When my parents first installed their backyard koi pond, I remember pleading with them: “Why not get a hot tub instead?” But my parents were resilient. Now, I really can’t imagine their backyard without it. I can remember so many peaceful mornings, sipping my coffee next to their pond, looking at the fish and listening to the waterfall.
But, as peaceful as it can be, a backyard pond or water feature requires planning and maintenance. We turned to a number of local experts to learn about best practices for upkeep and the common mistakes homeowners make when building their backyard ponds.
Know Your Space
The first step in creating your blissful backyard water feature involves planning and design; you want your feature to suit your space. “A water feature has to look natural and blend into the environment,” says Tim Mejis at Gardens of Prestige Ltd. Travis Cairns at Southshore Group Inc. agrees it’s crucial to consider your space. “Look at the terrain and surrounding elevation of the property,” says Cairns. “My biggest piece of advice is to not necessarily put it at the lowest point of the property. If you do put it at a low point, which does look more natural, at least account for the excess water from rainwater and drainage—have outside drainage so it doesn’t flood during every heavy rainstorm.” When designing your pond, it becomes a balance of keeping it natural and functional.
“One of the biggest problems with ponds is that, unless you have a substantial amount of water, the pond tends to heat up—then you get algae growth” says Mejis. My parents can attest to this; keeping the algae away has been one of the top struggles with their pond. Cairns says there are two key things to incorporate into this battle: water filtration and water movement. “Make sure the water’s not sitting and that you have water flow, because it will reduce the temperature of the water,” says Cairns. “If you have full sunlight, you’re going to get a hotter temperature in the water, and that causes more algae.”
If the thought of upkeep and icky algae is making you second guess your backyard pond, fear not. There are easy solutions. “A pond takes about the same amount of work to maintain as a flower bed of equal size,” says Chris Dahl at Hydrosphere Water Gardens. “The most important thing you can do to reduce the amount of maintenance is select a properly sized filter that is easy to clean.” Brian Moore at Serenity Ponds adds: “Always avoid ‘in-pond’ filters, as they are a huge hassle to clean. External pressure filters or custom-made filters are best—some even come with built-in UV sterilizers.” With the right equipment, pond maintenance can be a breeze. And with the right expert, installation can be too.
Why Skip DIY
Pond maintenance is a tricky beast at the best of times. But when steps
are missed in the installation process, that beast can become an even bigger burden. “Of all the landscape products that can be installed on people’s properties, waterfalls are the most difficult,” says Mejis. “Clients end up paying more for the pond in the long run to fix issues created by lack of education,” says Moore. “There are many things to take into consideration: chemistry, biology, and ease of upkeep. If you miss one step you could be in trouble.”
Ultimately, “Building a pond yourself is not a bad idea, if you do your homework,” says Dahl. “On the other hand, a pond professional often gets the job done more quickly, and often provides a more natural looking pond with better equipment.” After all, ponds and water features are meant to increase the tranquility of your space; turning to your local experts can help keep your mind at ease.
by Emily Bednarz
Gardens of Prestige
Hydrosphere Water Gardens – The Pond Experts
Southshore Group Inc.