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A SMALL CHANGE GARDEN POND:Part 5
Part 5: Finishing Touches
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- Once the pond is lined, fill it with water to see how it looks.
Now is the time to find major problems. Regardless of how hard you
try, it may not be level. One end may flood while the other still
could use a higher level to look good. At that point, you need to
either add dirt to the low end or remove it from the high end. Also,
check to see how well you did on the shallows around the pond as well
as the ledges. Will you have enough water to cover the plant pots?
If you need to make major changes, you will need to empty the pond
which is easy if you have your pump. Just hookup a hose to the outlet
and let it pump away. (An old garden hose is great. Just cut off the
ends.) Empty the pond into a garden or on a tree to recycle the water.)
- Once you get the liner the way you want it, it's time to think
about plants. Here's another area that can run into a fortune if
you are not careful. To avoid this, collect wild pond plants.
Depending on where you live, the possibilities will vary. The nice
thing about wild plants other than being free is that they are used
to your particular climate so should do well.
- Almost every pond expert raves about water lilies. They do
provide cover for fish. But if you do not have access to collecting
wild lilies, they can be very expensive. Where I live, one plant may
cost $30. I'm not one for spending $30 for anything that might die.
I've managed to survive without them and have crystal clear water.
I have tried collecting lilies in the wild and even starting them
from collected seeds but have had no success to date.
I do have cattail reeds as well as a bunch of unidentified stuff
collected from the wild. I have the reeds in the middle in the
deepest section. Reeds can block the view when they flourish, so
consider where you will be when enjoying your pond so you will see
more than reeds.
- Another good resource for inexpensive pond plants are garden shows.
Independent plant sellers often have very good deals on garden plants
that they probably collected in the wild, too.
- Most pond plants will have to be in pots. Be careful about the
pots you select. Color is important. You don't want to the pot to
show in the water, so black or dark green is the best. Of course, size
of pots depends on the depth you plant to place it.
- To prepare the pot, place gravel or pebbles at the bottom, a layer
of soil in the middle where the plant will be rooted, and a layer of
gravel or pebbles on the top to keep the soil in place as much as
possible. This can be heavy if you try to use big pots. I find the
one gallon variety you get when you buy plants works well, and it's a
good way to recycle these pots. You will need shallower pots for
around the edges of your pond. In marsh areas, you can plant the
pots directly into the soil.
- The nice thing about pots is that you can move them if you don't
like the placement. One problem that might arise, though, are any
plants in the middle of the pond. They might be hard to reach if you
have a large pond. Walking around your pond is not recommended although
it can be done if you are careful and don't have a rocky surface under
- Another issue to be consider at this time is what kind of
transition you want between the pond and the ground surrounding the
pond. The pond books usually show this tidy transition where the
pond liner just folds invisibly into the earth. Well, again this
depends on your soil type. It also takes a lot of patience that you
may not have when you are wanting to get started. Since this is the
edge of the pond, it is easy to work on it until you get it just the
way you want it.
- For my pond, after frustrating efforts to hide the edge of the
pond liner, I decided to line the pond with rocks. Fortunately, I
have access to some freebies. Flat rocks are the best for outlining
the pond, and once your plants get going, it looks very natural. I also
collect rocks when traveling. It's a nice souvenire to add to the pond.
This can be an ongoing project. I'm always moving the rocks around
to get just the right effect.
- Rocks also may be used to create water falls, bridges over narrows
and to conceal plant pots. The possibilities are unlimited for the
creative pond builder.
- Decorative rocks may also be used. Around one end of my pond, I
have created a beach-like affect with pebbles and decorative rocks
I also collect sea shells when we visit the coast and add them to the
- Another very important step in the pond buildin is selecting the
appropriate pump for your needs. This, of course, depends on many
variables including the size of your pond, the number of fish you
plan to have and your climate. For my pond (8'X 20'), I have two
small pumps, one in each section of the figure eight. Start with a
small pump. If that isn't enough, add another, and so forth.
- Ponders also debate the pros and cons of filtering. I found
filters more of a hassle than they are worth. A better way is to
be patient and allow your pond to "settle in." At first, you will
probably have algae problems until the plants get established. It
took me about 3 years to get the pond in an ecological balanced state.
- Water is another issue. Of course, chlorine is a fish and
frog killer. Believe me when I say, I know this from experience!
Nothing like walking out to check the pond one morning and finding
all your fish floating. At that point, I began using well water.
But most people don't have that advantage. Dechlorinating chemical
work but take time. Preferably, have a barrel of water aging at all
times. Rain water is great but should not be used if it has run
off your house roof due to chemicals in shingles.
- Once all these problems have been dealt with (and you will
discover your own problems on the way to this point), it's time to
add the fish. Here is another place you can save money. Comet
goldfish cost about a dime a piece. They grow up to be quite large,
6-8", and are friendly little guys. I call them the dogs of the fish
world because they follow you when you walk around the pond. I have
friends who have koi and other exotic critters, but they seem to
have to worry about losing them all the time due to the financial
investment. If I loose a goldfish, the dime I invested doesn't
matter. And, I don't know of anyone who has a pond that has not
lost fish at one time or another. So, start with comets and, if
that works, think about koi and other species.
- At this point, you will also begin planning the plants
around the pond. Just be careful not to block the view with too
many plants or large plants. You may consider using container
plants, especially in the beginning so that you can experiment
with arrangement and varieties.
- Now all you have to do is wait for the pond to develop.
Problems will appear, but you can deal with it. The newsgroup
rec.ponds is a good place to get help.
Fall '96 Maintenance Report
Well, to be honest, I never dreamed so many people would read my
garden pond page. But, it has inspired me to work even harder on
my pond. Since it had been about two years since I had done any
maintenance other than move around the rocks, I decided now would
be a good time to see what was going on beneath the surface.
I drained about half of the water to check for obvious tears in
the liner and to see how the roots of my plants were doing. I did
find one small tear of mysterious origins. It was so small, however,
that I had not noticed any leakage. But, I decided to try to
patch it. Over the years I've experimented with many methods. You
have to be careful because you cannot use any glue that is toxic to
fish which about covers most common glues used to patch plastic.
What I have discovered works is aquarium sealant. It's hard to
find around here. I guess most aquarium hobbyists use seamless tanks
these days. Aquarium sealant does not stick very well to plastic, but
it can me made to work.
Put a glob on the hole. Let it dry (this takes patience, because
I am always anxious to get the pond back to its original condition.)
You may also put a piece of plastic over it. Whatever, you still need
to put a plant or rock over the patch to hold it all together once
you fill the pond again.
The real discovery I made, however, was how much my plant roots had
gone nuts! This was especially true of the reeds or cattails. I had
no idea. I knew my water was crystal clear and figured it was due to
the plants, but I didn't know how well the plants were doing. So, I
had to divide the plants and clean than up so the fish will have
enough room during the winter to go to the bottom.
While I was doing this, I also tried to clean up as much of the
"pond sludge" at the bottom by using the pump and a little hand dipping.
The fish were not very happy about this. So, I worked as quickly as
possible and did not do this until I was about ready to refill the
This was stinky dirty work. But, it was worth it. With the
plants trimmed back, the pond looks much better. The water is still
crystal clear. And, the fish are happy again. My conclusion from
all of this is that probably I should do this more than every two
years! The other thing was I have all these roots and nowhere to
put them. I don't even know anyone who has a pond. It sure is sad
to see them go to waste. If you happen to live near Venus, Texas, I
know where you can get some cattails real cheap! Like for free...
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