Pondering a pond?
Ponds eventually tempt most gardeners, whether they decide to incorporate one in their yard or not. What’s not to love? The challenge of tackling new types of plants, the joy of attracting new wildlife and of course the peaceful beauty that they add to any yard are just part of the allure for backyard enthusiasts. Even gardens with limited space can include small pond features and benefit from them.
One of the simplest ways to get started is to purchase a complete pond kit which will have everything you need. If you are more adventurous you can try using a preformed pond which is great for smaller surface areas. Basically, just dig and insert them in the ground.
Alternatively, you can choose to design, dig and line your pond yourself with flexible pond liner. (When you buy your liner ensure that it is safe for fish.) This option is less expensive than pre-fabricated forms and allows you some flexibility with design. You will also find it easier to modify later should you decide.
The more complex your idea the more likely you are to want to contact a certified landscaper for assistance. These are some items you will want to take into consideration before you decide to do a DIY or get a professional.
• Are you planning a natural pond feature with no filtration or a pond with a filter system and possibly a waterfall?
• What size are you planning to build? Is it simple or elaborate? • Are you going to have fish in the pond? • How comfortable are you with installing a filter system, hooking up lighting or other accessories you may want?
• How much do you really know about aquatic plants, their needs and functions?
Location, location, location!
Where you choose to locate your pond is as important as the design. You do not want to build in a low spot, as it will end up flooding, or place it near underground power lines. Remember to call before you dig. Ponds should be close to a ground-fault circuit interrupter and easily reachable with your hose.
Choose a spot that receives approximately six hours of sunlight per day. This will make your plants and wildlife happy by preventing the growth of too much algae from excessive heat and light. It is better to locate your pond away from deciduous trees as the leaf clutter can clog up filters and leaf decomposition can affect the pond’s ecosystem.
Position the pond so that you can observe it from the house, your deck or an outdoor seating area. If you are adding a waterfall make sure it is visible from this viewing area as well. Take advantage of sloping ground to add in a natural waterfall feature or stream.
In terms of maintenance bigger is better: larger ponds are able to maintain a more stable ecosystem. Big or small, your next decision is the shape and look of your pond. You can blend it in naturally with native water plants, use rocks of different sizes for the edges or add a water feature such as a fountain or waterfall.
If you are going to dig your pond yourself, expect to put in some back-breaking labour. The best way to mark out your design is to use a hose or rope to outline it. As you lay out your design remember that the final size of the pond will be two-thirds this size.
Start digging in the middle and work your way outward. You can incorporate one to three shelves on the sides of the pond depending on its depth. When cutting shelves, ensure you leave the edges compacted, cutting a 90-degree angle cleanly. The uppermost shelf should be 18 to 24 inches wide and 12 inches deep all around the pond’s edges. You can adjust this depend-
ing on the size of the pond. This ledge will be useful for placing water plants and rocks to disguise the liner when the water level drops. Ponds will eventually overflow, due to over filling or excess rain, and dry up during periods of extreme heat. Be prepared for overflows by sloping the land to divert any overflow from running towards the house or other areas you would rather not be flooded.
To purchase a liner, you need to measure the maximum length and depth of the pond. If you take these dimensions to your pond supplier, they will be able to provide you with the correct liner size. You will also need an underlay for the liner. This could be carpet underlay or sand to prevent rocks from puncturing the lining.
Place liner over the underlay, ensuring that it overlaps evenly all around the pond. Hold it down with large rocks as you fill the pond; smooth, fold and pull the liner as it fills. Once full, you can cut the liner, leaving a one foot lip all around. Use the soil you removed or rocks on the shelf around the pond to hide the liner. Add plants and let the pond settle for a few days. The pond will take on a green pea soup look as algae blooms and feeds on nitrogen in the pond. This will disappear when the food diminishes but can recur whenever nitrogen levels rise. e.g. from fish or decaying plant matter.
Keeping your pond healthy and beautiful
Unattended, time can be cruel to ponds and water features. Eventually succession occurs and nature reclaims the pond. An overgrowth of plant life will turn it into a bog and as the water disappears in this hollow of land, left to its own devices it will eventually begin to turn into a young forest. To avoid this you will need to do some regular maintenance. Every year plants will need to be thinned out above and below the surface. This not only helps keep nitrogen levels and algae down but it helps to maintain the overall health of the pond.
Another way to ensure good pond health is to insert a filter to keep the water clean and/or a pump to keep the water oxygenated. In general, pond water should be circulated at least once every two hours. Underground lighting will allow you to enjoy your pond in the evening as well as during the day. If you decide to include any of these features, you will need to do some forward planning.
Since deciduous trees aren’t recommended, you can add to the look of the pond by planting evergreen trees or shrubs, perennials and tall grasses as a backdrop.
There is no denying that having a pond requires work not only during its installation but through its continually required maintenance. One has to commit to such a feature, as you do with any aspect of your garden, but in the end, a pond offers so much in return.
Location is an important decision – find a spot that doesn't get full sun.
Lilypads are a colourful feature and can protect fish from hungry predators.
Fish can be an attractive addition.
This pond gives the yard a formal flair, while bulrushes, iris, and pseudacrus fill the pond with their lively presence.
Maintaining healthy water quality is important. Installing a water filtration system will assist with pond health.