Pon­der­ing a pond?

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Local Dirt - By Re­nee Conte

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.

DIY tips

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.

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