Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
March, 2006
Regional Report

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This lovely still pond provides both respite and a focal point.

Taking the Plunge

This year we're finally doing it. We're going to put in a pond. We have the perfect spot, and would really love to encourage frogs, salamanders, turtles, and all manner of creatures that thrive near water to take up residence there.

Water is a fundamental part of nature that seems to soothe or energize almost everyone. And water gardening is not really that hard to do as long as a few fundamentals are followed. Water gardening ranges from waterfalls to streams to still pools, and even small tub gardens. Oriental gardening even uses the illusion of water by weaving a dry stream bed through the garden.

Siting a Pond
Let's start with planning a pond. It's important to find the right spot in the overall landscape design. A pond is a natural focal point so it should be sited within view of the house and outdoor entertaining areas. However, it should also be sited away from natural traffic patterns, children's play areas, and buried electrical and phone cables.

The best spot for a pond is in the sun since most aquatic plants need about six hours of sun each day. It's also best to put it away from trees that will drop their leaves in the water and make maintenance more intensive.

Also, make sure the pond is accessible from three sides. You can certainly back the pond up to the woods, but you will still need to be able to get to most of it for maintenance. Avoid the temptation to site the pond in the lowest spot in the yard since it may be a collection spot for debris and pollution runoff.

How Big?
Now that you've chosen a site, you will need to decide on size. If you are making a still pond, plan on the biggest size you can possibly handle since larger ponds actually take less maintenance than smaller ones. Large ponds are easier to get into a natural ecological balance, and once that is done, you won't have to continually drain and refill your pond for cleaning. The minimum size usually recommended for ease of maintenance is 40 to 50 square feet.

If you plan to have plants and fish spend the winter in the pond, it must be at least 18 inches deep. The deeper, the better, as far as getting them through the cold. Some people do bring all plants and fish into the basement to spend the winter in aquariums, but frankly, that's not something I'm willing to spend my time with.

Follow Regulations
Once last bit of planning is necessary before getting started. If your pond is to be built within 500 feet of a navigable stream, river, or lake, you must get permission from the Department of Natural Resources. Also, if you plan to dam a stream for your pond, you must get permission from the authorities. As a bit of caution, always check with local authorities and local building ordinances before starting up that backhoe.

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