How To Care for a Stream in Your Garden

Garden stream

If you are one of the lucky gardeners who has a stream flowing through your garden, you may wonder how best to preserve and protect it. Streams come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiniest trickle to a babbling brook, but no matter how large or small the stream we are talking about may be, it will almost certainly support a whole range of wildlife which will serve as a major boon to you as a gardener. Making sure you protect and care for your stream is not only the right thing to do for the wider environment, it can also help you to maintain and enhance your garden.

Keep it Clean

One of the main considerations when taking care of a stream in your garden is keeping it clean. It should go without saying that, in order to protect the local environment and local wildlife, you should always garden organically. It is vitally important that you do not release any nasty chemicals such as pesticides or herbicides into the waters that flow across your land.

Skunk cabbage along streamAnother thing to consider is that you should take care not to disrupt the banks of the stream too much – excess mud and silt can slow the flow of the water, impede the progress of wildlife and make it less appealing to aquatic life.

Finally, you should also take care not to send contaminants downstream in the form of seeds or sections from invasive, non-native plant species. Lysichiton americanus (skunk cabbage) for example, can spread along the banks of streams, out-competing native vegetation. Be sure to remove this plant if you find it along your stream, and make sure you are not part of perpetuating and proliferating this non-native species or other problem plant species.

streamKeep it Cold

Like land-living creatures, fish and other aquatic creatures living in your stream need oxygen to breathe. Cold water can hold more oxygen than warm water. For this reason, streams that are colder will have a greater diversity of creatures in them. You can help to increase biodiversity by helping to make sure your stream remains icy cold. You can do this by ensuring a good coverage of shade by planting native trees and shrubs to shield your stream from the hot sun during the summer months. Keeping a stream moving as quickly as possible will also help to keep its temperature down in the warmest part of the year.

streamKeep it Complex

Just as you should aim to increase and sustain diversity by ensuring there are a good range of habitats throughout the land in your garden, you should also do what you can to maintain a diverse range of aquatic environments in your stream as it flows through your garden. Try to maintain a 'riffle-pool-run' structure in the steam, or restore this structure if it has been lost. You may be able to add or remove stones and rocks from the stream bed to create a range of shallow areas, slow moving, deeper pools and runs of moderate depth and speed.