Grit Blogs > Nature and Gardening at the Edge

Ponds, pros and cons

Rocks and plants surround a small pond for a natural appearance but hide the water in this view

A small pond as the center of a tranquil spot in the lawn sounds so inviting. Besides the tranquility that it can provide you, it will serve as a place for small animals and birds to obtain water and for some to live. A pond truly is a beauty spot.

If you dream of a pond, consider some of the realities before you dig. A liner, either a hard plastic one or a flexible rubber type on is probably essential. If you live in a wetter climate, there may be other strategies. Location is important. Trees can shade a pond but more debris will fall into the water. Obviously traffic patterns and safety can dictate placement as well.

A larger pond requires quite a bit of digging. You might even consider power equipment in some cases. Rocks or pre-cast stone-like edging are nice touches that will make a pond appear more natural. Plantings around a pond or plants in the water are also nice.

Once you have a pond installed, surrounded by rocks and plantings, you can truly enjoy it. There are still other things to consider. If mosquitoes are a problem, use dunks or other controls. String or hair algae can be a real problem but there is a simple solution. Removal of the algae on a regular basis can help but it also seems to help in the reproductive cycle and can be a losing battle. Adjusting the water pH is also supposed to help. Allowing the algae to grow is a bad option. Eventually the algae will have a mass die off and the water will become a lifeless smelly mess. The easiest and most effective solution that I have found is to place barley straw in the pond. For some reason, algae will not grow where there is barley straw. I put a handful under an overturned flowerpot and the problem is cured for the season.

Plants in the water will need some attention to prevent overgrowing. Water lilies should be cut back at the end of the season and the dying tops discarded. Water hyacinths, although pretty, can cover the surface of a pond very quickly. Iris or flags grow amazingly well and can eventually take up a pretty large area.

Rather like an aquarium, which also provides tranquil viewing, a pond must also be cleaned out occasionally or the tranquil view will turn in to muck. I plan to clean mine at the end of the growing season after plants have died down but the air temperature is still high enough to be able to work outside and get wet without being miserable. It is a nasty smelly job, but better than letting the muck continue. A wet and dry vacuum can help a lot, but it is never a neat job. For smaller ponds, less than 2 feet deep, drain, clean and leave dry over the winter. In the spring, there will be leaves, sticks and whatever to clean out before filling them and adding the barley straw but it is quick work. For larger ponds, over 2 feet deep, you can refill with clean water and put trimmed plants in to over winter.

Presently, the only animal life that I have are toads, frogs, salamanders and whatever else may make their home there. Caring for fish is another challenge. While I have power available to run a pump for a waterfall, fountain or other accessories, I am also not using that at the present. There really are a lot of options. Plan carefully and remember the maintenance. A pond is more than just some water.