Creating a Life of Plenty

Aquatic Adventures or our Epic Failure and Subsequent Delight in our New Pond


The glossy title would be Aquatic Adventures, but frankly the saga of getting our pond in is too hilarious not to share. Will and I have wanted to add a small pond to our backyard garden for some time. Adding water to a garden brings many benefits for the local environment; it attracts frogs and other water insects, it gives the birds a permanent reservoir for drinking water and provides the bees with fresh water as well. We had a birdbath in the back yard, but it wasn’t quite enough. We moved that to the front garden to the delight of the birds who happily splash and drink from it too!
The story of the pond, however, begins about 10 years ago. After living in the house for a couple of years, I noticed that the very large sour cherry tree in the back yard was developing a large canker from the trunk splitting before I bought the house. Sadly the tree had to come down, but the benefit was that it opened up that area of the garden to the sun, allowing much more to grow. The tree was cut flush against the ground. After that, I drilled the stump and placed stump rot on it, covered it over with dirt, placed the bird bath on top and created a planting bed around it. Fast forward 10 years, my assumption is that the stump should be pretty well rotted.
We began digging in earnest, planning a 100 gallon pond would take up the area where the tree stump was as well as a larger area in front of it. When we started digging enough to get at the stump we discovered it was still intact, with very hard, very long roots still attached. Undaunted, we hacked at it with an axe, a splitting maul and finally an electric jackhammer…all to no avail…the stump was not moving and so our dream of a large 100 gallon pond was dashed!
Rather than stay defeated, we simply downsized our dream to a 33 gallon (which at some point may go to a 55 gallon) pond that would fit in the area we could excavate. Once we decided to move in this direction, the work went quick, getting the hold dug, placing the pond and finally securing it with dirt and sand.
Part of our dream was to have the water move in some way. Last year, we picked up a very expensive solar pond pump at a very, very deep discount at a local nursery. Will had the idea of making a waterfall, so we used a large stepping stone and various flag stones from our property to line the pond and to create a shelf for water to cascade, filled the pond and positioned the pump in the pond and the hose through the rocks to create the waterfall. Our initial tests worked out well!
Next, we needed to create a filter for the pump to screen particulates and algae that can clog up the pump and cause performance issues. I made a filter out of filter material, scotch brite pads, an aquatic planting basket and pebbles. The construction was very simple, yet effective and attractive from the surface of the pond.
With the functioning pond in place, we could turn our attention to aquatic and margin planting. For the plants in the pond to help with filtering and aesthetics, we chose a water lilly, sweet flag and a corkscrew rush grass; all planted in aquatic planter baskets with filter material and charcoal for additional filtration.
For the ground around the pond, we chose perennial plants that would be sized correctly, look good around a pond and would appreciate a warm, but perhaps slightly wetter area of the garden. We chose Orris root, which is part of the iris/lilly family, crocosmia “Lucifer”, rose scented monarda, mountain mint, cinquefoil and moss.
Finally we used a good quality mulch from our local organic source to tuck everything in, condition the soil and prevent dryout and erosion.
I can’t tell you what a delight it is to hear and see moving water in the garden. The pond already has so many insect and bird visitors every day, it has really tied our whole garden together. I can’t wait to see any frogs that may take up residence!

Happy Gardening!

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