Maintaining a healthy pond and also attracting wildlife to your pond is not solely dependent on the pond itself but is also heavily influenced by the way that the surrounding area is landscaped.
In order to both attract visisting birds and to enable a possible escape route for unwilling swimmers, a shallow beach area is a great feature to incorporate in your pond design. If you have destructive fish such as Koi, it may only be possible to plant in shallower areas where they cannot reach. Varying depths of pond will also support different types of plants.
It can often be the case that the pond surround is quite a stark environment. The clean, minimalist lines that are so common in modern design restrict the types of wildlife that may be attracted to your pond. Frogs will appreciate a wet, shaded and marshy area surrounding a pond. They like to be in the vicinity of fresh water rather than necessarily residing in a pond. Well planted pond surrounds that are not exposed to uninterrupted sunlight help to create this environment.
Providing shade can be a difficult topic. Trees are always the obvious solution for creating shade in an outdoors environment but many, if not most, pond keepers are generally not keen on having trees surrounding a pond. The main issue is that leaf fall in autumn is not only unsightly on the water’s surface but does provide a large boost of organic matter in the pond. This can store up problems for spring when a large excess of nutrients prompts algal growth.
Ideally shade should be provided around the pond but may require a creative solution to achieve without creating additional problems.
A variety of plants in your pond will perform a number of functions that should benefit both your fish and also any other wildlife that depends on your pond for its existence.
Most people will probably be aware of the important role that plants play in turning carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen. This exact same process occurs in aquatic plants but this is not their sole function.
Aquatic plants thrive on nutrients within the water, of which, nitrates are a key type. Nitrates are readily available in pond water as they are an end product of the process of breaking down ammonia. Ammonia is a water pollutant that is continuously produced by the fish in the pond. It is essential to have a mechanism for removing nitrates and plants do this successfully. In the absence of plants, nitrates will readily fuel algal blooms.
Plants also provide shade which is very important to your pond. Providing shade helps to both restrict temperature fluctuations in warmer weather and also, as above, helps to restrict algal growth by reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the water (sunlight being a necessary element for plant growth).
Lastly, plants also provide both food sources and shelter for an extensive variety of insect and life and a habitat for micro-organisms, all of which perform small but significant roles in maintaining water quality and chemical balance.
Ponds have disappeared from Britain’s landscape at a steady rate for thousands of years. Ever since the industrial revolution, this loss of ponds has rapidly accelerated and during the last 100 years, Britain has lost 90% of its ponds.
Three thousand years ago, Britain was an island covered by extensive wetlands. Gradually, through natural processes, a proportion of the pools that would make up these wetlands would naturally dry up or fill with silt and debris to eventually be lost forever. With nature allowed to proceed uninterrupted, these deceased ponds would be replaced with some level of equilibrium, by new ponds. In actuality, with man making his own demands on the available dry land, new ponds would form less readily which led to the slow and steady disappearance observed over many hundreds of years.
As time progressed, man not only interrupted the natural creation of ponds, but actively reclaimed wetlands to use for agriculture. This process clearly accelerated the demise of the British pond.
The relatively recent prevalence of both industrial machinery and plumbing caused a rapid increase in the loss of Britain’s ponds and wetlands. It was both unnecessary to have ponds positioned strategically around the countryside and also far easier to reclaim land on a scale not previously achievable.
Britain’s wildlife has clearly suffered from this extensive loss so the humble water garden has become a last bastion for maintaining a significant sample of our wildlife heritage.
One of the cornerstones of fish husbandry is maintaining good water quality. Much as we may not choose to do so, as humans we could swim in some fairly unpleasant water with limited fear for our health. A fish is not afforded that luxury as the water is not just an environment they pass through (as the human swimmer does) but it is a key component for their very existence.
Basically fish do everything in water. This includes eating, respirating and producing waste. All of these activities are continuously affecting the make up of the water and without a mechanism for reversing these affects, the water will become too polluted to support healthy fish.
Fortunately, nature provides all of the necessary tools to provide this clean up service in the form of aquatic plants and a multitude of other micro-organisms that utilise and process these toxins to return them to beneficial water constituents.
The biggest challenge that faces the fish keeper is actually one of their own making. The densities of fish in the typical fish pond far exceed the levels that would be found in nature. An outcome of this is that the natural process are not sufficient to manage the excessive waste produced in a fish pond.
It is important to ensure that your pond has mechanisms to manage these pollutants. This is why water features, filters and pumps are commonly used to help aerate water, tackle ammonia build up and remove waste products.
The differing techniques and materials used in pond construction afford differing benefits when compared to each other. All of them have very different implications when it comes to construction. The choice of which to use should be an integral part of the design process rather than a simple after thought based on the assumption that any method will do.
The three common techniques employed in pond construction are the use of rigid pre-formed pond liners, flexible liners or a concrete pond construction. For the traditionalist, or those with luddite tendencies, there is also the option of puddle clay. In the same way that we no longer choose to live in wooden huts, puddle clay is not really in the running as a viable pond liner unless your clear ambition is to create a traditional pond. Puddle clay is both highly labour intensive and high maintenance so most certainly not an easy option.
Rigid pond liners are good value, highly durable and easy to both maintain and install. For the first time pond designer or those with limited space, these are a fantastic and speedy way to install a pond. Whilst not offering limitless design possibilities, thereare huge ranges to choose from and most designs will incorporate commonly desired features such as planting shelves. One key part of selecting a preformed liner is to arrange delivery. Transportation is one of the biggest challenges when choosing a pre-formed liner.
Flexible liners arguably offer the broadest pond design possibilities. High end liners can be joined successfully to allow pond creation on a scale beyond the means of most, so size is no issue. Flexible liners probably offer the broadest range of quality, but even the budget, plastic based, liners offer long guarantees when bought from reputable firms.
Concrete construction is less common in domestic ponds but does offer fantastic durability and the option to create deep ponds with vertical walls. This is the ideal style of pond for large Koi so clearly there are advantages for those with the wherewithal to adopt this expensive construction technique.
When looking for a pond pump, you may only have one intended use for it. However, pumps are employed in ponds to perform a variety of functions. Often these functions can be performed simultaneously by one pump or frequently, and with good reasoning, a second pump can be installed in one pond so that different functions are performed by different pumps. This can have the advantage that functions can be controlled independently of others, particularly helpful if some features need 24 hour operation whilst others may be only required on a more sporadic basis.
The different functions that pumps perform revolve around powering water features, such as fountains or waterfalls, powering a pond filter or a UV clarifier and powering an aeration system. All of these functions will place very different demands on the pump system.
The feature that dictates reliability above all other requirements is the pond filter. As a pond filter uses natural bacteria that require oxygen to survive, the pump must run 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure that a continuous supply of oxygenated water is passed through the filter. It is also necessary for the entire volume of the pond water to be circulated through the filter every 90 minutes.
A fountain may only place quite modest demands on a pump depending on how ambitious you are feeling. However, it may be beneficial to have an independent pump powering this feature so that it can be turned off when not required. A waterfall will place a much larger demand on a pump, otherwise an impressive water course may prove very disappointing playing host to a paltry trickle.
There are many pumps on the market which all serve different purposes. It is very difficult to over specify a pump but conversely, very easy to under specify. Before committing, think carefully about what it needs to do and also what you may wish for it to do in the near future.
If the pond pump could be considered the engine room of the water maintenance system, then the pond filter could be described as the cylinders and the bacteria as the petrol. Basically, the pump and the filter are mechanical components of the system but the actual energy for the cleaning comes from an entirely natural entity, just like the petrol in an engine.
The pond filter is performing two functions, firstly the filter will have a system such as sponges that are designed to sieve the water for physical particles. As the filter requires the pond water to be pumped through it, there will inevitably be quantities of physical debris being continually fed into the filter. If allowed to collect on the surface of the biological element of the filter. It would work less effectively.
Having initially removed some of the physical debris, the real specialist work of the biological filter takes place. The key part of the filter is the bacterial media. This is an environment specifically designed to host the bacteria that effectively clean the pond water.
The bacteria perform the all important function of turning ammonia, which is produced by fish, firstly into nitrates and then into nitrates. These nitrates latterly go on to be the primary food source for the plants in the pond. It is the plants that then produce the oxygen that is ultimately required by all of the organisms in the pond.
A wildlife pond offers a very different proposition to a fish pond but it does have one very significant advantage in that it will actually populate itself over a period of time.
Wildlife ponds still need to be conceived through sensible planning, ensuring that they are located to minimize the risk of collecting polluted run-off water. They also require their design to incorporate a variety of depths and features to encourage as broad a spectrum of wildlife as possible. Surrounding features such as varied planting and shaded areas that are appealing to frogs in particular will add to the appeal of your pond for surrounding wildlife. Beyond these considerations, amongst others, the pond will not require features such as pumps and filters to maintain a healthy environment.
A key to having a successful wildlife pond is patience. Allowing the pond to populate itself will possibly test this patience to its limits as it will take many months to see real developments. Beneficially, as the pond populates itself naturally, it will develop its own natural balance. In a fish pond, the introduction of fish into a confined space can totally upset the waters balance, this will simply not happen in a naturally populated pond. As the pond tends away from a healthy balance, growth will either cease or slow down in the problem areas. The changes will be imperceptible to the observer but will nevertheless be taking place. Due to this self regulation, pumps and filters are not required.
Manual intervention in your wildlife pond should be minimal although it will potentially benefit from occasional silt removal. Many people will chose to have either a wildlife pond or a fish pond as the two do not generally mix well without the luxury of a substantially sized pond. However, there is absolutely no reason not to consider having both a wildlife pond and a fish pond to really achieve two very different and interesting environments.
A key part of intelligent pond design is ensuring that the pond fits naturally into its surrounding environment. The varieties of pond achievable are every bit as limitless as the varieties and types of garden. Given the almost limitless variations of both pond and garden, statistically speaking, it is far more likely that a mismatch will be achieved than a successful blend of design harmony.
Fortunately, pond and garden design are not total design lotteries and most people will have, at the very least, an element of consistency to their design aspirations. This is not to say that faux pa’s are not a very possible outcome, but adopting simple design philosophies should enable most people to achieve satisfying results from their pond project. For many, this is possible without necessarily having to rely on potentially expensive professional help.
This is not to dismiss the benefits of employing professional designers. For many people, design and construction is all part and parcel of the pond experience, but, if this pond installation has been a key ambition and is something you wish to be a source of pleasure for many years to come. In acknowledging your own design capabilities and employing professional services, you may be far more contented with your end result for many years than you would be always excusing the obvious design flaws in your ill-conceived DIY project. After all, a good designer will not be stamping their own personal ideas on your space but they will be helping you to fully realise your own ambitions for the project whilst adding some of their own personal flair. The end product should be a skilfully worked example of your own basic concept.
However your pond comes about, hopefully the end result will be something that will have you continually trying to make new friends, simply so that you can share the beauty of it…
Or maybe to just show off a little!
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A raised pond affords the possibility to create a less common type of pond feature. Raised ponds can be particularly well suited to gardens with slopes or they can be installed due to the potential greater safety for youngsters or older folk, or they can also be chosen simply for the different landscape feature they represent.
Installing a raised pond poses different design and construction challenges to the more common sunken ponds. Firstly, a raised pond makes substantially less demands in the form of excavation. There is also the added benefit that there will most likely be a use for the soil that has been excavated somewhere in the pond surround. The challenge of a raised pond is the greater demands that are made on the surrounding structure. A sunken pond will disperse pressure into the surrounding earth whereas the great pressure exerted by several hundred or thousand gallons of water in a raised pond must be held in place by the constructed walls.
Popular ways to construct the surround are through the use of railway sleepers or by constructing a rockery wall that can perform both a decorative and structural role. These and other types of surrounding structures can be used to house a pond constructed using any of the popular pond lining techniques. In this type of project, a concrete construction has the advantage of providing a significant degree of structural strength in its own right.
One benefit of this type of pond design is that it is possible to get close to the water’s edge without crouching or kneeling and there is also considerably less possibility (although still some) of people falling in.
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