Category Archives for "All Things Pond"

August 4, 2019

Pond Liner Repair In 7 Easy Steps

pond liner repair in 7 easy steps

If you ever tear, rip, or puncture your pond liner don’t panic! This can easily be resolved in a few simple steps:

  1. Get another piece of rubber liner big enough to go over the problem area by at least 2 inches all around.
  2. Drain the water 12 inches below the problem area, exposing it and make sure the area is clean and dry. 
  3. Use the prep solvent that comes with your liner repair kit (link to Amazon) and generously clean the area again. This will remove any fine dirt that may have been missed in the initial cleaning.
  4. The MOST important thing, be sure all the wrinkles are out of the liner where the repair will be made. Wrinkles will cause leaks.
  5. Apply the sealant around the area, a bit larger than the patch. 
  6. Gently apply the patch over the area and apply pressure all around to be sure of a good seal. (No Wrinkles)
  7. Allow the sealant to cure fully, then refill your pond.

My Story

I’ll never forget, I had just finished placing my last rock. I was beaming with pride. I could tell I was driving my family crazy with this project. It was all I was talking about for weeks. Now was the moment of truth.

I gathered my wife and kids around to witness my glory! I asked for a drumroll as they all reluctantly participated. Plugged in my waterfall and BAM! Just like that I had my very own waterfront property!

I couldn’t stop smiling. All those days of back breaking work, digging and climbing in and out of a deep hole all behind me now.

Something Was Wrong

As I looked on with pride, I noticed something. The water level going into my skimmer box was lower than it was when I had started everything up. This must be because water in the waterfall system caused my level to drop.

Was I crazy? I could feel the doubt in my mind beginning to set in. As I looked on, the water level slowly but surely got lower and lower and lower.

I started to get that sinking feeling in my stomach. You know what I’m talking about. Like the feeling you get when you are called on in class to give your presentation, and you didn’t even start it yet.

Starting Over

Well I thought, “back to the drawing board”. I shut off my waterfall pump and began to retrace my steps. How could i be losing water? I know I didn’t tear my liner when i was building this thing. I was told that it was ok to walk on the liner while it is being installed as long as rocks are not “ground” into it.

Then it occured to me what may be happening. When I calculated my liner I didn’t have enough to go all the way up to where my waterfall unit was located. Keep this in mind when you plan out your pond.

The thing is the liner I got would have worked with my original plan, but as I went this project got bigger and bigger. You’ll see when you do your project. Things change and you just need to adapt to them and make them work.

My Pond Liner Setup

Firestone EPDM pond liner installation

I took the liner from the main pond up as high as I could to my waterfall unit. Then I had to get an additional piece of liner and overlap the two. This should not have been a problem as long as the liner coming down the waterfall was on top of the liner making up the pond.

The two liners were like shingles on a roof. I didn’t use any type of glue or sealant to fuse the two together. The liner making up my pond was above the ponds water level by about 2 feet, with the additional liner overlapping it and going below the water level in the pond by a foot.

Now normally this shouldn’t be a problem. As long as the liner is overlapped properly all the water should stay in the pond.

As you can see from the pictures below the original pond liner only goes halfway up the waterfall mound.

Get To The Root Of The Problem

As I investigated further, I saw what was really going on. Since I had modified my plans a bit, the only readily available liner to make my waterfall and stream was only 3 feet wide. This is fine coming straight out of my waterfall unit, but as the water cascades down the falls it gets wider. Water was flowing past my 3 foot wide liner into the ground before it ever got to where the two liners overlap.

Urrg… this was going to take some strategic rock placement and waterfall foam to correct. 

Guided Waterfall Stream

Waterfall foam (link to Amazon) is your best friend when it comes to making water move the way you want it to. I needed to create a dam to control the water from running off the liner. If you run into issues like this use waterfall foam and disguise it with small rocks before it cures. This corrects the problem in the most natural looking way.

I was sure to let the waterfall foam set up for 24 hours, then started everything up again. This time with a lot less fan fair. I let the system run for another day and to my delight the water level never went down.

In conclusion

Fixing a pond liner is not that difficult once you find the problem. This can be a challenge all on its own.  Follow the 7 steps and don’t freak out. 

Sometimes you need to step back and see the big picture. Things aren’t always as they seem. What you think is the culprit, may not be. 

I would love to hear some of the challenges you are facing with your projects. Please comment below and share them. Your solution may help someone else. Until next time enjoy your backyard water garden!

~Jeff

July 28, 2019

Why You Need A UV Light In Your Pond

why you need a UV Light in your pond

Why Do I Need A UV Light In My Pond

UV lights do a few things for you and your pond. They kill harmful bacteria and sterilize the water, creating high water quality so goldfish and koi can thrive. The other thing… they destroy the free floating algae that plagues pond owners. 

Don’t neglect to add one of these into your filtration system. I know how frustrating it can be to create a beautiful pond, waterfall, surrounded by plantings only to have it turn into pea soup once the temperature gets warm. 

Green Pond Water From Free Floating Algae Bloom
clear pond water from a UV light
UV Light Installed – Clear Water

What Is UV Light

UV light (short for ultraviolet) is what is responsible for that awesome tan you get in the summer. It is also the culprit of painful sunburn. This type of electromagnetic radiation has the power to break chemical bonds and is damaging to living tissue (sunburn). Most of the UV light we encounter is from the sun.

visible light spectrum

Light that we see is only a small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum includes all forms of light. The spectrum is broken down into 7 different categories based on wavelength. These categories from lowest to highest frequency are radio, microwave, Infrared, visible light (all light detected by the human eye), ultraviolet (UV), X-ray, and gamma rays.

UV lights frequency falls between what we can see as visible light and x-rays. When in contact with UV rays atoms and molecules can become ionized. 

When atoms get ionized they lose electrons which result in the atom or molecule having a negative or positive charge. This is harmful to living tissue. Because of this property, we can harness the power of UV light to disinfect surfaces, sterilize things, and wipe out all that nasty free floating algae in our ponds.

How Is UV Light Used In A Pond

A UV light for a pond consists of an outer tube with a smaller crystal tube inside it. The smaller crystal tube contains the bulb that gives off the UV light. The crystal tube keeps the bulb dry. Water flows through the outer tube, around the crystal tube, safely exposing the water to UV light. 

How a UV light works

How To Size A UV Light For Your Pond

In order to get this right you need to know a couple things first: 

  1. What is the size of your pond in gallons (use our pond calculator)
  2. What is the maximum flow rate the light can handle to be effective. Running 4000 gallons per hour (gph) through a light that can only be effective at a flow rate of 1000 gph is pointless and will yield poor results.

Where To Put My Light If My Pond Is Already Finished

This was my problem as well. My pond was built and the UV light installation was an afterthought. If you don’t plan on using a submersible UV light and wish to put it in line with your water return system, you can still easily hide your light (even if it is large) with creative plantings. Check out this quick video.

That’s what I did. My UV light is hidden in plain sight, tucked around the side of my waterfall mound. When you install your light be sure to give yourself easy access to it for occasional maintenance.

Which UV Light Is Right For Me

If you are just starting out building your pond (the best time to add a light) then you can easily incorporate this into your filtration system. Simply divert water that flows from your skimmer to your waterfall unit through your UV light.

If you are adding a light as a second thought it is going to be a little more involved, but there is still hope! You will have to dig up your return line in order to divert water through your UV light as it returns to your waterfall. 

Another option is to add an additional pump (usually with a lower flow rate to be effective) and add your UV light to that exclusively. 

If you plan on running your system all year round having your light on its own “water circuit” is a good idea. This way you can turn it off or remove it over the months it isn’t needed.

How Long Does A UV Bulb Last

The lifespan of a typical UV bulb is around 10,000 hours. Although the bulb will still be producing visible light beyond that time, its effectiveness will be diminished.

If you live somewhere that you run your UV light all year round, the bulb should be replaced every 12 months. If you only run your UV light 4 months per year like I do, then the bulb will need to be replaced approximately every three years.

How Do I Know When To Change My UV Bulb

With a UV bulb, unless it is completely burned out follow the above recommendation and change it after 10,000 hours. You could wait until your water begins to get cloudy with free floating algae, but who wants to go through that.

How Much Does It Cost To Run A UV Light For My Pond

money

This will depend on the size of the light that is required for your system, and the price of electricity at the time. If we were to choose a 40 watt light and the price of electricity is $0.31 per Kwh then the cost would be $9.05 per month based on the calculations from https://www.blitzresults.com/en/electricity/ 

Where Is The Best Place To Buy A UV Light

Here are some great options based on pond size. If you aren’t sure what size your pond is, use our pond calculator. I have found the best place to get any of these lights is on Amazon. Yes, these are affiliate links which means if you happen to purchase one of them I will receive a small commission at no charge to you. This helps us keep our website going. Thanks in advance for the support.

That being said we are only recommending these because it is what we would use in our pond builds.

Small Pond – 100 to 1500 Gallons

The Tetrapond UV clarifier is the ideal addition to a smaller pond. With a 9 watt UV bulb it will have little impact on your electric bill. This light can be used in or out of the water, making it an easy addition if you already have your pond set up.

If installing it in line with your existing system be sure the flow rate is between 210 – 560 gph. This light is most effective at this flow rate.

The other option is to hook it up with its own pump. Whichever is easiest. The recommended pump and light are bundled together in the link below. 

This light can handle a flow rate of 210 – 560 gallons per hour. Using a ¾ – 1 inch ID tubing to connect a pump and return line. 

Although this light claims to treat up to 2,000 gallons we are more conservitive and recommend using a more powerful light if your pond is over 1,500 gallons. 

This will solve your green water problems at a budget friendly price. Check HERE for the best current price (link to amazon) along with other helpful diagrams.

Estimated operating cost per month $2.04

Medium Pond 1500 to 3000 gallons

Stepping up to the next size will require a little more power and a larger unit. The 40 watt range is effective with a pond of this size. 

The stainless steel Patriot is our light of choice for ponds in this size range. The stainless steel is reflective making the UV light up to 35% more effective than other non reflective lights. 

patriot pond 40 Watt UV light specs

Although this light claims to treat up to 6,000 gallons we recommend stepping up to the next level for ponds over 3,000 gallons. This light will handle a flow rate up to 2,500 gph. This is what we would use in our builds. Check HERE (link to Amazon) for the most up to date price.

The estimated operating cost per month $9.05

Large Pond 3000 To 5000 Gallons

When it comes to very large ponds more than one light may be required, so we set the maximum size at 5000 gallons. The UV lights used for larger ponds are not submersible and will take up some space so be sure to take that into consideration when you are in the planning stage. You should give yourself easy access while at the same time camouflage your setup to disappear into the landscape.

Aqua UV is perfect for larger applications. It claims to handle up to 6,500 gallons as a clarifier. You will get your pond back. This light is effective with a flow rate of 3,500 gph which means you won’t have to sacrifice power when you run it in line with your system. It is available with or without a wiper. 

Aqua UV 57 watt UV sterilizer

The wiper cleans the crystal tube that contains the light bulb making it more efficient.

The performance of this light is guaranteed to clear your water within 3 to 5 days. 

Another advantage this has over other lights in this category is it’s electricity consumption, at only 57 watts. For the most up to date price and availability check HERE (affiliate link to Amazon).

The estimated operating cost, only $12.90 per month.

Will A UV Light Solve All My Algae Problems

The short answer is no. The reason for this, a UV light can only eliminate what flows through it. For that It does a fine job. However other forms of algae like string algae that forms on rocks and spillways also plague the pond. This type of algae will not pass through the light because it stays in one place. 

If your pond is overrun with string algae check out our home page and learn the secret to give it a quick knockout punch. This little secret is safe, inexpensive and eliminates string algae quickly.

A properly sized UV light is only one piece of the puzzle to ridding your pond of unsightly types of algae. A UV light will give you crystal clear water. When used in conjunction with barley straw and algaefix you have a winning combination.

In Conclusion

If you have had a pond for any length of time you know the value of a UV light. The constant battle with algae can be very frustrating. If you are just getting started, take my advice and don’t overlook the importance of having a UV light. Yes, you can always add one later, but it is definitely easier if you make it part of your original design when you build your pond (link to our how to build a pond tutorial).

You can’t go wrong with any of the suggested lights in this post. Don’t hesitate to pick one up and get your pond back. Any thoughts or questions would be greatly appreciated. Please leave a comment below. Until next time, enjoy your backyard water garden!

~Jeff

July 21, 2019

Know This Before Owning Koi

Know this before owning koi

The short answer:

  1. Koi need ample space to thrive – When estimating pond size, you need at least 300 gallons per fish. For example a 3000 gallon pond could house no more than 10 koi.
  2. Great water quality – this can be accomplished through various types of filtration system.
  3. Protection from predators

There is nothing more relaxing and calming than sitting by the ponds edge watching the kaleidoscope of colors dance just below the surface as the graceful koi move about.  There is something magical about these fascinating creatures.

I got the koi “bug” shortly after I caught the pond bug.  It seemed to be the natural progression of things. If you are in the same situation, then you know what I am talking about.  What started out as a mild curiosity has grown into a grand obsession.

I ponder such things as how koi can survive the harsh winter months. How a mere “fish” can be taught tricks, and actually learn things. The different personalities they possess. Koi are more than mere fish, they are extraordinary beasts that have an aura of magic, legend and lore that come with them.

Caring for koi properly begins with proper pond design. The old thinking that koi will grow to the size of their environment is false. They will grow to the size they are going to be regardless of the size of the pond. If you plan on keeping koi, the size of the pond must allow for this.

Pond Design

The right design is key to not just keeping these animals, but allowing them to thrive. Koi can reach lengths of 30” or larger depending on the breed. 

When designing your koi pond, It’s important the depth of their environment is greater than their length. Just like you and I, koi also need exercise. If they do not have the proper depth, they cannot exercise their fins properly by swimming up and down.

A proper environment should have a depth of at least 42”. This will not only allow them proper exercise, but also allow them to survive in colder climates. Depending on what part of the world you live, the frost line needs to be one of the determining factors of how deep your pond will be. The depth of your pond should be well below the frost line for your part of the world.

If your pond freezes solid, this could spell sudden death for your koi. Regardless of 42”, your pond should also be deeper than the frost line. If both of these criteria are met, then you will have success caring for these creatures.

Water Flow

Most pond kits (link to amazon for the most up to date prices) do not come with a bottom drain. Even if the kit is labeled a koi pond kit, without a bottom drain it may not suffice for optimal water quality. The bottom drain (affiliate link to amazon for a bottom drain to add to a pond kit) helps to take some of the maintenance work out of the equation. When set up properly the current in the pond forces most of the sediment and waste to the bottom drain where it can be removed and filtered out.  

Without a drain set up you will need to vacuum and remove the waste manually.  Save yourself some work and design this out of the equation. Not only will it save you work down the line but your koi will be happier and healthier with a cleaner environment.

creating propoer water flow in a koi pond

A proper koi pond setup contains a skimmer, bottom drain, and multiple return lines to create a swirling effect in the pond as seen in the illustration above. This swirling effect moves waste and debris to the center of the pond where it can be removed by the bottom drain.

The main differences between a water garden and a koi pond is the use of a bottom drain, and the filtration set up. The key to keeping koi is superior water quality. That being said the key to superior water quality is proper filtration.

What Filtration Do You Need

Gravity flow filtration systems are extremely effective keeping water crystal clear and koi healthy.  The reason they work so well is the water flows steadily and slowly to the bottom drain. The key words are slow and steady. 

The reason behind this is to move the waste, especially the large waste that settles to the bottom and keep it intact to the first chamber of filtration, ironically known as the settling chamber.

A gravity flow filter consists of different stages or chambers.  Each chamber with different water levels. Water is always seeking its own level.  A pump (link to my pond pump reviews) is placed after the final chamber pulling the water through the system and back into the pond. 

One challenge of the gravity filter is the fact that the water level in the chambers must be slightly below the water level in your pond.  Hence the term gravity filter. Since water always seeks to find its own level, the pond pump is merely used to pump the water back into your pond, and gravity pulls the water through the system.

The water enters at the bottom of the chamber, flows upward through filter media, then into another pipe at the top and into the bottom of the next chamber.

The filter media gets finer and finer as the water flows from one chamber to another. Most of the particulate is removed with this system, returning crystal clear water to your pond.  

One downside to this system is the space it requires. Keep this in mind when designing your pond layout. It will be necessary to have ample space for this and a creative way to hide it.

The cycle the water flows for filtration is as follows:

Bottom drain into settling chamber to mechanical filtration to pump, and finally back into the pond.

Below is an illustration of this type of system.

gravity filtration system

Other Filtration Systems

There are other methods of filtration that can be incorporated into your koi pond filtration system.  Each will also require ample space and need to be hidden behind the scenes while at the same time easily accessible. 

The typical pond kit does not have a bottom drain. It consists of a skimmer box (affiliate link to amazon for our recommended skimmer box) with a mesh net and filter media. The skimmer box also houses the pump. Water is then circulated to a waterfall unit where it flows through more filter media, and returned to the pond.

Koi can be kept with this style of pond setup, however it may require more hands on maintenance throughout the season. For example the netting and the filter media will need to be cleaned on a regular basis.

The differences between these filtration systems is how the water flows through them, and how thoroughly they can remove particulate. All of them require a pump of some sort. Some of the best filtration systems use a combination of both gravity and power to achieve exceptionally clean, clear water.

This is the golden rule, you can have as many koi as your filtration system will allow.

Once you have decided on the pond size, type of your filtration system and how to implement the whole thing into your landscape, the next decision is what is the overall feeling you are trying to create in the space.

The typical koi pond has the black liner along the sides and bottom. This really makes the colors of these beautiful fish stand out. Another advantage of having only the liner exposed is for the ease of debris to make its way to the center drain for filtration. Having a smooth bottom allows the water to flow more completely in the environment without getting hung up on rocks.

The koi pond edge is where rocks come in. A shelf should be excavated approximately 12 inches from the water surface and rocks or other edging material should be used.  The liner should go across this “shelf” and hidden up behind the rocks on the edge. 

The pond built in our how to build a pond guide has the sides and bottom covered with rocks. Check out the link above to do this properly. The rocks make it a bit more difficult to clean, however it has a very natural look that easily blends into the landscape. 

Your ponds edge and liner should be slightly higher than the surrounding grade to prevent rain runoff from entering your pond. 

Quick side note: Depending on your budget you may not use a liner at all and choose to have your pond made of gunite, the same material that is used for swimming pools. For the sake of discussion, we are not going to elaborate on this any further because this method is beyond the scope of the DIY’er. This method requires professional installation and specialized equipment.

Most of my clients prefer the look of a natural rocked in pond if their budget allows. It is still possible to keep koi without the use of a bottom drain as mentioned earlier.Keep in mind that more maintenance will be required to keep the water quality high.

to keep the water at the highest quality a UV light should also be installed into the system. More on that here. The UV light will sterilize the water and kill any bacteria, or algae that passes through it.

Design Variations

A raised koi pond is another method of building a koi pond.  A liner can be used in this as well. The only limitation with this is the depth you choose. Be sure it follows the guidelines discussed earlier so your koi can survive whatever type of winter you experience in your part of the world.

The raised type of pond can have two variations.  The first is a completely raised pond. Think of it like an above ground pool.  This would be constructed of cinder blocks and covered with a veneer of your choice. 

The part that is seen above ground can be constructed of cinder blocks and lined with an EPDM liner (affiliate link to amazon for the best price on pond liners). This serves as a very effective means to create your pond. It will have a more modern formal look. The variation you choose will depend on the surrounding design of your outdoor space, and your taste.

Depending on your décor, tile, stone, wood, or even bamboo are just a few great choices to finish off your raised pond. The raised pond is ideal for warmer climates, where a frostline is minimal.

If you live in a colder climate like I do, you can still have a raised pond but will need to modify it a bit. It will be constructed in the same way above ground, but excavated well below the frost line. 

Koi Ponds In A Cold Climate

When waste collects, it creates an environment that depletes the oxygen in the water as it breaks down. If the debris and waste is not removed, this unhealthy environment will be at the bottom of your pond. 

Guess where your koi go in the winter months? Down at the bottom where there is less oxygen.  

This could potentially suffocate your fish if the pond freezes over and the poisonous gasses cannot escape.

To avoid this simply add an aerator (affiliate link to Amazon for the best price) to your pond at a shallow depth. Placing the aerator at the bottom of the pond will introduce cold air at the bottom creating an unhealthy environment. The movement from the aerator will keep the surface from freezing solid and allow the poisonous gasses that build up escape.

A pond heater (affiliate link to Amazon) is another option if your part of the world is exceptionally cold. This keeps a small portion of the surface melted allowing the gases to escape.

Keeping the bottom as clear from waste as you can is imperative to the health and longevity of your beautiful fish.

A third option to deal with old man winter is to place your koi in holding tanks over the winter months, out of the severe weather.  It is not necessary to keep them warm, just keep them out of the elements where they could freeze.

Disease And Your Koi Pond

Koi, being as hardy as they are can usually fight off any infections that would be brought on by fungi, or bacteria. Stress is the main cause for disease in your fish. This type of stress is not from an aggressive boss, or getting stuck in rush hour traffic. This stress is caused by water quality.  

Water quality can be compromised by:

  • Stress
  • Placing sick fish into your pond
  • Overcrowding
  • Outside contaminates
  • Spawning

Just like with any ailment, catching it in the early stages is key. This can prove to be difficult at times, however if you pay attention to the behavior of your fish, say at feeding time you will notice these changes. If a fish isolates itself from the rest, this may be a sign that something isn’t right.

The problem with disease is that it can spread quickly and wipe out your entire population if not treated in a timely manner.

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to keeping fish, no truer statement could be made. The most important thing is to keep the quality of the pond water high. This will keep your fishes’ immune system in great shape and keep disease at bay.

Protect Your Plants

If this is your first experience with koi, be forewarned that they can be very destructive when it comes to pond vegetation. They will uproot and destroy anything they can. If you choose to have plants in your pond like most of us do, you will find that you will need to keep them in planters to protect them from the koi. 

protect your plants from koi

This keeps everyone happy, the koi get the benefit of shade and oxygen from the plants, and you get a little piece of mind that your plants will be there every time you visit the water garden.

In Conclusion

When it comes to creating and maintaining your koi pond, filtration and water quality are the most important things you can do. Not only will your fish stay healthy and thrive, but the beautiful environment you create will bring you years of enjoyment. 

The key to success is to get set up properly. It’s difficult to add a bottom drain a few years down the road, so decide and design your koi pond the right way from the start. Do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success. I wish you success with all you projects, and if you have any questions or comments I encourage you to leave them below. Until next time enjoy your backyard water garden.

~Jeff

February 7, 2019

Keeping Koi Safe From Pond Predators

keep your pond fish safe from predators
koi and goldfish in the backyard pond

Something you may have not given much thought to is how you will keep your fish safe from pond predators.  Here is a typical scenario that may give you a wake up call

The Time has come to finally sit back and enjoy your amazing water feature.  Weather you put it in yourself, or hired professionals for the installation you are ready to take in the ambiance of this amazing… wait, what happened to the fish that were in here.  I know I had three, now there is only one. And why are those rocks overturned? Vandals?

Know Your Enemy

Depending on where you live, your pond and koi fish can fall victim to an array of unwanted guests.  From the dreaded blue heron that will feast on your prized koi. Even raccoons and chipmunks pose a threat to your beautiful creation.

blue heron by the waters edge

The Bird of Death – For Pond Fish

The predator that concerns me the most is the blue heron.  In my part of the world this fisherman is always on the top of its game.  A perfect example of how nature has created the perfect fisherman. With its spear like beak and the “S” curve of its neck, always ready to strike with speed and precision.

It will land in the shallow waters, and remain perfectly still.  The patience this bird has is incredible. It will stand there, stoic waiting, waiting then bam! Lunch!


These birds fly by scoping out promising hunting grounds from the air.  This bird will darken the sky when it flies overhead, as if some mythical beast has just spawned from middle earth.  Its legs stretched out behind it as it flies. At first glance you may think you are looking at a pterodactyl, or something prehistoric.

Blue Heron taking flight

Now What

The best defense against such an intelligent predator is to take preventative action before these birds have claimed your pond as their new hunting ground.  You have a few options at your disposal that will prove to be effective:

  • Decoys – You can use decoys to keep them away, but keep in mind that you are dealing with an intelligent advisory.  They will learn that decoys are just that, decoys. As long as you keep them moving around your space decoys will be effective. When doing research for this article I came across this ultimate pond protection kit on Amazon.
  • Water spray – A motion sensor device designed just for this shoots a stream of water when it is triggered, keeping away many nascence animals.
  • Water Dye – This is another tactic that can be used to ward off herons that are looking for a free lunch.  The dye will make your pond look deeper than it truly is and help hide your fish from the sky.

I’ve even heard of people going as far as putting rebar grates over the tops of their ponds.  To me that seems like overkill but I suppose once you lose a koi or two you may see things differently.

black autumn pond netting
Seasonal

Pond netting could be the answer if you don’t mind clearing the debris that gathers on it every now and then.  If you enjoy your pond from a distance, then this would work well for you. The black netting is very difficult to see from a distance and will keep just about anything out.

When it comes to netting, I use it for a different purpose.  I don’t bother with the net until the leaves start falling in autumn.

Keep the Pests out by design

backyard pond with waterfall

When you build your pond, the best practice is to build it into shelves so there are steep drops, then a level shelf, then another drop, and so on until you reach your desired depth.  One reason for this is for planting. This way you could enjoy different species of plants that need different depths of water.

The other reason for this is to keep out predators.  If you had your edge gradually go down into the water, it would be more like a beach.  This would be an open invitation for raccoons, weasels and the like who would all love to make a meal of those beautiful koi.  The gradual decline gives them easy access in and out.

digging a backyard pond with three levels

In order to combat this, when you dig your pond dig it in layers.  This has two advantages. One, raccoons and the like will only be able to get what they can immediately reach. Two, the layers are perfect for planting different types of vegetation.  Not all plants prefer the same depth in the water.

Danger Comes From All Angles

Baby water snake made a home in my pond skimmer box

Although your biggest threat may seem to come from the sky, do not overlook other dangers that come from the ground.  This tiny water snake attempted to make a home in the pond skimmer box.

If not taken care of my fish may have been inn danger as the snake got bigger.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as the old saying goes.

One other type of pest to look out for is one that is as old as the dinosaurs. This hungry slow moving beast will turn your pond into a buffet if you don’t catch it in time. The snapping turtle. We recently relocated one that was found near my pond.

It’s Not All Bad News

chipmunk made his home it the side of the waterfall at the water garden

Having a pond also attracts all sorts of other inhabitants.  A pest is a very objectionable word. It’s the same as calling something a weed.  A weed is just an unwanted plant. One persons weed is someone else’s pride and joy.  It all depends on if you see something is a pest or not.

Right now my pond has attracted this crazy chipmunk who has turned my waterfall hill into Swiss cheese.  For the time being its fine. He is fun to watch scamper about. As long as he isn’t doing damage he can stay.  He also adds an element of entertainment to the space.

Chipmunks aren’t the only things that the pond brings into your yard.  The variety of birds that grace my pond with their presence is astonishing.  Birds I have never seen in the wild before now bathe themselves in the rushing waters of my waterfall.

Small Creatures Welcome

Oriole bathing in the backyard waterfall

I have seen Orioles, yellow finches, sparrows, cardinals, blue jays, and other birds I couldn’t recognize.  This has awakened my curiosity and now find great pleasure in bird watching. We have even downloaded an app that plays specific bird calls to coax some rare breeds to our water garden.

color changing tree frog blending in at the water garden

Frogs and toads are another added bonus to pond ownership.  There is nothing sweeter than a frog song in the midsummers night air.  Mosquito control is another perk for inviting these wonderful creatures to call your backyard pond home.

To Sum it Up

It’s a good idea to put some kind of preventative action into place before your pond turns into a buffet.  However, if you go too overboard it will cut down on your overall enjoyment. That’s the main reason you have a pond in the first place.  The key is, just like everything in life, to find the perfect balance of keeping your space safe without taking away your overall enjoyment.

If you have any tips or tactics to share, we would love to hear them.  Please leave a comment below. Be safe and happy gardening!

January 17, 2019

The Pondless Waterfall – DIY

pondless stream with lush planting

The Pondless Waterfall

The pondless waterfall is exactly what you need if you have ever thought about putting a water feature in your outdoor space.  After researching all that is involved with pond ownership realize that it’s tons of work?  Your life is busy and finding the time, energy and money that goes into digging and maintaining a pond is almost unimaginable. That’s where the idea of a pondless waterfall comes in.

There are a couple of ways to approach this.  If you are looking for a simple plug and play type of solution, then a backyard fountain may be enough to satisfy that craving for bringing another dimension to your space.  However, if you are like me and want a more natural feel, then the pondless waterfall is exactly what you are looking for.

Keep It Simple

typical backyard pond and waterfall setup

Much of the hassle of a conventional pond and waterfall setup can be eliminated.  The digging is minimal and the maintenance that goes along with pond ownership is almost completely eliminated as well.

Come Up With a Game Plan

So let’s begin this project the way any project should begin, in the planning stage.  This can be the most difficult to do if you have a tough time making decisions. Location is the key.  Not only do you want your new waterfall and stream visible, but you also want it within earshot of your normal outdoor gathering place.

summer rushing waterfall

A stream with rushing water is one thing, but if a waterfall is added it’s entirely something else as far as sound is concerned.  I had no idea the impact a waterfall had on the noise, even in the outdoors. The white noise it creates almost completely eliminates any other sound from the space.  This is important to keep in mind when choosing location.

I have noticed from personal experience that conversations around my waterfall are somewhat private.  The sound of the water eliminates the chance of someone eavesdropping in on what you are saying. Just keep this in mind if you plan on a roaring waterfall next to your outdoor dining area.

Flow or Fall

When going the pondless route, you may not find a need for a waterfall at all.  Just the mere sound of water winding down over the rocks to its destination is a tranquil sound that won’t completely disrupt the atmosphere, and adds a bit of seemingly natural ambiance to the space.  The above image is a stream at a venue for a wedding. It creates a beautiful backdrop without completely taking over.

Once you have decided what you want, and where you want it, it’s time to lay out your project.  Use a garden hose to outline either side of your waterfall or stream. Move the hose around until it looks exactly the way you want it to.

pondless stream waterfall

The basic design of a pondless water fall is a waterfall unit or spill way, the water then flows down your rubber liner into a reservoir where it is then pumped back up to your spillway unit.  Be sure there is a correctly grounded power source near the reservoir.

Hammer Out the Kinks

How the water flows from one end to the other is entirely up to you?  There could be a steep cascade and then an area where the water can pool before dropping down again.  Or it could simply rush from your spillway to your reservoir without dropping off at all. This is all in your vision and design.

small pondless waterfall without a stream

If your goal is a robust waterfall with ledges and spill overs, then you will need to increase your elevation from start to finish.  If you are starting with level ground this could be a challenge. The higher your waterfall the deeper you will need to dig to provide the right amount of excavated dirt for your drop off.  Or you could order a few yards of top soil to help with raising the elevation.

When In Doubt Improvise

Instead of using dirt under your starting point, stacked cinder blocks work very well.  When they are placed on undisturbed ground they will settle very little. You could use them throughout as you step down from start to finish.  Be sure to put a thin layer of dirt, or even a piece of old carpet over top of them to act as a cushion between the blocks and the liner.

Although the rubber liner is very durable, I would rather not take my chances with a tear due to the liner rubbing on the course cinder blocks.

If you are starting on level ground, you will create a pitch by placing the dirt you excavate from the reservoir to the start of your stream.  If your plan is to incorporate a waterfall, more dirt may need to be brought in. Keep in mind, dirt that has been freshly disturbed is going to settle, so compact it as you go as best you can.

Crunching the Numbers

albert-einstein-alphabet-black-and-white-256369

The rule of thumb for the size of your reservoir is to have three times the volume of water your stream and waterfall hold.  This will ensure that your pump doesn’t take on any damage due to it running dry. To calculate water volume, the formula is Length X Width X Depth X 7.5 = water volume in gallons

Here is an example: For a 3’ wide stream that is 20’ long with an average depth of 3”

3’wide X 20’length X .25’ (3inches) deep X 7.5 = 112.5 gallons of water in the stream and waterfall

112.5 X 3 = 337.5 gallons of water in reservoir

In the case above example the reservoir would need to be approximately 48 cubic feet.  This is calculated by taking the gallons of water in the reservoir and dividing by 7.5.  Dig a hole with the dimensions of 6’wide X 4’long X 2’deep and it would offer a 360-gallon reservoir.  It is better to be oversized than undersized.

Go All In

Ok, you know how much liner you will need, it’s time to order your materials.  If you do this now before you break ground, there is a good chance everything will show up right when you are ready for it.  You can purchase precut liner in various sizes, just don’t forget to order the geotextile underlayment to go with it. This helps protect the liner from shifting rocks and roots underneath the liner once it is in place.

Your best option is to get a pondless waterfall kit. This way you can be sure all of the pieces are sized right and will fit together perfectly, and you won’t forget anything. Here (affiliate link to Amazon) is the best place to get one of these kits.

You can purchase these items one at a time, that’s fine too. Here is a list of what you will need for a typical installation:

Typical Parts List

  • Pump
  • Filtration
    • Pondless Waterfall Vault
    • Pondless Vault Extension
    • AquaBlox (or gravel for a reservoir)
  • Waterfall Spillway
  • Lighting – (optional, but recommended)
  • Return Hose
  • Liner – 45 mil EPDM
  • Underlayment – Geotextile – protects liner from sharp objects
  • Components – Pump Check Valve Assembly, all necessary fittings and
  • Silicone sealants

Now that you have all of your dimensions figured out and you’ve decided on a location it’s time to get to work.  Place your waterfall filter unit or water diffuser at the desired height you wish your stream to start. Get it close to level but don’t worry about getting things perfectly level at this point, we will do that in a later step.

Use a can of spray paint if possible and paint an outline of your project.  Remember before you start any project be sure the area is void of utilities. Call before you dig

Here We Go

Begin to dig, starting with where your reservoir will be.  As you dig, place the excavated dirt at the opposite end of your project, creating an elevation for the water to move through.  If your design is going to be similar to a mountain stream, then there will not be much elevation required.

Amazing steep waterfall

The pitch can be as gradual or as steep as you wish, but there needs to be one.  No less than 1 inch drop over 4 feet. For a 20’ stream you would need to drop at least 5 inches at the very minimum from start to finish in order to keep the water flowing.

As you dig your stream bed you also must dig a trench alongside the bed to place your return line.  This small trench only needs to be a little wider than your return line, and I would recommend a depth of at least 8 inches.  This trench needs to go from your reservoir to where you place your diffuser.

Time To Put The Pieces Together

Once you’ve excavated the dirt and are happy with the pitch it’s time to be sure your stream is free from rocks, roots or any other sharp objects that could possibly puncture your liner.  Now place your underlayment into the stream. It should be placed wherever the liner will lay.

Now place your liner into your river bed.  It’s ok to walk on the liner. Remove as many wrinkles as you can.  This could be difficult depending on the shape of your design. You don’t need to get all the wrinkles out the stone will hide them in the next step.

Take notice that when you place your liner there is excess of 8”-12” on all sides to allow for proper water containment.  The bank of your stream and the reservoir need this as well to be sure no water is lost when the feature is on.

Get The Right Gear

Aquascape Waterfall Spillway water diffuser

If you are using a typical water diffuser for the outlet of your pondless falls, then all you need to do is be sure it sits lower than the liner surrounding it.  Don’t worry about how it looks, this will all be taken care of in the next few steps.

I would recommend using a diffuser as opposed to a waterfall filter as the water outlet, just because it would be much less maintenance throughout the year.

Does Size Really Matter

Depending on the size and scope of your project you may find it beneficial to use two separate liners, one for your waterfall stream, and another for your reservoir.  Be sure that if you go this route the long stream liner goes into the reservoir liner and they overlap by a couple of feet. You could also seal them together for extra insurance.

Now that the liner is in place it’s time to create some empty space in your reservoir.  This can be done using large gravel, or the more efficient and cost effective way is to use Aquablox.  These polymer blocks can be used to fill the void allowing the maximum volume of water in your water feature system.  Use as many as necessary to fill the void.

large and small AquaBlox

At this point you will also need to put your pump housing in place.  If you use a pondless waterfall kit, then the pump housing and Aquablox will connect together assuring proper operation.  Be sure the top of the pump housing is above grade so it doesn’t wind up under water if things ever flood out. Use gravel or large rocks to level and get your housing to the desired height.

Putting It All Together

aquablox installed with optional waterfall vault

Now it’s time to hook everything up before we start to rock it all in.  Connect your return line to your pump and run it in the trench you made alongside of your stream.  Connect the other end to your water diffuser at the top of your water feature.

Go ahead and tighten all of your connections at this point.  We will be testing our system once we get our rocks in place.

Be One With Nature

Perhaps before you start to rock your stream or waterfall bed, take a walk in the woods and notice how nature is the perfect architect.  There are no perfectly straight paths. Creeks and streams are usually framed in with larger rocks and boulders.

a quiet stream in the woods

By doing the same thing in your project, you will create interest and make your feature more appealing.  Starting at the top of the stream where your water diffuser is, begin to rock your stream bed. Begin with the larger rocks and frame in the way you wish the water to flow.

Place larger rocks in the center of the stream to add interest and give the water something to flow around just like in nature.  Once you’ve framed in your stream it’s time to cover all the remaining liner with the river gravel (I usually use river rock that is native to my part of the country for a natural look). When you are placing your rocks, remember to try and mimic nature.

Waterfall Creation

If you are adding things to your feature like waterfalls and drop-offs, the key to this is to find the right spill rock.  I use a piece of slate which works very well. When setting your spillway, start from the bottom up. Stack up rocks under your spillway.  Use waterfall foam to help hold everything together, but don’t completely rely on it.

Your stacked stone should be able to stand on its own without the aid of the foam.  When stacking stone, it is a good practice not to let any vertical seams go more than two courses high.  This practice will add a lot of stability to your stonework.

natural waterfall

Once you’ve built a level solid place for your spillway rock to rest put it into place.  Check that it is level and slightly pitched forward to encourage the water to flow in the desired direction.

The biggest problem with spillover rocks in a stream is the fact that most of the water will tend to flow behind your spillover rock rather than over it.  To avoid this use waterfall foam between the spillover rock and the liner. After you spray the foam, immediately place rocks and pebbles into the fresh foam to disguise it.  This provides a great barrier to force the water in the right direction.

Merrily Down The Stream

Using large character boulders to make a man made stream look natural

Make your way down the stream covering the liner with rocks and pebbles.  Make things look as natural as possible. Don’t worry about the liner that is past the border of your stream.  That will be dealt with when we do our plantings in a later step. Stop when you get to the reservoir.

Clean It Up

Now it’s time to take a break and wash everything down.  I used a dirty water pump for this process. If you don’t have one they can be rented relatively cheap.  I knew I would use mine more than once so I purchased one.

Place the pump at the lowest point in the reservoir and begin to wash everything down.  As the reservoir fills up, pump out the dirty water. Doing this will save you wear and tear on your waterfall pump.  Keep rinsing everything down until the water is clear. It may take a while, and don’t worry about getting every last bit of dirt either.  Just get most of it. When you are done, pump out all the water from the reservoir and remove your dirty water pump.

With your rocks and stream all rinsed off its time to fill in the reservoir around the Aquablox.  Be careful not to move them as you fill around them. As they sit, they should be well below grade so getting rocks and gravel beneath them could cause problems down the line.

hidden waterfall vault

Add gravel until the Aquablocks are covered being mindful not to get gravel into your pump housing.  With everything rocked it, now comes the fun part. Begin to fill up your reservoir. Do NOT turn your pump on until your reservoir is full.  Running a pump dry will burn it up. Keep filling until the water level is a few inches from the top of your pump housing.

The Moment of Truth

Now gather everyone around for the moment of truth!  Perhaps a drum roll may even be required. Plug in your pump and stand back in AWW as the space you’ve created comes to life.   At this point sit back and relax a bit. You should let your new water feature run for at least 24 hours just to be sure there are no leaks or issues.

Once you are confident everything is up to par, it’s time to do all the finishing touches.  Let’s start with trimming the excess liner from the edges. When doing this it’s important to leave a little extra just in case things settle and shift over the course of the seasons.

transition from water to land hiding a pond liner

The liner can be hidden fairly well by sandwiching it between rocks on the side closest to the water, and dirt on the backside.  Then whatever is sticking up can be trimmed off. The key is to be sure you don’t put the liner lower than your water line. If you do, water could leak out of your feature and your pump would run dry.

Another trick to hiding the liner is to add a planting where the stone meets the dirt.  This is great camouflage and adds a natural look to your whole feature. See some of our other articles for lighting tips and other ways to finish the edge.

In Conclusion

So there you have it.  The pondless waterfall (link to Amazon for the best price) may be exactly what you have been looking for.  All the perks of a garden waterfall without the maintenance involved with pond ownership. With the pondless water fall or stream, once its built there is nothing more to do but relax and enjoy it. 

Creating your own at home getaway can work wonders on your stress levels, not to mention the pride you will feel by doing this yourself.  Just follow the steps and you will get the professional results you deserve. If you found this tutorial helpful, please leave a comment below.  Have any questions? Don’t hesitate to leave them below, we love to hear from you.

November 27, 2018

Family Bonding Activities – The Water Garden

Family bond

When I first set out on the journey or should I say adventure of fatherhood, I knew there were a few key elements from my childhood that I wanted to carry on.  One of the most important things for us was that our family always sat down every night (not in front of the TV) and enjoyed dinner together. This was one of my favorite family bonding activities.  This was a time to share how our day had gone, any funny stories, or any positive and negative things that happened to us.  It was a wonderful outlet for a child. Everyone got their turn to add to the conversation, and everyone had a voice.

Lucky

clover close upI have been fortunate enough to carry on that same tradition with my family.  With technology advancing at unimaginable rates, all the while growing older and time seems to be speeding up.  It’s nice to think that there are still things that we can all do as a family.  No matter what age we are, we all need that feeling of togetherness and belonging.

Here I go rambling on, but think about a family trip you may have been on.  It’s much more difficult to remember the trips that went smoothly. For example, I bet you remember the trip when you got that flat tire, or your luggage was lost in oblivion.  The mishaps in life are what gives it flavor.

Overcoming difficulties and prevailing is what makes it all worthwhile.  Life wasn’t meant to run smoothly, and if it weren’t for the bumps, how would you even know you were living.  What we leave behind are the memories that we shared with others.

Bringing The Family Together

digging a holeOf all the family bonding activities, this was the mother of them all.  Trying to find activities that brings everyone together is more difficult now than ever before.  It’s hard to find people looking up from their phones for more than a few minutes… even while driving.  My son may disagree, but there is nothing better than digging in and getting your hands dirty. Even though I know he is allergic to hard work, the memories we all made was worth the sweat.

aquatic-plants-background-beautiful-424763digging a holeLife is a funny thing, when you look back in retrospect there are moments that really stand out among the rest.  I believe that is what I have created with my family.

That’s where my backyard water garden comes in.  It represents the time we all spent together. It’s something we can still do as a family.  It’s when we come together to accomplish something that we grow an appreciation for things. They all pitched in and helped with the digging, some more reluctant than others.  However, having a challenge that we all overcame together was a priceless lesson.

Never Stop Learning

albert-einstein-alphabet-black-and-white-256369Sounds crazy but you can learn a lot from digging a hole.  Digging a hole is a metaphor for life itself. Sometimes you hit a stone and have to dig around it to get the scope of it before you can remove it.  Running into a root and having to take a step backwards to get it out before you can move forwards. These all echo life, especially the notion that if you keep at something eventually you will get to your desired result.

Starting with a simple pond kit, building and working in my water garden has given me the opportunity to bond with my children. It has taught us all valuable lessons about life, persistence, and a little something about nature, all the while beautifying our home.

More Than I Could Imagine

amazing-balance-blur-312839I have to admit it has been a great experience all the way through.  Now when I get home from work I sit at the waters’ edge and drink coffee with my wife.  My kids come out in their own time and tell me about their day.  Carving out this little sanctuary in the busy world has worked wonders for my stress level. It also provides a welcoming, tranquil atmosphere for my family to gather and talk.

blue-sky-bright-cloud-formation-174540Creating your very own sanctuary to recharge your batteries and ponder all the things life throws at you is really not that difficult.  When you’re ready to start yours check out our how to build a pond tutorial and begin your journey. If you’re not sure what you will need to begin, complete kits can be found in our pond shop.  They have everything you need to get started.

Reflections In The Water

macro-reflection-splash-45229Life goes by in a hurry, I hope you are as fortunate as I have been to capture the moment and create memories with your family.  Remember the larger or more difficult the family bonding activities are, the more powerful memory they create. 

This article may not fit into the typical post about pond life, it’s just a reflection of what I have experienced building my backyard water garden.  I would love to hear your experiences, or if you have any questions or comments, please drop them below.  We enjoy the feedback we get from you. Wishing you only the best on all your future projects~

October 16, 2018

At The Water Garden – Season in Review

frog in the water garden

Summer in a Nutshell

I know I know; Most of my time has been spent at the water garden.  I haven’t added much as far as articles go this summer.  Things have been busy at backyard water garden headquarters. Between a constant string algae invasion, a family of frogs moving in and a new discovery, there is never a dull moment.

Summer bloom blossom colorsNow that summer is slowly drawing to a close and we start to transition into the next season things are beginning to slow down a bit. It has been a wild summer (pun intended) this year for sure!  If you subscribe to my YouTube channel, then you know that things have been growing and evolving all season long.

From Out of Nowhere

My daughter was the first to notice our latest discovery. Nature had taken its course and our pond is now filled with tiny fry, one of which has actually changed to an orange and black color.  We call him “Tiny”, although he is growing rapidly. This was the first of the spawn that we noticed. Over the next few days we noticed more and more emerging from the pond vegetation.

The koi have only been in the water garden for two seasons, and I was under the impression that they would not spawn until they were at least three or four.  Must be something in the water “wink wink!”

All kidding aside, I think I may be in trouble.  From what I could count there seem to be dozens of them.  Another thing is that they are all different sizes, which leads me to believe they are from different batches.  

Small Fry

The fry, grey in color until they reach a certain size then it seems their true colors come shining through, although to contradict what I just said, I have seen some very small ones that are colored already. Koi fry start to get their colors approximately two weeks after hatching.

koi fry

I haven’t done anything to encourage this to happen.  I was always under the impression that getting koi to mate and have the fry survive was a daunting task.  This has been a learning experience thus far, and if things keep going this way I may just have to create another water garden… MY FAVORITE!!!

Onto the Next Big Thing

rushing waterfallMy mind is already filling with all sorts of crazy ideas!  In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts of the whole thing, letting my imagination dream up the next project, then bring it to life.  I am warning you, once you start with a hobby like this it’s tough to not let it get out of hand. 

I am already trying to figure out how to create a natural looking hillside in my backyard creating an upper and lower pond connected by a rushing stream.  Similar to the picture you see here… wouldn’t that be something!  I may need a little more help with this project than my kids!

The difficult part will be getting my wife to go along with it, although she has been nothing but supportive during this whole backyard adventure.  She has even been the one capturing most of the pictures you see here. To see more beautiful nature shots, not just ponds check out DK Photography.

Another Discovery

The other day I went to do my routine skimmer box clean out, when I was greeted by yet another guest.  A small water snake had made its home in the dark corners of my skimmer box.

I carefully and swiftly placed it into a bucket to transfer it across the road and around the corner in a nearby creek.  When it comes to location, I am fortunate to live where I do. Poisonous snakes, alligators, poisonous spiders and the like are not a huge concern.  Keep all this in mind if you do live in a warmer climate, just like that famous quote from Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come.”

Fortunately, the worst thing I have to be weary of is how cold it’s going to get this winter.

Be Sure to Prep

Now back to my dilemma.  My plan so far is to get my water garden ready for winter in the same way I did last year, and wait until the spring to see how many of the young koi make it through.  Our winters can be harsh up here in Western New York, but the koi seemed just fine all season long.

Autumn leaves over waterBut before I begin thinking about the snow, there is another nuisance that shows up first.  When the leaves come down. Sure they are a beautiful site on the country side and when driving through the mountains.

This can be an irritating time for any water garden owner.  However, there is a remedy for this just like everything else.  Use black netting to cover your pond. I have done this in previous years and it has worked like a charm.

One tip, keep the netting above the water by pulling it tight.  If the weight of the leaves makes the netting dip into the water, it will act like a giant tea bag.  This happened to me the first year. The water turned a deep brown in color. It went away after my spring cleaning, but why go through all that.

Beware Old Man Winter

The most important thing to remember is to keep the ice broken on the surface so the poisonous gasses can escape.  This can be accomplished by using an aerator to keep the water moving. An aerator is simply an air pump with a hose that connects to an air stone that is submerged in water.  If you have ever seen a bubbler in a fish tank that is essentially the same thing. That’s what I used and it seemed to do the trick.

winter landscapeThere were a few days that the surface froze over even with the aerator moving the water, and I had to go out and break up the ice a bit, but those days were rare.  Another thing is to not place your aerator on the bottom of your pond. If you built shelves like I did, then place them on the shallowest shelf. The reason for this is to not disturb the deeper water with air that is cooled by the winter air.  By keeping it close to the surface you will break the ice without super cooling your fish.

Wrapping It Up

frog in the water gardenIt has been a great season out by the water garden.  There is always something new to see and enjoy.  There is still plenty of time to enjoy out by the pond as the seasons change.  When you’re ready to start your project stop by our pond shop, we have everything you need to help you get started.  Comments and questions are always welcome so feel free to leave them below and I will respond as soon as possible. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to have their own waterfront property!

October 9, 2018

The Water Garden

the water garden

OK, let’s face it, this is obviously your “thing” or else you wouldn’t be here still reading this right now.  We all have a passion for gardening, and creating beautiful spaces by way of plantings and water features.  Here are a few tips to keep your water garden looking its best.  The key is naturally transitioning into the landscape.

Planning

waterfall with stone edgeWhen you first started out designing your project you may have had the edge in mind. Maybe your design includes a deck or boardwalk that hangs over the water to get you as close as possible to the water’s edge.  In this case you may make the water deeper where the deck is.  This way your fish will be happy to greet you at feeding time.  There is just something majestic about hand feeding koi.

Another beautiful design that may suit your taste is to have a flagstone walk up to the shore of your new water feature.  Whatever your vision, be sure to plan ahead for it so you can bring it to life when it is finished.

Gardening – Out of the Water

stone garden edgeNatural garden transitionA lot can be said for how you finish off your garden.  This is just as important as the construction of your pond.  After all, it’s the first thing you see when you walk up on your water garden.  The plants at the waters’ edge and surrounding area will determine how natural your pond blends into the landscape.

I have seen many a tacky pond where this was overlooked.  Their outdoor landscape looked like a black tub in the middle of their yard with mulch around it.  Avoid this mistake and take the time to research and do some proper plantings around your water feature.  This will bring all of your hard work together and create the masterpiece you desire.

Softening the Edge

rock edgingThe stonework around your ponds edge came out incredibly!  You may be so happy with the job you did that you don’t want to hide it with plants.  I assure you that once you do, it will not hide your stone work, but enhance the overall look of the landscape.

Some plant species seem like a good idea at the time because they are fast growing and will add greenery to your landscape in a relatively short period of time.  Just look at the big picture when you are selecting which plants to use.  Some are extremely invasive and will take over if not kept at bay.  If you don’t mind the constant battle, then by all means use them.  Just remember when you spend an entire day cutting back the out of control Creeping Jenny, that you are the one who planted it!

If you insist on using an invasive species, you may want to give yourself a helping hand and plant in containers to stop it from spreading like wild fire.

Controlling Runoff – Avoid Contamination

Walk up pond edgeWhen it’s time to put the finishing touches around the edge of your pond it’s important to keep in mind that rain runoff water needs to be kept out.  To make this happen the liner of the pond needs to be brought up above the water level of the pond to make a ridge around the outside edge.

This can be accomplished by using a rock on the inside of the pond and back-filing behind the liner with dirt or stone.  In doing this you will ensure any runoff water will be kept out of your closed water ecosystem.

Another important thing to do is create an inviting way for visitors to walk up to the waters edge.  There are multiple ways this can be accomplished.  I’ve seen wooden decks built up to the edge, but I choose to use flagstone for a more natural transition.  Another reason to create an inviting walk up is to keep traffic where you want it.  I don’t want visitors walking and climbing on the other side of my water feature, so by creating this walk up area people are drawn to it and not the other side.

Planting up to the edge

transition from pond to gardenThe idea here is to make the transition between the water and land look as natural as possible.  The challenging part is to keep the water and land separate.  This can be accomplished by planting the same water loving plants in and out of the water close together.  The foliage from the plants will hide the transition for a natural look.

When planting in the waters’ edge, use pond soil wrapped in landscape fabric to hold the soil in place, then simply hide it in the rocks.  Plant the same type of plant on the other side of the liner so the foliage from both plants look like a single plant.

In Conclusion

The backyard water gardenBegin with the end in mind.  Just like any project, you need to plan it out before you begin.  Even the finishing touches need to be taken into consideration.  When you set yourself up in this way, it is much easier to see your vision come to life!

If you are ready to get started, check out our how to build a pond, or how to build a pondless waterfall series for some great ideas to bring your vision to life.  I believe everyone deserves their own water front property.

As always, I wish you the best on all your future projects.  Do you have any experiences you would like to share? I would love to hear about them.  Please leave a comment or any questions below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.  That’s what I’m here for, so please don’t hesitate to ask.

May 9, 2018

Small Garden Pond Ideas – Something for Every Budget

pink water lily

These small garden pond ideas prove good things do come in small packages.  Ok, you see all these wonderful pictures on Pinterest, Facebook, or even on display at your local garden center.   It’s got you thinking, “why can’t I have that?”.

This is the sort of hobby where you can start out small and scale up as you go. Perhaps jumping right into something and spending a couple thousand dollars isn’t how you want to start out.  If you want to test the waters (pun intended) before diving right in then these smaller, more budget friendly kits may be exactly what you are looking for.

Budget friendly pond kits

pink water lilySo what do I mean by budget friendly?  First let’s define exactly what “budget friendly” means.  Obviously this is a relative term, but for the sake of this article I’m talking a range of prices between $100 and $500.  At these prices, getting your hands on your own back yard pond is definitely within reach.  Let’s see what the best options are for building a pond a budget.

$100 or Less

At this price point you can create a small water garden for planting in.  Most species of aquatic plants do quite well in container gardens.  All that is required is a large pot with no drain hole in the bottom, and then simply place your plants in and above the water.  Occasionally the plants will require some plant food to obtain the required nutrients.  You could also decide to put in a few small goldfish.  This will bring your garden to life!

What you get for the money:

  • Large Vase or Planter (without a drain hole)
  • Aquatic plants
  • bamboo return with circulation pump
  • Aerator (if desired)
  • Small goldfish… see your local pet store for feeder goldfish.  They are inexpensive and will bring your container garden to life!

I’ve put together some products to help you get going.  This will help you to “get your feet wet” and put a water feature just about anywhere.

$100 – $200

Stepping up your price point a bit may get you started with a complete pond starter kit.  You could also get a pump and small fountain for this price.  A rigid liner would even be able to house some small gold fish.  This set up can be made to look natural depending on your creativity and desire to make it blend into the landscape.

If space is at a premium for you, then this is your ticket for sure!  I have seen many smaller ponds that look amazing, all because of the plantings around them.  The more greenery used, the more natural they look.  Depending on your climate, you may be able to get away with a few small goldfish to inhabit your new garden all year long.algreen 1,200 gallon pond kit

What you get for the money:

  • 14’ x 14’ pond liner up to 1,200 gallons use our pond calculator to see actual dimensions
  • UV filter to kill any algae and keep the water clear
  • 850 GPH pump
  • 12” rise fountain
  • 3 lights with transformers

Click here for best price and availabilityclick here

Follow the same steps as the how to build a water garden guide, just on a smaller scale. You will be enjoying the ambiance of the sound of moving water in no time.

$300 – $500

This will be the last level within our price point.  With another small price increase, you can step up to the next level.  Within this price range you can outfit a very nice small pond.  This kits available at within this range will give you complete kits with a flexible liner and everything else you may need to get started.

Like I said earlier, you can get a nice starter kit with just the essentials, then add on other things in the future.  For example, it’s better to get a kit with a better pump, or larger waterfall rather than one that comes with lots of lights.  You can always add things like lights later.  My advice, get the best bare essentials that will fit your budget.  Then get the accessories later down the line.

The kits below have everything you need to get you going and create an amazing water garden, complete with waterfall.  This is the same company that I purchased my pond kit from.  There are four of these kits that fall into our budget friendly category.

Go Big

Depending on your budget, I would recommend getting the largest one you can afford, as long as you have the space for it.  All of these kits come with the same hardware.  What you get for the money:

  • EPDM liner (link to my article on pond liners)
  • liner underlayment
  • 1,200 GPH pump
  • 8″ wide waterfall
  • 10″ skimmer
  • 15′ of 1″ hose
  • All necessary fittings
  • Skimmer and pump have 5 year waranty
  • 2 year warranty on the pump
  • 1 watt LED submersible light
  • Beneficial bacteria

The only difference between kits is the size of the liner and underlayment that comes with each kit.  That’s where the prices differ.

Patriot pond kit with 8" waterfall and 1200 gph pump

This is the smallest kit they offer.  Do not be deceived by the size of the liner.  Although it is a 8′ x 10′ liner, it will create a 270 gallon pond that is approximately 4′ x 6′ with an average depth of 1.5′.  Keep that in mind when you are looking at different options for your pond.

This size will get you a 400 gallon pond that is 6′ x 6′ with an average depth of 1.5′

This size will get you a 6′ x 11′ 750 gallon pond with an average depth of 1.5′

Finally this kit will get you an 11′ x 11′ pond with an average depth of 1.5′.  This is a 1,300 gallon pond.

Another thing to keep in mind when sifting through all your options is the depth of your pond.  If you don’t make it as deep, you will be able to go bigger, however if you go deeper, then your pond surface area will shrink.

You will not regret going bigger.  That’s one of the biggest complaints from people is they always wish they would have gone bigger.  Now, the installation of these pond kits is exactly the same as the how to build a pond article.  Just follow the steps and you will be enjoying your waterfront property in no time.

I highly recommend one of the 4 four kits above.  They come complete with everything you need to get set up and running without breaking the bank.

Conclusion

So there are some small garden pond ideas to get you going on the right path. Create the “backyard” of your dreams for less than $500.

No matter where you live there is always room to create a relaxing getaway to reenergize your mind body and spirit.  Whether you live in the city or the country, bringing elements from the outdoors into your life is a great way to relieve stress and decompress after a long day.

What kind of water garden setup do you have?  Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Please leave them below so others can benefit from what you have to say, or advice you want to give.  I will be happy to answer any questions you may have, leave them below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

April 29, 2018

Backyard Water Garden Visits The Koi Pond Supply Store

full grow koi

koi pond supply store waterfallThere is nothing I enjoy more than paying a visit to the local koi pond supply store.  When my wife asked me if we were going to add more fish to the pond this year, my answer was a resounding “YES!”  The best thing about having a water garden is going to the store and picking out fish.  I am like a kid on Christmas morning. 

Once my pond was up and running, I couldn’t wait to get to the store and pick out some fish to bring some life to my pond. 

My local pond supply store gets their fish in early spring.  I recommend going to a pond outlet if there is one close to you, rather than a pet store, just because the selection will be that much better, and the prices are usually decent.

My mission for the day was to get my hands on some butterfly koi. 

A Brief History of Butterfly Koi

Koi (link to my article on what to know before owning koi) enthusiasts that are purest, consider butterfly koi to be mutts.  They were discovered in Indonesia in the early 1980’s.  Considered “ugly” when first discovered they were merely grey and brown carp with large fins. 

Blue Ridge Fish Hatchery can be credited with breeding the fish to what we know today.  They discovered that by crossbreeding them with colorful koi, the gene for their long fins was the dominant one.  This allowed them to be bred with color, while still retaining their long fins.

The crossbreeding also made this strain of koi disease resistant.  The solid color black butterflies have less gene strain making  them more resilient than than their colored koi counterpart.

The fins of the butterfly koi keep growing.  Fins get longer with age until the blood vessels can’t sustain any more growth.

These koi have more than just their color pattern going for them when it comes to their value.  Even without properly defined color patterns, they are an impressive sight with their long flowing fins as they appear as dragons gracefully move through the water.

What a Selection

butterfly koi shoppingIf you go to an actual pond supply outlet, they will be able to answer any immediate questions you may have.  In the video, I had some questions about breeding.  I wanted to know if the koi I was purchasing would ever produce offspring.  They were able to put me on the right path.  I just wanted to make sure my pond wouldn’t get over run with fish.

Other Fish at The Store

All the other fish at the store will coexist with one another, including the koi.  They all will eat the same food as well.

Sarasa goldfish – There were two types of these at the store, the fancy tail and the single tail variety.  Similar to the comet except with splotches of white and orange.  These fish thrive in a pond of at lest 180 gallons.    These fish will grow to the size of their surroundings to a maximum of 14”.

Shubunkin Goldfish – These are a great alternative to koi.  They have similar markings and will grow to a maximum size of 14”.  This is perfect for a smaller pond of at least 180 gallons. 

Red Comet Goldfish – These are bright reddish/orange in color with a longer tail fin.  Similar to the fish mentioned above, they grow to a maximum size of 14”, and require a minimum habitat size of 180 gallons.

Final Thoughts

Koi pond suppliesIf you can’t find what you are looking for locally, shopping online is a great option.  I love adding new things to my pond!  The problem is, eventually I will be at my max as far as fish go.  At that point I will have to hold back and enjoy what I have. 

Do you have any different varieties of fish in your pond?  How do you hold back from overstocking your pond?  Any comments below would be helpful.  If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them as soon as possible, so don’t hesitate to ask.  Until next time, enjoy your backyard water garden!

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