Garden Diversification: Installing a Pond

This spring we had the WORST mosquito problem. It was so bad that our municipality adopted a garlic spray plan to reduce them.

We decided to take it a step further by installing our own backyard pond.

Mosquitos lay their eggs in water; fish eat them. We thought a pond would be a clever way to attract and eliminate the mosquitos.

So, we got to work! Well mostly I got to work because my husband doesnt normally jump into my shenanigans until they’ve proven themselves worthy. Usually some time near the end of the project which is usually the point at which the gruntwork is finished. (To his credit, he’s very supportive of my endless DIY endeavors)

First thing I did was find a liner at my local garden supply store. Then I began to dig a shallow hole roughly the size I wanted the pond to be.

The whole thing was willy-nilly. I had plants growing in the area that I should have transplanted prior to starting the project, but I’m not so much a planner as I am a do-er.

After I dug out the basic shape, I dug a smaller, deeper hole within the bigger hole. This is somewhat critical to good pond design because you’ll never be able to stack rocks perfectly vertical along the pond walls. Giving a bit of an angle to the walls allows the rocks to rest along the pond floor and up the edges without risking them falling into the pond bottom.

Once the hole is all dug out, you want to lay down a tarp or old rug as a sort-of ‘buffer’ from any sharp stones to prevent puncturing the liner. And THEN place the liner and begin filling the pond.

Some people will say to add the rocks first and then the water. I did it the other way around.

This made the pond water very dirty. So I ran the pump with the output draining into the garden while the garden hose kept the pond full with a continuous flow of fresh water until the pond became somewhat clear.

In the photo above, you can see to the far left that theres a very shallow area of the pond. I did this so that I could plant a water-tolerant creeping-jenny that would help to ‘drink up’ the excess nitrogen created by the fish in the pond.

I also built up a stone waterfall area. I created a staircase out of flat stones. On top of the ‘steps’, I placed a scrap piece of liner. I tucked stones on either side of the path for the water to follow. Then on top of the liner I placed flat stones for the water to run over and hid the edges with more stones to make it look natural. I used a sealant designed for ponds to fill in spaces and gaps between the stones so that instead of flowing beneath the flatrock, the water would be forced to casacde over the top.

I wish I’d have taken photos of the whole waterfall process but alas, I forgot; luckily everything I did is available as tutorials around the internet.

After testing out the waterfall to make sure everything was in working order, I continued naturalizing the pond using various sizes and shapes of stones and gravel

I started adding plants around the edge of the pond. My dearest husbeast brought home a cool ‘basket’ of water plants that just so happened to fit perfectly on one of the shelves I had made on the ponds’edge that you can see on the right of the photo below. The creeping-jenny on the left. Some hostas and creeping thyme.

After the cleanup and addition of goldfish I went to the garden store to find ‘beneficial’ bacteria to add to the pond because I had read that balancing the pond helps to reduce maintenence needs. I also picked up some straw bales wrapped in netting. When straw decomposes, it creates hydrogen peroxide which is a natural algae suppressor that is safe to use around fish and plants. I hid it inside the waterfall so that the running water would deliver a constant supply of peroxide to the pond as the straw decomposed.

At first I thought my pond was a total failure because it quickly became tremendously murky and all of the submerged rocks developed a thick green layer of algae. Do not panic! Apparently all ponds have a ‘first bloom’ where algae quickly dominates the new pond and then subsides. My pond was crystal clear after the first month or so.

You do need to ensure you have all the critical components for a self-sustaining pond. Check the list:

-aeration and circulation either by a fountain or waterfall (I have recently ordered this solar powered pump to make aeration easier and get rid of the unsightly extension cord)

-fish to eat the bugs that may land or lay eggs in the water

-living plants to digest the nitrogen created by fish excrement

The pond project was a total success! The mosquito problem is hugely reduced and since installing the pond we enjoy a greater variety of birds and butterfly visitors in the garden than ever before.

And the local residents approve, too

Growing a Garden

In the 3 years we have lived in our home the backyard has transformed from an empty greenspace into one of favorite places to spend time. We learned that it really doesn’t take much to get started. We began in the first summer with a rototiller borrowed from the inlaws and carved out a basic plot.

We planted directly into the dirt and focussed on getting the greenhouse up. I broke down the construction of the greenhouse here.

Over the summer I kept my eyes and ears open for good deals on wood and ended up scoring a full flat of j-grade 2x4s that had fallen off a loader at a local mill as well as a full fence that had been torn down and was offered to me for free.

So I started using sunny afternoons to build garden boxes one by one and adding them to the plot, starting with the outer parameter boxes.

I kind of half-attempted a fence around the garden by screwing the boards into the sides of the outer boxes to keep the dog out.

By the time next spring rolled around, I had completed all the boxes and refined the garden fence and was ready for a full season of planting. I had also rigged up an old door between two 4×4 posts to keep the chickens from infiltrating the garden. The whole chicken run area extends beneath the large fruit trees and to the back of the greenhouse. The chickens do a fine job keeping the weeds down and everything looking clean in that area and come fall I can release them full range to clean up the garden too.

Halfway through the season things got sloppy when the weeds in the garden started overtaking the paths as you can see in the photo:

I bought some landscape fabric and laid it down in the paths, then covered with black mulch.

In the spring of 2016 we had the strangest mosquito problem. Everyone in town hid indoors and our little community even adopted a municipal garlic-spray program to try to reduce the mosquito population. It.Was.Crazy. I wrote a post about how we helped solve that problem by building a pond which you can read more about here.

I can’t tell you how amazing this pond has been in bringing diversity to our backyard. We have a constant supply of robins, finches, and all kinds of butterfly visitors to the pond daily. One time we even had a hawk swoop in and steal a goldfish! And the mosquito problem is no more.

As time goes on the garden becomes more established and we have continued to improve the space with new projects each year (Weekend Project: Garden PathsDIY Playhouse for the KidsChicken Coop)

I keep dreaming of 2021 when we plan to start over on our foreverstead and i can take all I’ve learned and apply it to a brand new design. The work of building a garden is half the fun of having one! In the meantime we are having fun harvesting and enjoying fresh healthy snacks, salves, and serenity from the garden!

Happy Homesteading Xx