Pond Construction, Repair, & Maintenance

The experts at Ferncreek Design & Build are happy to assist you in designing and building a new ornamental or swimming pond or in evaluating an older pond which is not performing to expectation. Please read below to familiarize yourself with our approach or skip to the section which best suits your needs, and then call or email us to setup a consultation to discuss your project in detail.

Earth Swimming Ponds
Pond Siting - see Earth Swimming Ponds
Lined Fish or Swimming Ponds
Recirculating Creeks and Waterfalls
Natural Swimming Pools
Pond Repair and Maintenance

Earth Ponds vs. Lined Ponds and Natural Swimming Pools

Not all ponds are created equally. There are many similarities between earthen ponds, lined ponds, and natural swimming pools but also some important differences. Your needs and intentions as well as your local geology and topography will play a role in deciding which type of pond suits you best.

Earth Swimming Ponds

Earth ponds are the ideal choice where you desire a large pond for swimming or simply for natural beauty and enjoyment. Earth ponds rely on the natural water table as a water source, and exchange water freely with the existing water table, giving continual access to naturally pure and filtered water. It is extremely important to assess the local soil profile and hydrology when choosing the correct site for an earthen pond. Not all soils and locations are suitable, and there can be considerable variation on one property alone. Our first step is always to provide a soil hydrology analysis to determine suitable locations for digging, first through analysis of soil charts, and later confirmed through the digging of test holes. In some cases, unsuitable soils can be modified by adding clay to retain water in certain areas, while allowing infiltration in other areas. In the case where we have to add clay to the entire pond, in effect sealing it off from the existing water table, the pond functions as a lined pond, and is now a closed system which relies more heavily on external water sources and mechanical filtration.

We are often asked if we can create a pond using an existing creek as a water source. While it may seem counter-intuitive, natural creeks are not a particularly good water source for earth ponds. Not only do creeks carry large sediment loads, which will fill in a pond completely within a matter of years, but creeks also introduce a large nutrient load which will feed algae blooms. While there are methods of building a series of sediment ponds which are cleaned on a regular basis (not low maintenance), our approach to building healthy clean ponds involves removing/diverting all sources of surface runoff away from the pond, and relying on the infiltration of clean earth-filtered groundwater. In cases where we are repairing an existing pond which previously relied on a creek as a water source, we will actually build a new creek bed and divert the creek around the pond. This method has served us and our customers well, and eliminates the constant headaches and maintenance of a creek-fed pond.

Size does matter when it comes to ponds. Deeper ponds definitely have an advantage in terms of maintenance over shallow and small ponds. Deep pockets allow increased infiltration and help maintain a cooler temperature in the pond which will be an important factor in controlling algae. We strive whenever possible to dig pockets as deep as possible (16 to 20 ft) to allow this natural cooling and increased infiltration to happen.

Landscaping and planting is the last step in earth pond construction. Besides beautifying the pond and creating a transition zone to blend the pond into the surrounding landscape, plantings help prevent erosion and surface runoff. Plants placed at various depths in the pond also provide shelter for wildlife, provide shade for cooling the pond and controlling algae, and play an important role in removing nitrates and phosphates from the water which are a source of algal blooms.

Maintenance: A deep pond with good infiltration, abundant plant life, a bit of shade, and minimal surface runoff can maintain pristine water with virtually no maintenance. More maintenance may be required for ponds that don’t meet these conditions. In this case, we can devise a strategy and maintenance plan which will address these issues. Approaches can include draining and dredging (or digging deeper), diverting surface runoff, increasing plant diversity and quantity, adding oxygen and circulation with an air diffuser (much more effective and economical than using pumps and pluming) , adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes on a regular basis, adding dyes to darken and cool the water, and adding barley straw pellets as a natural algicide. Use of synthetic algacides would be an option of last resort. If we are assessing an existing pond, we would also perform a full array of chemical tests to assess nutrient levels and the health of various bacterial decomposers, and recommend ongoing testing to monitor the pond’s condition throughout the seasons and course of treatment.

The charge for our basic pond consultation including a soil and siting analysis, overall concept development, plant lists, and rough estimate is $400. Design work and detailed estimates are normally in the range of $0 to $1000 depending on the size and complexity of the pond. Locations over 20 min drive from Olivebridge, NY may be subject to a travel fee.

Lined Ponds

The lined pond uses either a synthetic liner or natural clay to create a watertight barrier between the pond and the existing soil, and an external water source to maintain the water level. Water quality and a balanced ecology is created by integrating mechanical pumps and filters, living bacterial filters, and plant life. This type of pond is very suitable to a small backyard fish pond with a recirculating creek or waterfall, and can also be scaled to a larger swimming pond where conditions are not suitable for building and earth pond. Regular maintenance of cleaning the mechanical filters and occasionally removing debris and adding bacteria is essential to maintaining water quality and health.

More information and detail about backyard ponds can be found in our article Backyard Ponds and Falls.

The charge for our basic pond consultation including siting and overall concept development, plant lists, and rough estimate is $400. Design work (if necessary) and detailed estimates are normally in the range of $0 to $1000 depending on the size and complexity of the pond. Locations over 20 min drive from Olivebridge, NY may be subject to a travel fee.

Re-circulating Creeks and Waterfalls

Recirculating waterfalls and creeks and be added to an existing pond, or can also be a stand-alone feature. It is important to keep surface runoff out of a recirculating system, so we don’t recommend converting an existing drainage ditch into a recirculating creek or waterfall! In such a case, we recommend instead creating a dry-creek bed, which functions as a drainage ditch but is more visually appealing.

Natural Swimming Pools

A Natural Swimming Pool is not in essence different from a large scale lined pond with a somewhat more elaborate system of filtration and construction. It is a self-contained system which depends on a balanced system of pumps, filters, bacteria, and plants to maintain pristine water quality. No chlorine or chemicals are used in the process. It requires a planting zone equal or greater in surface area to the swimming zone. Cost can be expected to be comparable to a traditional swimming pool. We built our first natural pool last year (pic above) and are calling it a grand success. For more information on natural pools please read our article on Natural Swimming Pools. If you are interested in having a natural pool on your property please contact us and be one of the first in line for this exciting new technology.

Pond Maintenance and Repair

A healthy pond is a balanced ecosystem. Plants, fish, and bacteria all work together to maintain the pond’s health and when one element is out of balance, all the other elements can be affected as well. We understand the chemistry and biology of ponds, and the cycle of interactions that keep your water clear and your fish and plants healthy. We can help you come up with a maintenance plan which suits your needs. The specifics will depend on the type and size of pond you have. For most ponds, we will visually assess the quality and clarity of the water, which in most cases is a good indicator of water quality and safety.  We will normally also survey the bottom of the pond for depth of pond, depth of muck, and type of muck, which are important factors influencing water quality and plant and algae growth.  We will catalog the type of plants and animals/fish observed in the pond noting any invasive species.  We will examine the structural integrity of the pond including embankments, spill pipes, and other mechanical components, and document any issues found. For lined ponds we will inspect the condition of the mechanical, bacterial, and plant filters, and for earth ponds we will include a soil hydrology assessment. We will also perform a site analysis to identify any sources of nutrient or sediment overload or contamination.  In cases where a bacterial or e.coli imbalance is suspected, we may recommend a water test (additional charge) to determine bacterial concentration - a certain level will be normal and healthy.

When we are satisfied with our assessment, you will receive a detailed report on our findings as well as a list of suggested improvements and a suggested ongoing maintenance plan, as well as estimated prices. We emphasize organic and chemical-free methods, and look to long-term health over a "quick fix". Sometimes these methods take time and some refinement, but we will stick with you over the course, and make sure your pond comes back into its full health and vigor. Some approaches can include draining and dredging (or digging deeper), increasing plant diversity and quantity, adding oxygen and circulation with an air diffuser (for earth ponds) or an upgraded pump and filter (for lined ponds), adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes on a regular basis, adding dyes to darken and cool the water, using natural chelating agents to bind phosphourous and/or improve water clarity, and adding barley straw pellets as a natural algicide. Synthetic herbicides may have an immediate beneficial effect, but in the long-run they only contribute to the problem by adding to the nutrient load - therefore we do not use or condone use of herbicides and pesticides.

The charge for our analysis is $400. Estimating extensive repairs and design work may be subject to an additional fee, and at locations further than 20 min from Olivebridge, NY a travel fee may apply.

Ferncreek Design & Build * Olivebridge, NY 12461
(845) 657 - 1905 * info@ferncreekDB.com
Serving most points within Ulster County including Samsonville, Palentown, Krumville, Tabasco, Kerhonkson, Lyonsville, Stone Ridge, High Falls, Alligerville, Accord, Cherrytown, Naopnach, Ellenville, Rosendale, Tillson, Esopus, Mt Tremper, Phoenecia, Chichester, Willow, Lake Hill, Shady, Bearsville, Woodstock, West Hurley, and Hurley. See Service Area Map to confirm service to your location.