waterscape allows for the addition of soothing aquatic plants—such as water lilies—and an opportunity for a rewarding relationship with some favorite fish.

The sights and sounds of these water features, along with the plants and fish, make the backyard their favorite hangout.

“Size and location are the first decisions when establishing a pond,” says Steele. “Initially, most people want to put the pond at the back of their yard, but we believe it needs to be close to the active areas of the home so you can enjoy it even while inside.”

Tyler recommends an 11’ x 16’ pond (roughly $8,000) to her clients. “In our experience, a 180 square foot pond is a good standard size. We’ve found that enthusiastic hobbyists always find new plants or fish to add to their water garden so they often end up replacing smaller ponds,” she says.

“There are also questions about how deep the water in a backyard pond should be,” adds Tyler. “Generally, two feet is adequate—even in the coldest climates the water only freezes about eight
inches thick and the fish will be fine provided they have oxygen.”

A well designed ‘ecosystem’ pond requires little maintenance. The components of a self-sustaining system are a mechanical filter (skimmer) to remove debris from the surface; a biological filter to colonize the bacteria that removes excess nutrients from the water; pumps to circulate and oxygenate the water; rocks and gravel to also aid beneficial bacteria in nutrient removal; and aquatic plants that deprive troublesome algae of its food source.

“And then there’s the fish,” adds Steele. “They not only help keep the pond clean, but they are also wonderful pets. Feeding them is our favorite activity.”

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