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Building backyard ponds

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Building backyard ponds can be as rewarding as it is frustrating. You must first fix in your mind whether you would rather start from scratch and work out the plan yourself, if you would rather just buy it as a pond kit or whether you just want it all ready to go with minimal effort on your part (with the raised fibreglass ponds nowadays, this is a possibility).  Do you want the pond to be inground?  If so, then you have to find somewhere in your backyard for all that dirt you are going to dig up.  All the hassles aside, backyard ponds are a source of great tranquility in the garden and place to just sit and contemplate.  If you are looking for small backyard ponds, look at the water garden container section of my site for additional ideas -click here.  Otherwise, get those muscles ready for the first shovel full of dirt.

2 interesting e-books that will help you on your way to building that backyard pond :

How to build your own waterfall - read it for free! - Click Here! 

Fantastic Fish Ponds - Have the fish pond you've always dreamed of - guaranteed! - click here.

Backyard ponds - siting and design
(article from Gardeners Supply Company)

backyard pond - how to buildA natural-looking water garden should have sloped sides with planting terraces that step down toward the deepest area of the pond. This allows you to plant a diversity of plant material and create different habitats. In northern areas, a depth of 24 to 36 inches is usually necessary to ensure that the pond will not freeze solid during the winter.  If you live in a warm climate, where frost heaving is not a problem, you can line the bottom of your pond with concrete, brick or even clay. Today, most gardeners and professional landscapers use a preformed liner made from fiberglass or plastic, or a flexible, cut-to-fit liner made from PVC or butyl rubber. The preformed liners are quicker to install, but the flexible liners allow for much greater creativity.

Tips on when to put a backyard pond :

  • Place in a location that receives at least 5 hours of sunlight a day
  • Avoid low spots or areas that accumulate runoff
  • Don't put the garden under large trees
  • Provide easy access to electrical power and fresh water

Backyard ponds - the plants

Water gardens can include floating plants, submerged plants and edge plants.

Floating plants for the backyard pond shade the water and absorb dissolved nutrients. By doing so, they help to suppress algae and keep the pond clean. There are hundreds of varieties of floating plants to choose from. Some examples include duckweed, water lettuce and water lilies.

Hardy water lilies are available in an array of colors from white through yellow, pink and red. Many bloom from late spring until frost and will survive the winter in ponds as far north as USDA zone 4, as long as their roots don't freeze solid. Plant them in sturdy containers that can be submerged 10 to 18 inches deep. Otherwise, remove the pots from the water in late fall and store in a protected area over the winter.

Tropical water lilies look similar to the hardy varieties, but the blooms are larger and more dramatic. Many are hardy only to Zone 10, and will not flower unless they are grown in full sun and are exposed to several weeks of temperatures over 80 degrees F. Some are day-bloomers and some are night-bloomers. Their roots are very delicate and can be easily damaged.

Lotuses are another beautiful choice, though they are not true floating plants as they usually hold their leaves and flowers 4 to 8 feet above the water surface. Each lotus blossom can be as much as 10 to 12 inches across. After blooming, lotus flowers leave behind a large and distinctive seedpod. They are generally hardy to USDA zone 4 or 5 if their roots are not allowed to freeze solid. Plant them in sturdy containers that can be submerged 10 to 18 inches deep. Otherwise, remove the pots from the water in late fall and store in a protected area over the winter.

Submerged plants for the backyard pond spend their entire lives growing beneath the surface of the water. They are usually called oxygenators. They obtain their nutrients from the water directly through their stems and leaves. By consuming nutrients, they help keep your garden from becoming a slimy green ooze by consuming dissolved nutrients. Submerged plants provide a spawning area and hiding place for fish and other water creatures. However, be careful, many are invasive and should be grown in containers. Common submerged plants include: anacharis, arrowhead, eelgrass and water milfoil.

backyard ponds - plantsEdge plants for the backyard pond grow on a "shelf" 5-to-10 inches below the surface of the water or in the moist soil next to the pond, providing shelter for fish, frogs and other plant life. Shelf plants include sweet flag, water plantain, marsh marigold, pickerel rush, sedges, cattails and arrowhead.

Adding Fish to the backyard pond

Fish can be a fun addition to a water garden and help keep the mosquito population in check. Plus, their wastes are a good source of nutrients for plants. The challenge is keeping the fish population under control. Too many fish means too many nutrients and that leads to algae blooms. As a general rule you can have no more than 1 fish per 3 square feet of surface area. (with an active filtration system and air pump, the number can be much higher.)

Most native fish (like guppies and mosquito fish) can survive the winter in the pond if the water doesn't freeze to the bottom. Keep a hole open in the ice to allow oxygen exchange.

Koi are the large colorful fish popular in Japan. Koi require highly oxygenated water, which means your pond needs a filter and air pump. They must also be fed daily and tend to eat water plants (especially expensive water lilies).

Once your new pond has settled in and the water quality has stabilized, frogs, toads, snails, clams and water insects, like water striders and dragonflies, will begin to appear. Each of these creatures will settle into its preferred habitat, helping to complete the ecosystem.

Learn about the science behind water quality, and be attentive to what is going on in that ecosystem. Water gardening is a dance with nature, and in this dance, nature always leads.

To avoid installing an active filtration system, maintain the right mix of water plants, be careful to remove dead or dying plant matter and tolerate water that isn't crystal clear. However, if your pond is stocked with fish, especially koi, you may need a filtration system to clean and oxygenate the water.

Pond filters from Yardiac

Prefer to do it yourself?  Then take a look at pond fountains (for all those decorative fountain spray head accents.

Or visit Gardeners Supply Co for more pond accessories-click here.  Happy building!

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