by Rochelle Riservato
Although the word “green” in ponds and water gardens used to mean algae, over the past several years “green” ponds have taken on a whole new meaning: these water enhancements are “green” in the truest ecological sense. And to quote Leonardo da Vinci, “Water is the driving force of all nature.”
These aquatic retreats can provide countless environmental benefits, such as a haven for koi and other flora and fauna. Ponds and water gardens attract birds, frogs, butterflies, and crickets, enhancing wildlife propagation. And, by adding a pump, you’ll not only aerate the water for the critters, but circumvent mosquito nuisances.
Another environmental plus is that when building a pond you’re replacing lawn, resulting in a reduction of water usage and water conservation.
Ponds naturally refill with rainwater, while lawns require watering. In addition, with a smaller amount of lawn to mow, you’re also lessening gas and carbon monoxide emissions and curtailing the need for chemicals that can harm the environment by working their way into the ground water. Plus, there’s another sustainable feature—you can recycle the sludge from a pond filter and use it as nutrient-rich fertilizer for your lawn and garden. This sludge contains nutrients from fish droppings, excess fish food, and even decaying leaves, all of which can be placed at the bottom of trees, shrubs, flowers, or other plants to aid their growth.
Ponds also provide a self-sustaining cycle of hydration that keeps plants alive, as pond water is perfect for watering your other garden plants. By dipping a watering can into a pond, you can water your veggies, flowers, and trees without using a garden hose, which conserves water and supports the environment.
One additional bonus for sustainability is the fact that building water gardens and ponds can involve our youth, allowing them to become aware of environmental issues. With the first-hand knowledge of how the eco-system works at an early age, this family project can help create a better future that grows well into our children’s adulthood.
Now that we’ve addressed some of the good-for-the-planet factors — let it be known your water feature will also stimulate all your senses, offering much happiness and serenity to you and your family.
Deciding where and what type of waterscape you’ll build is one of the critical decisions that depend on many factors, such as underground power, cable, natural gas, and water lines. This information must be secured from your utility company. You’ll also need to know the location of your sewer or septic drain lines to avert disaster. Another definite “must” is to check your local building codes and find out what permits you'll need to build your pond; if you have any size or depth restrictions; and how far from your property line the water enhancement must be. Some towns also dictate whether or not you must hire professionals for any electrical or plumbing work.
Now with the ideal locations left—you also must make sure to avoid areas with heavy tree cover, as excavation may cause damage to the trees. And you also don’t want too many leaves to fall into the pond and potentially pollute it during autumn. Preferably, your pond will be on level ground with solid soil, close to electricity and water sources (if you are adding lights, fountains, and circulation pumps), and in a balanced mix of sun and shade.
Your water feature may initially be without critters, but be sure that those croaking frogs will make their way into your aquatic setting to lend a wonderful sound of the wilderness. You can also choose to stock your pond with small goldfish for a little color and interest. And many love to splurge on a koi pond, which will need a large surface area and various depths, especially if you wish to overwinter the fish. Ponds with fish of any kind also require a pump and filtration system to remove fish waste to keep the water clear and healthy, unless you have a perfect fish-to-plant ratio. Lastly, they require shade to keep fish cool and discourage algae formation.
Now if you are a gardener, what better way to expand your botanical beauties than with a water garden filled with aquatic plants and flowers? A water garden can be small and only needs 18-24 inches of depth. However, pond plants do require several hours of sun each day to prosper and produce blooms. If you’re planning a waterfall and/or fountain with your pond, make sure the current is extremely gentle because aquatic plants don’t like any disturbance.
The style of a home and lawn scape may dictate the shape your pond will be. A formal setting is best accented with a geometric, square, rectangular, oval, circular, or L-shaped pond, whereas a more informal, natural setting can accommodate an irregular-shaped pond that meshes into the naturalness of its surroundings, looking as if it’s always been there.
When planning a pond it’s best to consider budget and how much time and effort you wish to put into building and maintaining it. Believe it or not, a small pond requires more maintenance—but a larger one requires more building skill. However, you can always start small and expand your water enhancement with adjoining waterways to other ponds. In general, a once-a-week removal of sludge if you have a filter is all that’s needed—and that’s less than a pool. Plus, you can coincide your clean-up with feeding your plants the nutritious, albeit slimy, filter sludge. Just remember you’re repurposing something that will save money on plant food while elevating the sustainability of your property.
Do It Yourself or Hire a Pro
Although many DIY sites say a homeowner can build a pond with common household and garden tools, the managing of the excavation and construction of a water feature may be a bit daunting. Perhaps if you like a challenge and have had some experience, it may be a successful and fruitful endeavor to take on. However, it may be best to consult with someone who has much experience in this line of work. Once you’ve gathered as much information as you need, you can then decide whether to tackle this yourself by surfing the Internet for directions and advice or purchasing a ready-made pond kit for a small start-up aquatic feature, which can be ordered at A & M Hardware in Accord. However, if you wish to leave it up to the experts and hire an experienced professional, you can watch their magic and then sit back when it’s finished with a good book and a glass of wine. We’ve supplied you with a few of the best creators of ponds and water features in the Hudson Valley below.
Building Your Own Fish and Aquatic Pond (Under 200 gallons)
» Plastic pond form and/or rubber pond liner
» Pump rated for up to 200 gallons
» Water supply
» Shovel and pick for hard ground
» Fish ("feeder" goldfish and koi can be purchased at pet stores)
» Aquatic plants
» Bricks or stones for edging
» Flowers and plants for added beauty
» Tap water conditioner or water clarifier
» Sand if using only a pond form
10 Steps to a Pond:
- 1. Decide on pond location, pond form, and size.
- 2. Map out on the ground the shape of the pond (remember to add additional room for sand if using a pre-fabricated pond form), using spray paint or string.
- 3. Start digging. And continue until the depth of the pond lies below the frost line (for both overwintering fish and aquatic plants).
- 4. Lay liner into hole or insert pond form (if using pond form add two or more inches of sand between the form and edges of the hole to prevent damage to form).
- 5. Add water, preferably with an outside water source connected by a hose. Straighten liner (if used) as pond fills to prevent as many overlaps as possible.
- 6. Finish edge of pond with stones or bricks and install pump or filter system.
- 7. Add chlorinator to the pond to remove any chlorine or chloramines. (Drops available at store where fish are purchased.)
- 8. Add aquatic plants as soon as possible after constructing the pond or water garden. Many aquatic plants are great at using up the nutrients that would otherwise feed the algae. Some of the most effective plants include Anacharis, water hyacinth, parrot's-feather, and Bacopa. Water lilies and other plants with surface leaves can be added to provide shade to approximately 66 percent of the surface area if in full sun.
- 9. Add fish.
- 10. ENJOY!
Pond and Water Garden Specialists:
DiLorenzo's Pond and Landscape: Specializing in designing koi ponds and water gardens throughout the Hudson Valley. 845-691-4564; dilopond.com/index.php.
Ferncreek Design & Build: Sustainable landscape solutions by experts in pond citing, earth swimming ponds, lined fish or swimming ponds, recirculating creeks and waterfalls, pond repair, and maintenance. Accord. 585-309-2397; ferncreekdesign.org.
Mike's Earthworks: Experts in building new ponds or dredging old ones. Call for consultation. No liner pond installations, only larger, natural landscaped ponds from 20 x 30 feet and up. 143 Schoonmaker Lane, Stone Ridge. 845-687-9117; visitvortex.com/Mikes_Earthworks.
Neave Group Outdoor Solutions: Over three decades of experience in professional design, installation, and maintenance of any and all desired forms of water features—from ponds to waterfalls. 845-367-7512; neavelandscaping.com/water-features.php.
Veronica’s Gardens & Landscaping Nursery: Many years of experience in design and creative pond installations and water gardens. Plus aquatic plants, fountains, and water features available. Free consultation for DIYers. 110 Kripplebush Road, Stone Ridge. 845-687-9026; visitvortex.com/Veronica_Gardens__Landscaping_Nursery.
Waterscapes: Highly acclaimed in the design and creation of water landscapes from koi ponds and water gardens to waterfalls, fountains and water features to enrich your life. 845-339-8382; koiponds.com.
Adams Fairacre Farms: Carries hearty and tropical water lilies, water hyacinth, water lotus, a variety of water iris, arrowhead plant, dwarf cattails, cardinal flower, and papyrus for aquatic gardens. In addition, find pond fish, waterfall pumps, small pond liners, and concrete fountains. Ulster: 1560 Ulster Avenue, Lake Katrine. 845-336-6300; Dutchess: 765 Dutchess Turnpike, Poughkeepsie. 845-454-4330. adamsfarms.com.
Agway’s Mac’s Farm & Garden World: Carries pond supplies, such as water clarifiers and other materials used in pond building. 68 Firehouse Lane, Red Hook. 845-876-1559; agway.com.
A & M Hardware: Liner pond kits can be special ordered; not in stock. 5000 Route 209, Accord. 845-626-2788; amhardware.doitbest.com.
Augustine Nursery: Can create beautiful landscaping and hardscaping for your pond area. 845-338-4936; augustinenursery.com.
Ben Sprenger & Son Landscaping: Can help with small excavations for pond kits. 212 Maple Avenue, Tillson. 845-253-0034; c: 845-283-2573
Buzzanco's Greenhouses: For rare and exotic plants to decorate around your pondscape. 845-336-6528; buzzancogreenhouses.com.
Gallo's Nursery: A huge selection of colorful florals, ornamental grasses and more lovely additions to add extras to your pond respite. 2542 Route 212, Woodstock. 845-679-5113.
Herzog Supply Co., Inc.: Supplies and expert advice for the DIY pond builder. Pre-cut liners in stock sizes or can be special-ordered; filters, pumps, connections and fittings, tubing, water clarifiers, pond salts, mosquito control, and stone for edges and accents. 151 Plaza Road, Kingston. 845-338-6300; herzogs.com.
H. Houst & Son: Rent earth-moving equipment for do-it-yourself ease in building your pond or water feature. In addition truevalue.com carries many items you’ll need for this project and there’s no charge for shipping your materials directly to H. Houst & Son, Inc., 4 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock. 845-679-2115; hhoust.com.
Williams Lumber & Home Centers: Carries what you need to bring your pond to life, like stone for borders; topsoil for dressing pond edge; and landscaping supplies to beautify your pondscape. 845-876-WOOD; williamslumber.com.
To accent your new pond—add some colorful flowers, plants, and ornamental grasses for a customized and personalized natural enrichment to your peaceful respite. Check out our listing of Farms/Markets that have locally grown live adornments at http://www.visitvortex.com/category/OURFARMS
Also, don’t forget about the artistry of enhancing your own magnificent “nirvana” with some great outdoor benches, hammocks, and so many more fresh-air accoutrements to add your own personal flair. Look under SHOP LOCALLY on VISITvortex.com for local businesses that can be your go-to place for the finest in outdoor accents.