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Ponds Gone Wrong… [Video]

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In this video, the team over at Pond Digger take us through some of the more common design problems water garden builders run into.

Here are a couple points they’ll cover:

  1. Water traps with stagnant water (AKA, mosquito factories)
  2. Hiding filtration and electrical components
  3. Avoiding the “pearl necklace” of rock edges (check out our blog post on pond edging tips for more ideas)
  4. Water depth for thwarting pond predators

Video Transcription:

Hi, I’m Eric, The Pond Digger. Check it out. We’re in Redlands, California. We’re in the front of a home right here. We have a classic case of ponds gone wrong in the backyard. We’re going to go in the back. We’re going to check it out. We’re going to show you what not to do. Come on.

As you can see this is a typical backyard in America. What we have here is a well-manicured backyard with some sod, a beautiful slope, got some rosebushes, some ferns, got some nice statues, a little wheelbarrow. Come on around the corner.

What we have here is you guys are looking from the main destination point. Behind you is a slider. We’ve got a place to sit down and eat, barbeques and all that. What we’re looking out into, behind me you’ll see what appears to be a pile of rocks, but it’s actually supposed to be a waterfall, but what we’re going to do is we’re going to show you some of their design faults. Pond design has a lot to do with creativity and how it looks. We want it to look nice, and we want it to be appealing from where we’re at.

Now, certainly the feature could use a little more planting to help disguise everything and make it look nice and blend more into the landscape, but the fact is if the pond is not built correctly, it’s not going to function right. I’m taking the aesthetics out for a minute, and we’re going to talk about things that went wrong with this pond and why we ultimately have to redo it. The homeowner that we’re dealing with here has already paid for this pond twice, and what we’re going to do is we’re actually going to rip this pond out. We’re going to fix all the flaws, and we’re going to put it back together. We’re going to add some aesthetics, but we’re going to do some updated technology in it as well. I’m going to show you why we’re ripping it apart and some things that are wrong with it, so we need to take a closer look. Come on and follow me.

What we have here is as the waterfall comes up, it’s aiming towards the destination spot, which is a good thing. We want to view everything from the house, but as it comes down here, it takes a really sharp turn, and what they tried to do is they tried to create a split right here and then it’s a really hard, hard angle. It’s past a 90 degree angle to come around and give this little wishbone effect right here. What happened is you can see it was done real tight, and they had to put the rocks in here. You see the liner sticking out. Ultimately, it was failing, so the contractor came back and had to pull it up and try and… They just abandoned this section of the wishbone and they left the liner like this and pushed all the water this way, so this is just a completely abandoned area. It’s wasted landscape. There’s still rubber liner in here, so when it rains, you could have some mosquito larvae get caught up in here and everything, so this whole section needs to be abandoned, but made useable in the landscape. There’s one major concern right here.

Another concern is if you look closely here, this waterfall filter isn’t really hidden that well. This shelf right here is designed to have rock in here and help disguise this, but if you take a close look, you’ll see that there’s a waterline. The waterline’s very, very at the tip, tip top of this thing, so what was happening is as the waterfall was coming over, it was building up too high because this piece of slate that they used to make it look natural created a dam effect and water was spilling outside and underneath the stream and settled the waterfall filter. What you do is when you pull this thing off, you can see that the water level was coming out actually over there, so that’s an issue that needs to be dealt with, so we won’t be using such a quite big, thick piece of slate. Oftentimes, you just have to use a skinner piece or disguise it with a nice-looking rock.

The pond obviously is not deep enough. It’s barely 20 inches and that’s why we have this little fence around here, to keep the predators out. She has little raccoon colonies that come and hang out, dig in the pond, and so she’s lost some fish that way. What we’re going to do is we’re not going to use so many shelves in the pond, so we can have… Those shelves, a lot of times if there’s too much of them and they’re too wide, the raccoons just come right in and sit on the top shelf and go after the fish. What we’re going to do is we’re going to limit that shelving space just enough so the aquatic plants do really well in the pond and help balance the ecosystem, but then we’re going to create a little bit deeper end and make more of a deeper end. On this edge trim, and you can see right here, I’ve already pulled away all of these rocks. Look at all of these rocks right here. I’ve pulled these rocks away from this edge right here so you can get up closer to the pond. What the contractor did here was to hide the liner, they just kept piling rock up until they couldn’t see the liner anymore.  What you’re doing is your making the pond non-approachable. What we’re going to do here as well is we’re going to make it so where you can get up closer to the pond, where you can enjoy it. We’re going to make some of these larger, character boulders to where you can actually function with them. You can sit on them, you can feed the fish from them, put your foot on them. I want to put my foot on there right now while I’m talking to you, but I can’t even get to it. We’re going to make this thing approachable.

Another major factor is the way this was all built up, it looks like a messy wall. There’s no room for any plantings right there. This has got to be all totally redone. We’ll make it to where you can put some plantings here and it’s not going to seem like such a retaining wall, if you will.

What we have right here is this is where the skimmer is located and where the pump is at. We pump the water, we skim all the surface debris off the top of the pond, and then we deliver it up to the waterfall filter, but this is the finished product, which is not very attractive to look at. You can see there’s still some pipes sticking out of and this fake plastic lid is very noticeable. What we want to do is when we build a waterfall and we build a pond, the skimmer is really important to disguise. We don’t want it to stick out. It’s the only plastic rock in the pond. We want it to be plastic so it’s not hard for you to get in and out of, but we want it to be hidden. We typically will build a small planter behind the skimmer, and we leave area for landscaping. This rock is tucked in too close to it, and there’s no room for landscaping to disguise it. Of course, this pipe sticking right out, it needs to be protected from the UV of the sun. This needs to be totally covered up.

What we have here is our little electrical station. Now, since the pond was leaking so badly, we came in and we installed this aerator in here to tide the fish over until we could repair it. As you can see, this post is standing up. This is the transformer to run the underwater lighting system. It just simply doesn’t need to be this tall. It’s an eyesore. If I look across the patio, over the pond, you see this wood sticking up. What we’re going to do is we’re going to cut this, and we’re going to get it lower. We’re going to see if we can’t find a synthetic stone or something nice to put over this to just disguise the whole thing.

What we’re going to do right now is we’re going to plug her in real quick so we can watch and see how the system’s operating before we tear it apart. Aside from not being very aesthetically pleasing from the viewing area, we have all of these design flaws that we’re going to work on. We’ve got the pond is not deep enough, we’ve got the fish cave stuck in the middle of the pond, we’ve got the waterfall leaking, we’ve got the wishbone that’s been abandoned, we’ve got improper water treatments that are being used on there that we’ll address after the pond’s been restructured. We have a pond that’s not very approachable, so we’re going to solve all of those issues here. We’re going to pull this pond out. We’re going to rebuild it. We’re going to come back in a couple of days and show you what we did.

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