I would like to build a backyard pond. What do I need to know? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

6 Jan

Q: I would like to build a backyard pond. What do I need to know?

Q: I would like to build a backyard pond. What do I need to know?

Carolyn – Jackson, TN

A: Are you dreaming of summertime landscaping projects? Yep, we are too. With the cold season upon us, there’s nothing like some backyard pond planning to warm up those chilly days and get excited about diving in to your favorite hobby.

Whether you plan to build a half-acre pond with a recirculating stream and fish, expand on your existing feature, or install a petite 200-gallon in-ground aquatic water garden, you should consider these points as you design your backyard dream:

Start with a Budget

First of all, consider what kind of money you want to spend and develop a project budget. In most cases, the larger the water feature, the more expensive it will cost—but some of those top-of-the-line accessories for smaller features can cost quite a bit, too. If you need some help, call a pond-building professional in your area who can assess your needs and determine your budget.

Look for Higher Ground

Next, take a close look at your landscape and plan to position your pond on a high spot rather than a low spot. It might seem logical to locate your water feature in a valley, but it’s actually better to situate it on higher ground. This will prevent rainwater from running into your pond, which can cause water clarity and algae growth problems later on.

Size It Right

While you’re inspecting your outdoor space, consider what sized water feature will realistically fit within your existing landscaping. Do you have a large yard and want to go big? Do you have a small space that’s perfect for a preformed pond with a small fountain? Perhaps the area is best suited for a pondless stream or waterfall. Many seasoned pond hobbyists have admitted that, in retrospect, they wish they had gone bigger with their initial designs …

Consider Your Audience

Who will be enjoying your water feature? When planning your backyard pond, keep your audience in mind. Does it need to be kid friendly or a peaceful getaway? Pondless waterfalls are great for people on the go.  If, however, you and your family have a passion for aquatic plants or fish, it would make sense to go with a traditional pond.

Go with a Kit

As you’re planning your backyard dream pond, make the process easier by buying a pond kit, which comes with everything you’ll need. Different kits are designed for different types of ponds. Here are three that we recommend:

  • For a large waterfall with big sound: The RapidFlo™ Ecosystem Pond Kit is ideal for those who want a large waterfall or stream, lots of sound to drown out nearby noise, and a system with the capacity to deal with heavy debris from nearby trees.
  • For fish lovers: The AllClear™ Ecosystem Pond Kit is designed for hobbyists who want their pond to be all about their fish, not a waterfall. It works well in yards with full sun exposure and few falling leaves.
  • For easy maintenance: The Cascading Falls Pondless Pond Kit is perfect for busy people who want to enjoy the sights and sounds of running water but have little time to maintain a traditional water feature. It’s also well suited for small yards or families with children.

Have Fun with It!

The most important thing to know about planning a pond of your dreams is that you should have a great time doing it. You’ll enjoy this backyard feature for years, so do your research, think through these points, and spend time designing something that you’ll love!

Pond Talk: When you built your first pond or water feature, what inspired your design?

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I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

30 Sep

Q: I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to?

Q: I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to?

Shawn – New Hudson, MI

A: Water attracts all sorts of critters. From bugs, birds and deer to reptiles, raccoons and muskrat – and even an occasional coyote or bear – wildlife of all shapes and sizes frequent ponds and lakes. If you’re experiencing visitors near your pond, that’s great! You should be excited to have the animals use it as a natural resource!

To help you decipher what’s leaving behind those tracks, here’s a quick rundown of the most common critters we find near ponds and lakes:

Muskrats: Measuring about 2 feet long and covered in thick dark brown or black fur, these medium-size semiaquatic rodents are often found in wetlands and near the water’s edge. They have long, vertically flat tails covered with scales, which help them to swim. When looking at muskrat tracks, the hind feet will be larger than the front feet, and you’ll see a distinct mark from their tail that drags along the ground.

Raccoons: These little masked bandits, which will sometimes make a meal of your game fish, are very intelligent and have extremely dexterous front paws. They walk with their feet flat on the ground and can stand on their hind legs to examine objects with their front paws. When examining raccoon tracks, you’ll see the flat-footed footprints with claws on all the toes. Their front foot and opposite hind foot tracks will be side by side or close together.

Deer: Widely distributed across the country, deer—which are pretty good swimmers, by the way—prefer to live between forests (for cover) and grassy fields (for food), though you’ll find deer tracks anywhere around your pond. Unlike raccoons, deer walk on their hooves, or their toe tips that are strengthened by a thick horny covering. When looking at deer tracks, you’ll see the outline of their hooves, which will look like upside-down hearts.

Turtles: Terrestrial and amphibious turtles have short, round, sturdy feet to bear the weight of their heavy shells. They also have long claws that they use to help them clamber onto rocky shorelines and floating logs. You’ll most likely see turtle tracks near the water. The marks will look almost oval with toes or claw marks on one side of the oval. You may see a tail or shell drag mark, too.

In most cases, these critters will do little or no harm to your pond or lake. They do leave waste behind, but we can keep that in check with aeration and bacteria. So have fun identifying your little visitors!

Pond Talk: What’s the strangest animal track you’ve identified near your pond or lake?

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Why is there fog on my pond in the mornings? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

12 Aug

Q: Why is there fog on my pond in the mornings?

Q: Why is there fog on my pond in the mornings?

Joann – Knoxville, TN

A: A misty morning fog conjures a sense of mystery—but why the fog appears isn’t so mysterious once you understand what it is and how it forms.

Fog Defined

Fog is simply a concentration of low-lying water vapor in the air. In the fall, these tiny liquid water droplets often form over bodies of water like your pond or lake.

Temperature Mix

Fog forms when cool air and warm water meet and, more specifically, when the difference between the temperature and the dew point is less than 4° Fahrenheit.

You see, in your pond, the water, heated by the sun, stays warmer than the air temperature during the cool night. When the cold layer of still air settles over your pond, warm water vapor from the pond evaporates, entering the cool air above it. The cool air then traps the concentrated water vapor and fog forms. In the morning, as the sun heats the air and temperatures rise, the water vapor evaporates and dispels.

Fog Fighters

If you don’t like fog and prefer to use your pond early in the morning before the misty stuff dissipates, consider installing an AquaStream™ Fountain. A fountain adds oxygen to the pond—but that’s not all. It also creates movement above the water, which prevents cool air from settling on the water surface. This will help prevent fog from forming.

Pond Talk: Are you a fan of fog on your pond or lake? Why or why not?

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I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

8 Jul

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Jerry – Cass City, MI

A: Ducks certainly make an entertaining and colorful addition to a pond or lake. Various species of these plumed wetland visitors grace just about every continent and climate on planet earth – including sub-Antarctic islands like South Georgia and the Aucklands to oceanic locales like Hawaii and New Zealand.

Despite their worldwide distribution, getting ducks to call your pond home can be a challenge. But you can attract them if you understand their specific needs.

Pondside Open House

The duck types that frequent ponds include mallards and wood ducks, along with Muscovy ducks, black-bellied and whistling ducks. Ducks are omnivores and like to eat a wide range of foods, from small fish, eggs, snails, worms and bugs to grass, weeds, seeds and berries. In general, they require a lot of space and copious amounts of water in the form of marshes, lakes or large ponds. Aquatic plants, like reeds and water lilies, make them feel at home, as does concealed areas with tall marsh grass and shrubby cover for nesting and hiding.

Attracting the Flock

Providing a duck friendly habit is the best way to convince the feathered visitors to stop by, but here are some expert tricks to make your pond more appealing:

  • Create a Mess Hall: Set up feeding areas by clearing out an area or providing large, low platforms, and toss out some cracked corn, spilled birdseed and kitchen scraps. Don’t feed them by hand, but use goodies to pique their interest.
  • Plant a Duck Garden: Berry bushes can help draw ducks. And if you have a garden area near your pond, use mulch to attract tasty insects and earthworms.
  • Offer a Nest Box: Though ducks will nest in a variety of places, from ground nests in grassy areas near the pond to brush piles and hollow logs, provide them with nest boxes to help attract nesting ducks.
  • Install a Fountain: Ducks flock to the sound of splashing, so consider installing a fountain or waterfall in your pond.
  • Use Natural Décor: Add some half-submerged logs, overhanging shelves, marsh grasses and marginals, aquatic plants and brush piles to your landscape.
  • Add Some Decoys: A duck decoy pair floating quietly on your pond will attract the attention of the real-life things. They’ll swoop down to investigate and (hopefully!) decide to stay for a while.

Duck Dangers

Unlike a Great Blue Heron, ducks will leave your fish alone – but they can trigger other problems. If a lot of them are visiting, they can cause water quality issues (which can be remedied with the beneficial bacteria in Pond Logic® PondClear™). They could bring in unwanted weeds, like duckweed and water milfoil, that weren’t present before. The ducks, ducklings and eggs could also attract feral cats, raccoon, skunks and other predators.

Having these colorful beauties visit your pond, however, is worth the hassle. When they do stop by, observe them from a distance – and enjoy bird watching!

Pond Talk: Do ducks visit your pond regularly?

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I am jealous of my friend’s waterfall. Where do I start? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

24 Jun

Q: I am jealous of my friend’s waterfall. Where do I start?

Q: I am jealous of my friend’s waterfall. Where do I start?

Ethan – Kailua-Kona, HI

A: Waterfall envy. We’ve all experienced it. It’s that feeling you get when you see those stunning synchronized fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, some over-the-top displays during your local pond and garden tour, or your pal’s 15-foot 20,000-gallons-per-hour jaw dropper. You think, wow, I want that in my backyard!

Let’s turn that jealousy into motivation.

With some planning, some equipment and a weekend (or two) of hard work, you can create a waterfall that will rival the others in your neighborhood. Here’s how.

Be Budget Mindful

Before you begin, think about how much money you want to spend and then work to develop a project budget. In most cases, the larger the waterfall, the more expensive it will cost—but some of those top-of-the-line accessories for smaller features can cost quite a bit, too. If you need some help, call a pond-building professional in your area who can assess your needs and suggest a starting point.

Making Space

You’ll also want to consider how much room you have for your waterfall. Do you want to add a new feature to your existing pond? Alternatively, are you planning to build one from the ground up? In either case, how large will it be, and where will it go? Make sure that it’s sized appropriately for your pond and/or yard, and position it in a place where you can enjoy it.

Changing the Look

If you have an existing pond and want to add a waterfall while changing the look of the water’s flow, check out the ClearSpring™ Waterfall Filter. Not only does it provide maximum year-round filtration to your pond, but it also offers two weir options – a smooth surface and a ribbed pattern – to add diversity to your water feature.

Another option is to increase your existing flow rate by bumping up your tubing size and pump size. More water and increased movement can make dramatic impacts in your water feature, and it’s an easy adjustment to make with some plumbing and pump swaps.

Hobby Time

Finally, think about how much time you realistically want to spend maintaining your water feature. Are you a weekend warrior with a full-time job, or do you have a busy family with soccer games every weekend? If so, you may not have a lot of time to spend on weekly and seasonal maintenance chores, like leaf netting and winterizing. A Pondless Waterfall Kit is an excellent solution. It provides the sights and sounds of running water with little maintenance.

If you have more time on your hands, consider adding a self-enclosed pond with pops of color to your landscape. The Colorfalls Basin Kit with Color Changing Waterfall Weirs is an easy-to-install system that includes a reservoir, the plumbing, the pump, all the fittings, double filtration, splash mat and even an automatic fill valve. The color changing weirs feature 16 patterns and 48 color options – which should be enough to make your friend jealous!

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite waterfall – real or human-made?

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