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Achieving pond perfection

Weeping willows bend low over the cool water as frogs peep and fish jump. Nothing beats a pond if you do it right.
  • Idyllic country estate pond

    A key component of the idyllic country estate for many people is a pond. Who wouldn't want to enjoy their own private lake? Unfortunately, pond experiences can be quite unhappy. Here are some tips to help you avoid your own pond disappointment.

    Betsy Freese paddles to the middle of her pond to release some bass.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013
  • Be realistic

    Multiple expectations for a pond are often unrealistic. For example, you can't use your pond to water animals if you want to maintain the shoreline or water quality. If you want to use your pond to produce fish, ducks, and other wildlife, you may not be able to use it as a swimming hole for the kids.<P>

    <I>Ted and Sherry Bell's grandsons enjoy swimming in the pond on their Indiana acreage. Photograph: Mitch Kezar</I>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013
  • Build it right

    Ponds can be built in three ways. A natural drainage can be dammed to trap rain runoff. However, this runoff washes in nutrients, which grows more algae, uses oxygen, and heats the water.

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    A second method is to excavate soil to create a hole below the groundwater level. The third method is to excavate below the groundwater level and use the fill to create a berm. Some ponds use more than one method to collect and hold water. In general, a natural pond requires less maintenance and provides more sustainable benefits than artificial ponds or reservoirs.
    <br><I> John and Barb Bauman, Maple Plain, Minnesota, built an elaborate pond on their acreage. Photograph: Mitch Kezar</I><br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013
  • Be careful with construction

    Be very careful about manipulating a natural waterway to create a pond. The shoreline is ecologically sensitive and can easily be damaged by construction activity. Keep in mind that government permits are required for construction activities near the shoreline of navigable streams or lakes.
    <P>
    <I>David and Martha Swift purchased a home on 8 acres of native grasses and untamed wetland surrounded by timber in Michigan. With the help of a skilled landscaper, their dream of transforming their property into an inviting haven has come true. Photograph: Mitch Kezar</I>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013
  • Dig it deep enough

    For desirable fish to survive, such as bass, your pond should be at least 10 feet deep. The water has to have enough oxygen in winter and (for trout) enough cold water at the bottom in the summer. Algae must not be allowed to take over the pond and use all the oxygen.<P>

    <I> All paths on the Swifts' property lead to the pond, which is stocked with bass, bluegill, and catfish. Photograph: Mitch Kezar</I>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013
  • Pondscape wisely

    Some ponds need no landscaping. Over time, weeds evolve to natural grasses, shrubs, and trees. However, you may want to landscape to control erosion and encourage vegetation that is visually attractive and that attracts wildlife. Weeping willow trees work well around ponds. They leaf out early in spring and are the last to lose their leaves in November. All year they are graceful. Other nice species for ponds are white birch and white pine.<P>
    For added color, choose blue flag iris at water's edge, goldenrod, dogwood, wild tiger lilies, and other perennials.<P>

    <I> John Bauman loves to work on the landscaping around his family's pond and added these hydrangeas along one edge of the shore. Photograph: Mitch Kezar</I>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013
  • Avoid some plants

    Be very careful about introducing exotic species vegetation. Crown vetch can prevent erosion on hillsides above ponds, but it will aggressively spread into fields and shorelands, replacing native plants. Purple loosestrife, although beautiful, will choke out wetlands. It is best to avoid any species not native to your locality.<P>

    <I>This section of the Freese pond may look a little bare now, but they have cleared trees from the dam, possibly preventing big problems down the road.</I>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013
  • Stock it well

    Stock bass first and let them get established before you stock bluegills. If bluegills or perch are planted first, the bass may never be able to control them, and the pond will be full of little, stunted panfish. Practice catch-and-release with the bass and catch-and-eat with the bluegills. Nothing beats the taste of bluegills. You can stock trout or walleye, but they can't reproduce in a pond.<P>

    <I>The pond on Editor Betsy Freese's acreage covers several acres and is well stocked with bass and bluegill. It's a great fishing hole for friends and family. Photograph: Betsy Freese</I>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013
  • Control unwanted wildlife

    Muskrats can burrow through your berm and lower your water level. Beavers can also damage pond banks. Contact local wildlife control specialists.<P>

    <I>Wildlife control expert Michael Tucker removes a beaver from a pond in Minnesota. "Some of those wise guys are real tough to catch," he says. </I>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013
  • Keep the cows out

    Livestock should not be allowed to drink from ponds. Besides eroding the bank, they deposit manure, which can lead to an explosion of algae and leafy aquatic plants. <P>

    <I> A demonstration solar system pumps water for cattle from the pond into water tanks in a paddock at an "Options to Overgrazing" field day and pasture walk in southwest Iowa. Photo: John Walter</I>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013
  • Enjoy your pond!

    Ponds add visual and ecological diversity to the landscape. Whatever else they can or cannot do, ponds usually benefit wildlife. Look for ducks early in the spring. Red-winged blackbirds will stake out territory in the cattails on the edge. You might see a great blue heron come to dinner in the same area. Spring peepers will turn your pond into a music hall, and horny toads will put on an even louder concert as spring warms up. Bullfrogs will croak the summer away. These sights and sounds may be reason enough to make a pond part of your country life. <P>

    <I><B>About the author:</B> Lowell Klessig is a professor emeritus of the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He spent many years as an Extension lake management specialist.</I><P>

    <I>Jaci and Reid Bauman cool off under one of the many waterfalls their parents built into the family's swimming pond. Photograph: Mitch Kezar</I>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: June 17, 2013

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