Construction of the big pond
The digging machine arrives. Note the relative flatness of the garden,
and the grassless area where our inflatable pool
used to reside
In the beginning, there was a little self-built pond.
And it was good. It provided splashy sounds during our wedding, it supported
more fish than we could imagine, along with frogs and other nifty wildlife, and
plenty of plants. But we started dreaming - wouldn't it be nice to have a
bigger pond, with a BIGGER waterfall, and a stream? It was a mind project for
years, but we never quite found the time to do it. Finally, we decided - let's
leave it to the professionals. I've never tried my hands at digging machinery,
and frankly, the results could be scary. So we enlisted a pondbuilder
extraordinaire who happens to be located not too far from us, to tackle the
A crater with concentric circles
While our little pond has always managed without purposeful filtration of
any kind, it does get quite mucky, and algae persist beyond a brief spring
bloom. On a larger scale, we wanted better water quality management - but
without extensive maintenance or use of chemicals. Natural biofiltration was
the way to go. For our sizeable pond, that meant a substantial bog filter.
Combined with our desire for a waterfall and stream, that meant that is project
was going to swallow up a good portion of our back yard. Less grass to mow!
The view of the ongoing activities was best from the upstairs windows
(we apologize for the bug-screen special effects in some photos). Although
our request had been for a somewhat irregular, oblong shape, I guess pond folks
find round ponds easier to build - because that's what it wound up being - a
mostly circular pond, with concentric ledges. The view from above was dizzying!
In the photo above, you can also see the hill from which the waterfall would
spring. Our back yard island had always featured a hill,
created from the spoils of our patio and first pond projects, and fed through
the years with all of the excess soil from various garden projects. We had a
waterfall in mind all along, remember? But this project eclipsed my small-time
aspirations, and required a beefier mound. It easily swallowed the old
Now comes the real reason why this project was out of this mild-mannered
hobby gardener's reach: the boulders! This truckload of ton-sized boulders
was just one of several deliveries of rock. And those big ones are not
movable by mere men. Do not attempt without big machines and skilled operators.
Subsequent deliveries brought not quite so large rocks, though, because
the project required stones of all sizes. The big ones support the
tallest upright walls, the smaller ones serve to keep the lower walls in the
outer ledges in place, as well as support and fill in around the beefy
boulders. The overall effect reminds us of post-ice-age construction projects
by peoples who worked their magic without hydraulic apparatus. I guess with a
little patience and a lot of neighbors, I might have accomplished the same -
with minimal casualties. But the route we chose was a lot faster.
That's a lot of gravel...
You can see just how large this project is turning out to be - quite
a bit more massive than we had first imagined! After all of the boulders and
medium rocks had been placed, it was time to dump the pebbles. This fills in all
the crevices between the larger stones, and hides all of the liner (45-mil
black butyl rubber). Our pebbles came from New Jersey, and while they are fun
to examine up close, with lots of shapes and colors, they sure were dirty. It
took about a week for the natural settling and filtration to clarify the
water, and any time we stir the pebbles, more muddy clouds muck up the water.
In the end, all of the silt will go to the filtration bog.
The recently finished product
Just finished, the pond-bog-waterfall assembly looks a bit like a volcanic
landscape, all dead rock and murky lifeless water. But now the fun part
starts - filling in with plants, watching wildlife take up residents, building
the path and patios that will allow us to fully appreciate our majestic
"water feature". You can already see the bog plantings in the background -
quite small for now, but they should spring into action next year. A cool part
of the project is the graveled area where water from the bog spills over into
the main pond - it's set up as a ford, with a water level just shallow enough
that you can walk across without getting your feet wet (that is if your shoes,
unlike mine, have holeless soles).
I hope to update this page as the pond develops next year. There will be
lots of new plants too - many of them are already listed below, but for most,
photos will have to wait till next year.
Well, it's been more than a few years, but finally an update to this page. A
photo taken from about the same angle as the final construction picture shows
how the bog filter is all filled in with lush plants, as are the border areas
around the pond. An informal patio has been installed adjacent to the pond
(to allow easy access for a quick dip), and a Kwanzan cherry planted
next to it provides enough shade for summer coolness. Somewhat to my surprise,
seven of the eight original waterlilies survive (despite kids splashing around
them through much of the summer), and bloom from mid-spring through fall.
Plants in and around our large pond
Plants growing in our bog filter
Visitors to this page have left the following comments
|Oct 24, 2006
|Looks Great. I'll have to come over and see it.
Don't wait too long or you'll be looking at a skating rink!
|May 15, 2008
|I loved your purple pineapple weed info! I wrote about it today, too!
|Aug 15, 2008
|Really enjoyed your piece about the construction of your pond - Quite a project !! Well Done! I[ve always wanted a small pond in the yard, but thus far it is in the "think about/hope for" stage. I surely could nor do one like yours, but it would be nice to havea small one.
|Oct 03, 2008
|Very nice - inspiring! But where are the updates? What does the pond look like now? Do you have others from between the time the pond was finished and now?
Yeah, I keep meaning to do that...
|Mar 25, 2010
|I love ponds, and gardening. I really enjoy reading your site, and looking at the photos :) I can't wait to see the pond with all of the plants!
|Mar 30, 2011
|I would love to have a naturistic swimming pond instead of our rectangular "cement pond", but isn't your swimming hole a magnet for snakes and possibly gators? Even in NY, snakes sometimes get into our inground pool, but at least the ones around here are not venemous.
Well, we're in Pennsylvania, so I'm not too concerned about gators. As for snakes, we've never had any in the garden (sadly, as far as I'm concerned). I guess they may be a cause for concern in some areas, though.
|Jul 28, 2011
|Mar 08, 2012
|Thanks for providing a list of your pond plants and for such an informative site. I would really like to build a swimming pond - this helps a lot since there doesn't seem to be much information online for DIYers. Would love to see recent pictures...
Thanks for your feedback. I guess it an update is indeed overdue... You'll probably find a picture or two hidden among my journal entries, but I'll try to get some new overview shots up this summer.
|Mar 08, 2012
|I didn't even see that part of the site yet. You have some beautiful gardens for sure! I'll check it out...
|Apr 13, 2012
|i am dying to see the finished project. I notice in your list of plants there is no Phragmites Australis, i find this a wonderful cleaner of sludge altho it gets out of hand if you let it
Can you suggest how to cope with blanket weed without chemicals
|Aug 07, 2012
|Absolutely gorgeous! How big is the area for swimming?
Too small! It's more of a splashing-around pond than a swimming pond – the deep area is probably around 10 foot in diameter.
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