A Backyard (or front yard!?) Pond

Close your eyes for a moment and picture the garden of paradise. Is there a stream or body of water somewhere in your vision? Most people would answer yes. A pond, stream, or waterfall not only adds an instant reminder of paradise to your backyard, but provides an opportunity to see the balance of nature at work first hand. A properly designed pond will have no need for artificial chemicals, water steralizers, or special equipment beyond a pump and filter.

To understand how this is possible, it is necessary to understand that we are creating an ecosystem with 3 main elements: fish, bacteria, and plants. Fish excrete wastes containing ammonia, which is toxic to themselves and all animals. Plants can not absorb ammonia, but they do require nitrogen (the main ingredient in fertilizer) to be healthy. Luckily there are waterborne bacteria whose primary purpose in life is to convert ammonia into nitrogen. Bacteria cling to the surface of things, and absorb ammonia as it passes across this surface, so it is our intention to provide as much surface area as possible for these bacteria to live on. This is provided in a layer of gravel, and sometimes in an area of porous volcanic rocks. So the fish keep the plants healthy, and the plants keep the fish healthy, and the bacteria are the mediators.

Gravel also serves as a place for the plants to anchor their roots. Usually, soil is not required at all. Plants will suck all the nutrients they need directly out of the water and air. Your pond will contain a wide variety of plants as well as ornamental fish. Besides being endlessly fun to watch, and essential for the plants, fish provide the important service of eliminating mosquito larvae and controling insects.

Your pond will also attract all kinds of visitors as well. Dragonflies will stop by to hover around, butterflies will come for a quick drink, and birds of all kinds will be overjoyed at a place to take a bath. Some more unusual visitors may also arrive from time to time. A wandering possum may come for a drink in the dead of night (i have never known them to stay or be a nuissance) and it is not surprising to see a blue heron or several ducks or geese from time to time. Your fish may not be overjoyed to see a heron, however, so it is best to provide them something to hide under. Frogs and toads WILL COME, guaranteed, and it is quite a sight to see a pond full of tadpoles the week after a frenzied and rainy spring night. Kids will love to watch them grow by the day, until they sprout legs, and finally hop away.

A pond also serves as a natural focal point in the landscape as well as a noise filter. Even if outside noise is not eliminated, visitors are more likely to pick up on and focus on the sound of running water, making outside noise much less noticible.

The main flaw I have seen in self-designed ponds (as well as homeowner designs in general) is thinking too small. It is amazing how quickly the planting space in a pond becomes taken up, and how easy it is to wish we had gone a bit bigger. The size of the pond should be in relation to the size of the landscape. In a large yard, a larger pond is appropriate, and in a smaller yard a smaller pond is appropriate. Consider, also, that a good chunk of the cost of the pond is going into the pump, plumbing, and electric conduit. These costs are going to be about the same whether you are building a small pond or larger pond - the second (or third) 100 sq.ft. is going to be much less expensive to build than the first 100 sq.ft.

I also recommend including a waterfall and stream into your design. Not only will it add sound and movement, but it will help oxygenate the water for the fish and bacteria, and increase filtration by the plants.

A Pondless Waterfall

If you are short on space, cash, or want some of the benefits of a pond without any maintenance (there isn't THAT MUCH maintenance involved with having a pond, but there are occasional tasks that need to be done: feeding the fish, cleaning the filter, thinning out plants, removing leaves in the fall or spring...) then you might consider a Pondless Waterfall, which can include a stream as well. You will still have the sight and sound of running water, and some birds are just as keen on a shower as a bath . . . You also won't have to worry about an unattended child taking an unintended bath.

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.