"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Our garden pond.

Continuing on from where I left off at "the pathway" is where the pond is.
It all started with a patch of grass. I thought we needed that patch. It was the only grass in our backyard. When we first moved in the grass was pretty bad. The previous owners had a dog that wore a running path through the whole backyard. So, our first attempt was to reseed the grass. That didn't work. We then removed the dead grass, and prepped the soil and laid sod. We babied that sod, but still it died.
It was around that time that I started dreaming of a pond. Not a large one, but one that we could install ourselves in a place we could enjoy it.
So, we again removed all the dead grass.
The ground was hard clay full of roots and rocks and the occasional golf ball and bone. Not only did we use a shovel, but an ax and lopers came in handy too.
Here is "the muscle" resting.
I'm not weak, and yet I couldn't be of much help to him. So he dug and dug until we ended up with this hole. It's about 2 feet at it's deepest. There are 1 foot shelves all the way around. I'd say it's about 8 feet long and 6 feet wide.
Since my husband is also the mathematician I let him estimate the volume. He thinks it's in the 500 gallon range.
We used an underlayment that we bought at the hardware store. Then we covered it with a pvc liner. I don't remember the thickness, but was meant for ponds and has a supposed life of 15 years. I'm sure my husband will be glad to dig another pond for me in 15 years...
Here is how it looked filled the next day. Not too bad for a few days of work.
We bought the stone for around the pond at a large rockery. We didn't have a truck, so we made MANY trips back an forth loading up our car. The waterfall is the only thing I wish we would've spent more time on. The pump and filter system came in a kit. I later upgraded to a higher gallon per hour pump because of the fish and it seems to keep the water more clear. I take it out every couple of months to clean it out. It's very easy to do.
Our first fish. I always thought we had started with 3 until I looked at this picture just now. I guess they were the 4 amigos, not 3.
Here is our pond the next summer. I started buying more marginal plants as well as the one water lily. The marginals grow in black plastic pots on the shelves in the pond. The only problem is that the raccoons like to knock them in when they come for their midnight rampages. Then I get to fish the pots out of the pond. I've cut way back on the marginals because of those raccoons. Now I mostly have water lilies, and floating plants like fairy fern, water lettuce and water hyacinth. We have some underwater plants as well that provide extra oxygen for the fish as well as being a hiding place for them. I've been trying to find a way to conceal the pump and filter, yet still make it accessible. Any suggestions?
That same year we decided we needed a better path around the pond. I tried to do the curved area at the top myself. But as my husband pointed out, it was far too narrow. The ground was so compacted there and difficult to dig that I didn't mind that he took over. He widened the path to make it much more useable. We used crushed gravel to cover the path. It has settled really well. I can sweep or rake it to clean leaves, etc. My girls can pull wagons or run around there too.
These stepping stones are where the path meets the pond.
Here is the pond a couple of years later. Yes, that's a gnome by the waterfall. He was knocked in one too many times and now sits safely in the vegetable garden.
This last one is from the end of last summer. The plantings around it have really begun to fill in. I'm continually adding new and moving old ones around. The gravel path is more visible in this picture. The brown looking grass in the pond is actually a dwarf cattail. It doesn't spread like the larger variety. It produces the cutest cattails, and my girls love to pick them. I put the large rock in the water so that the birds can rest there.
We've really enjoyed having this pond. It has really increased the variety of birds that we get. During the winter we see quite a few that come to the waterfall to drink. In the summer the birds bathe in the waterfall or sit on the edges of the pond. The girls love to feed the fish. The fish actually swim along the side of the pond while it's warm and wait for us to feed them. They will eat right out of my older daughter's hand. Dragonflies swoop down to eat any mosquitoes that may be around. Bees come to drink water at the edges. Still waiting on the frogs to show up. Maybe this summer.

Updated 9/14/09 to link this to "I used to have a lawn but now I have a...". on Blue Planet Garden Blog. Check out Lawnreform.org website for more information on getting rid of your lawn.
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  1. That's a lot of work, well worth the enjoyment your family get from it and I know the critters love it!! It's beautiful.

  2. That is absolutely beautiful Catherine! We tried a pond a few years ago but the dogs did quite a number on it. Now with the little guy it's just not an element for us to have in the yard yet. We do have our fountain though, and I get enjoyment from that. Still, yours is so gorgeous. Thanks for sharing the step-by-step process. Love the plantings around it too. Rudbekia and Echinacea are some of my favorites.

  3. Catherine, Your photos make me soooo anxious for summer. Chronicling your pond's progress is a great idea and a great thing for beginner gardeners who might be discouraged that they don't have instant success. It takes time as you illustrate so well. I'm glad your fish have survived. I finally gave up after having my heart broken time and again...d*&$ raccoons! The silver lining is that two species of frog have made my outer pond a permanent residence. (Pacific Tree Frog and Northern Red-legged Frog.) I'm not sure if this is true or not but I've heard that fish will eat tadpoles.

    Your daughter is adorable.

  4. Hey Catherine, great pond! I'm really envious because yours is actually finished!
    I love what you've done round it to make it useable for everyone as well as gorgeous. It looks fantastic.
    oh, and your daughter is a little poppet!

  5. very lovely! all the hard work paid off!

  6. It is really really nice. I like how you described its making and good thing the 'Muscle' was around to dig it. I have an old cast iron tub I use as a pond. The first year I didn't have fish and even though I had a filter the pond got really mucky, THEN the frogs came to it. When I cleaned up the pond and got fish, no frogs:( This might be why the frogs haven't found your beautiful pond yet. Your daughter looks so cute and the garden is really beautiful.

  7. What a magical transformation, your vision, a little muscle, and a lot of hard work. What a lovely ecosystem you created, and your kids are so lucky to enjoy it! Love the hello kitty boots. :)

  8. I really love your pond! I hope mine will be as nice in a year or two.
    I think the fish will eat the frog babies, that's why you don't have any frogs in your pond.

  9. Darla - Thanks! It's really fun and we can see it from where we usually hang out in the house. That way we can enjoy it anytime of the year.

    Melanthia - Luckily our dog isn't too interested. When she was a puppy she would try to drink from it, or tries to walk across it when it freezes. I watch my little one like a hawk around it. I have locks up high on our sliders to prevent her from going out, but still just never let her out of my eyesight.

    Grace - I think either our raccoons are slow or these fish are fast. How neat to have the frogs in your pond. Will you post pictures?

    Nutty Gnome - Our pond is nothing compared to what yours will be like. Thanks for complimenting my little one. She is a funny one!

    flowrgirl1 - Thanks. It definitely ended up being worth the work.

    Tina - Do you have pictures of your pond? I'd love to see it. Maybe an adult frog will at least visit for awhile and have the babies somewhere else.

    Karen - Aren't those boots cute? She wants to wear them everywhere, and loves to take them off in the muddiest part of the yard.

    Helen - Thank, I hope you will show your pond pictures. I love seeing what other people have done in theirs.

  10. What a timely post for me and very helpful to see the evolution. I think it's just beautiful and a great addition to any gardeners yard (or nature lover). I had to chuckle about your comment that your husband would love to dig you another one in 15 years!! lol I hope you get some frogs this year too! Wouldn't that be fun?

  11. Your photos showing the stages really made this post interesting to me. I have had three or four ponds over the 46 years we have lived here and none now. My big complaint was that they had to be cleaned out now and then and I am no longer able to do it. However, I have thought of buying one of those black cast ponds at Lowes and putting that on top of the ground and then building the soil up around it.

    The reason that I might do this is because these kinds have drains and you can let the water out. That's also why I would put it on top of the ground and build up around it. We also have raccoons here and they eat captive fish when they can get them.

    Thanks again for a nice post.

  12. Your pond is wonderful. I want to add a very similar one to my backyard someday. I'll have to come back and look at your pictures for inspiration!

  13. Kathleen - My poor husband. He is so good to go along with so many of my ideas. He's glad he did all the work, it makes us all appreciate it more.

    Abraham Lincoln - I think your idea of an above ground pond sounds great. We actually thought about doing what you are describing only using some sort of stone to build the outer wall, then the fill dirt in between the wall and the formed pond so we could plant along the sides. Ours is definitely due for a major cleaning this spring. Thanks for stopping by again.

    Zach - Thanks. I think your waterfall looks great. It sure is a lot of fun having the pond. I highly recommend one!

  14. Oh my gosh. Just beautiful. A dream come true. I can't believe your garden is just young yet. Wait until it starts to mature.


  15. You are beautiful! and your little one is a doll. I love the pond and your Mr Muscles did a grand job of digging through the rocks. I like everything--the little rock for the birds, the plant selections, and the gnome. The coneflowers and Black Eyed Susans look pretty there together. It's an attractive pond to the humans and the critters. Just think of the memories for your little one. She'll remember feeding those fish forever.

  16. This post gave me shudders... I tried to dig a pond once, by myself, just like this one, but I bit off a little more than I could chew. I was so clueless. It was right before I started to garden and it was my first real "project" as a homeowner.

    I read that Ortho book for building ponds and convinced myself that a pond would be the easiest thing in the world, so I got out the shovel and started digging. I dug this huge whole, ran out of liner, had to buy more, bought a sealant to glue the liners together... Then I couldn't get it to fold in neatly at the right angles that I thought would be nice (I had a semi-formal design in mind). At length, when I got it all in, the best I could, the edges of the pond weren't level... Ugh.

    So then I filled in the whole and downsized to a pre-formed liner. That was better but looked cheap and attracted raccoons every night who proceeded to party hard and trash the whole garden, night after night.

    Now our water feature is a bird bath and I am perfectly happy.

    Your pond is lovely.

  17. It looks like you all used lots of muscles for this project! I love your pond, plants, the paths and all of it! I really enjoyed reading your story about the area, too!

  18. Flower Lady - I get impatient sometimes, but then remember that with gardens age is a good thing :)

    Anna - Thanks! I hope my girls remember all the fun things about the garden and pond. That's mostly why I spend so much time on it, so they will have fun playing there.

    Chuck - I laughed as I read your comments. Every project we've ever done looked so easy at the time. They always seem to take a turn somewhere and everything that could go wrong does. I guess that's how we learn. I think the raccoons come no matter how good or bad a pond looks, they just like to make a mess!

    Sue - We sure did use our muscles. I always say I'm glad I married a strong man because how would any of my projects ever get done otherwise? :)

  19. It look terrific! Someday I'll put in a water feature, but not until I move to an area that has less rain! Maybe I'll put my waterfall together this year- see you've inspired me again!

  20. Thank you for sharing this link in 'Show your Garden', Catherine. I'm thinking of digging mine, too! But space is very limited and my 'muscle' is forever busy (chuckle)... We'll see ... I really love your beautiful pond. Blossom Blooms

  21. I love your pond. I have one too. Its small but we like it. The pump is a pain and next year I must replace it. I would like to extend the pond as well. I think I could make it bigger by making shallow edges. Anyway....love what you have done


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