The scramble of spring and early summer pruning and planting are behind us, and the next few months in the garden are primarily devoted to the tedious tasks of maintenance; mainly weeding and dragging hoses around. Both these tasks are rewarding to a degree, but if you’re looking for something a little spicier than turning on a sprinkler, there’s lots of time to construct a pond or create a water feature that you can enjoy for the rest of the season and beyond.
Water in a garden is as pleasant and beautiful as any planting. Like fire, it tends to be a focal point, the place where people will automatically pull up their chairs for a drink, to read the paper, or to log on to their favorite public media website.
The first pond I made in my little side yard was a kidney-shaped basin that was supposed to look natural. It didn’t, but it still looked nice, and a surprising amount of wildlife was somehow able to find it, squeezed as it was into a densely built neighborhood.
This time, I went more formal. My current yard is very rectilinear, and I just decided to go with that and not fight it. I won’t go into details about how we constructed the pond, as the Internet has lots of instructional websites and videos, but it was all accomplished easily in a couple of weekends.
We scavenged the edging stones as well as some of the other materials, so the total cost was less than $200, including plants and fish. We saved money by not buying a filter, something that most experts say you must have. A filter can keep the water in a pond very clear and free of algae, but they’re expensive and bulky and I’ve found that it’s definitely possible to get away without one. The trick is getting the right ratio of sunlight, plant material, and fish. The fish eat the mosquito larvae, but too many and their waste will cause a nasty algae bloom. Too much sunlight also encourages algae, but plants like lily pads covering the surface shade the water effectively.
For my six-by-ten foot pond I have plants covering about half the pond surface, and if they’re all still alive, four fish. The water is a little cloudy but not otherwise gross.
I’ve already seen dragonflies hovering overhead, and I’ve noticed the birds and the bees drinking from it as well. In its first few weeks it has been christened by several happy hours. Success! And it really wasn’t that hard.