Ponds have become increasingly popular, and certainly, a pond can be a rewarding experience for property owners. Water attracts people and it takes only a short time for a pond to become the backyard focal point. A successful and rewarding pond is based, however, on the owners objective, and then in the detailed planning for the project.
For example, the pond might be used as a water garden and not as a “fishing hole”. In general, a water garden pond does not require the same water depth and volume as fish. Fish require more than water volume and depth, there are habitat requirements not needed by plants. Although a pond owner could, with the proper planning, combine the two objectives. Ponds can also be used simply for frogs or even turtles, or I guess for snakes. It does not necessarily have to be just for water sports and recreation.
A successful pond, once the objectives are determined, requires hours of planning and perhaps even research, particularly if the pond will be dug. Water attracts people and accidents do happen. If the pond is a dug pond, there are safety issues which should be considered for swimmers. For example, tree stumps and other water hazards need to be cleared, swimming areas marked, and trash will need to be properly controlled. Liability is a concern and insurance requirements and state and local laws need to be researched.
If the pond is to be used for fishing , other details need to be examined. These details would be the species of fish to be stocked and their habitat requirements. Safety is also a concern even at ponds where swimming is not allowed.
The backyard pond’s objective then will set in motion a series of other details. Location will likely be the next issue a property owner will face. Soil texture, the topography and a clean water source or supply, for example, need to be addressed for a successful dug pond. Those variables will also likely determine the shape of the pond as well. In many cases, it is a good idea to check with local rules and regulation regarding the location.
The following is a short summary of my experience building a small, wildlife pond which has become the main feature of the backyard and a relaxing place to visit several times a day. Hopefully, if a pond is being considered, some of these, brief points will spark further insights and ideas.
My objective was to build a small dug pond near the edge of a large woods for wildlife, minnows, turtles and frogs, as well as a small water garden area. This area was directly behind a raised vegetable garden which was hard to keep watered during summer droughts and the thought was to have an ample water supply if needed.
I choose minnows called Rosy Reds, which are a species of flathead minnows. They are docile, communal fish which are a rose colored reddish -orange; they are hardy, good breeders and a mosquito’s worst nightmare (well the larvae for the most part).
The area was chosen because of several seeps in the area in addition to water run-off from the woods which was pure and clean. A nearby depression always held about a foot of water and was home to frogs, salamanders and turtles. It was an indication the soil texture would support a larger pond.
The area was walked off and marked so that the pond would have a water surface area of about one tenth of an acre. Small be many standards but that was the objective. The pond was then dug to an average of six feet deep. There are simple formulas to use when determining the size of a pond.
Once the hole was dug, water began to seep up from the bottom and a few days later a thunderstorm completed the filling process. A month or so later the minnows were added. Frogs, salamanders and turtles soon found their way; it is best to use your neighborhood animals rather than spending money on purchases. They’ll come.
That was four years ago, and every year it gets better and new plants and shrubs have been added. This year we also started to build a small “Gazebo” along one edge. A pond is always changing and amazing, similar to a vegetable or flower garden, it is always changing.
A successful pond does require planning and research and a willingness to work at it every year. The pond met every expectation and perhaps even more than expected. It quickly did become the backyard focal point; people bring their smaller children frequently to either feed the minnows, watch the tadpoles and frogs. A well thought out pond can be a rewarding and learning experience for all ages, well worth the time effort.