I’m a huge fan of backyard ponds – having built one in every garden I’ve ever owned. These range from a hundred yards long in one of my nursery areas to tiny 3-foot water gardens tucked under crab apple trees in the front gardens. This is not to mention the container water garden that I’ve carried with me from house to house for the past ten years (and I surely don’t want to move it again) 🙂
And yes, in my new gardens I’m already planning on where they are to go and how many I’m going to build. Once addicted to having ponds, you’ll never want a garden without one.
And yes, this is a man-made pond.
Ponds Don’t Have To Be Big and Expensive
Here’s the thing. Too many people think a backyard pond has to be big and expensive (like the one above in a multimillionaire’s garden). If you’re fairly handy, you can do all the work yourself by following a few simple pond construction guidelines (it’s still a lot of work to dig big holes I note). And your pond doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. The articles on these pages about backyard ponds are pretty much how to do it right (if not necessarily cheap).
I believe in using the best materials you can even if they cost you a bit more upfront. For example, if you get a better pond pump rated for the water flow you need, it will outlast and be more efficient on energy than a cheaper one. Getting a good liner (compare 5 options) also makes sense. There are few things worse (I”m told) 🙂 than having to remove all the plants, stone and landscaping because your liner has gone south after a few years of sunlight exposure.
The one exception to the do-it-yourself advice above is the electrical source.
Have a qualified electrician install the wiring and special plugs required to run outdoor equipment.
Frankly though, turning a pond into a swimming pool may not be the smartest decision.
Many folks want to use solar to run their ponds and this is a great idea. But you have to understand the reality of how these pumps really work.
Here are eight things you want to consider before committing yourself to a solar pond pump (understanding these will save you both money and time, not to mention satisfaction). Another small pump that many homeowners start with is the submersible pond pump. These are small units that may/may not use a filter but this article outlines the eight things you want to understand about using them.
The proper pump sizing however is critical to ensure adequate filtration and aeration for the size of the pond. Too big or too small a pump creates other issues that should not happen in the backyard pond if its set up right.
A submersible pond pump being used as a pond fountain
Before you start dropping chemicals into your pond to “control algae” – let me suggest you read because there’s one kind of algae you do NOT want to kill.
One of the simplest ways to control floating algae or pond scum, and only floating algae, is to use barley straw. There’s a ton of poor advice on the Net about this and here are the specific guidelines for how much straw and where/how to put it in your pond. One of the worst problems in my ponds has always been string algae and I’ve got a fairly simple, low-tech method of reducing the string algae problem.
Mind you, if you have a lot of fish and few plants, then a UV pond filter is going to be something you’ll want to investigate. Here’s a downloadable chart on the size of UV filter and size of pond.
All ponds develop beneficial a bacterial system necessary for health – but natural ponds just do it slower than if you added “seed bacteria” in the spring. Here’s why you need beneficial bacteria whether you add them or you allow the pond to naturally stabilize
The absolute simplest way to control algae is to ensure your pond has enough oxygenating plants. There are never enough of this useful but not particularly attractive plant.
You’ll sometimes see a recommendation to use bluestone in your pond to eliminate pond algae. Here’s the honest scoop on this (it works but you have to be super careful!)
Step by step instructions for planting waterlilies – both hardy and tropical – and what water depth to place them.
Simple techniques to propagate waterlilies – from timing to the size of the root.
Two easy ways to feed waterlilies and make no mistake about it – if you don’t feed them properly, they won’t bloom well. This is a greedy feeder folks.
What The Backyard Ponder Needs To Know About The Victoria Water Lily – the largest of the waterlilies with 3-foot wide leaves.
One thing many pond gardeners get wrong is how to plant lotus to ensure it grows and flowers. Here are the tricks for success.
And here are three ways to overwinter the lotus plants easily in your garden. I’ve used all three of these successfully and I tell you about the time one failed spectacularly.
Here’s how to grow lotus from seed. Very cool and easier than you think.
Floating Plants and Oxygenators
These plants are critical in the pond for several reasons.
- They provide oxygen to the water’
- They absorb extra nutrients preventing the algae from getting overfed
- They provide shade (reducing water temperatures and algae growth)
- Provide a source of food for fish (roots)
There are several really popular plants that are used this way.
- Azolla is popular and the closest thing we have to a serious weed in the ponds. Grows like stink and will quickly cover a small pond’s surface.
- Salvinia can be a blessing or curse in the backyard pond. It’s an easy-to-grow oxygenator and therein lies the problem.
- Vallisneria or eel grass is a classic water garden plant for planting on the bottoms of ponds. Here are the details
- Water lettuce.
- Water Celery
- Water Hyacinth
Acorus is a fine foliage plant for very damp soils or beside backyard ponds.
Arrowhead is an easy plant for the full sun perennial garden in a damp spot or pondside where it’s kept constantly moist. Note that constantly moist is the key to success here.
Asclepias incarnata or swamp milkweed is a lovely plant for the damp garden and at 4-5 feet tall, it’s a showy specimen for your damp or bog garden in the full sunshine.
Astrantia is often sold as a full sun perennial (it is) but seldom does the tag suggest you plant it where it wants to grow (damp gardens)
Pitcher plants want an evenly damp soil but the plant is relatively easy to grow if you give it what it wants (hint: it’s all in this post)
Pickerelweed or Pontederia cordata is a plant for damp soils or in shallow areas of the pond itself.
Rodgersia is a bold leafed plant with interesting flowers but it really wants to grow in damp soils (not enough gardeners know this)
Thalictrum is a plant for not only damp soils but damp, shady soils. A great plant for a tough location in your garden
It seems that if you have a pond, the next thing you want is a waterfall into it. This presents some interesting problems for some gardeners.
A waterfall backsplash problem is something good construction will prevent and this invariably means using copious amounts of a good pond foam sealer (Amazon) to ensure it doesn’t leak in the first place.
Note one of the most common causes of poor waterfalls and pond circulation issues is having a lower pond that’s smaller than the upper. The lower or second pond has to be bigger.
Care and Attention Of Your Backyard Pond
Here are eleven tips on winterizing your backyard pond including step-by-step directions based on water temperatures.
Solving problems in the backyard pond is always important and one of the most critical (at least from a fish’s point of view is raccoons and controlling them.
How to cool water down in the backyard pond – particularly useful for smaller ponds.
Specialty Water Gardens
How to keep herons out of your backyard pond. These birds are lovely to look at but can decimate a fish pond quickly.
How to build a bog to grow specialty perennial flowers.