If you envision your backyard landscape with an elegant water feature flooding the yard with water sounds and creating a beautiful and dynamic focal point, a variety of decisions need to be made. Ponds require planning and forethought, and now is the time to begin planning, if your wish is to have a graceful water garden or koi pond for next summer's enjoyment.
Put simply, the biggest determining factor in your choice should be budget. Simple barrel ponds that can host fish and plants alike can be set up for a minimal expenditure ($200 to $300). Liner ponds are also a great option. Flexible and inexpensive, liner construction can yield a functional 1,000-gallon pond for under $1,000.
If you envision a bigger pond or garden, custom inground ponds constructed with concrete and permanent rock features offer the most elegant and permanent design, and cost upwards of $10,000.
After the financial question is answered, the next step should be deciding what type of pond or garden you would like to see. Many books and resources are available on the subject, and winter is an ideal time to do the research. "Think seriously about what you want," says Dennis Trost, co-owner and pond consultant at In Thee Garden in Medford. "Get a lot of information."
Sometimes these choices are quite simple. If you want to have large koi splashing around in your pond, you must account for them in the construction. "Making the pond deeper helps keep algae growth down and helps keep predators out," says Trost, emphasizing that large koi need a lot of space.
If you don't want the added expense and maintenance of fish, a water garden is probably the best option. Ranging from 5 to 24 inches in depth, these cost less to build, maintain water quality, and will still allow you to grow a diverse and colorful aquatic environment.
With the decision made on what type of feature you want, the next step is selecting a location in your yard or landscape. Richard Fogg, owner of Frog Prince Water Gardens in Grants Pass is adamant about selecting the proper location, as he says, "Placing a water garden under a tree is not a good decision. It's better to keep it in the open."
Fogg also emphasized that shade is an important factor and essential for a successful pond or garden. "Afternoon shade is not a bad idea, but not from trees. It's better to shade a pond using water plants." Work with your existing yard or landscape and keep in mind these limiting factors to assure that maintaining your water feature will be as effortless as possible.
Once certain decisions have been made, you need to decide on a depth and shape that will complement your pond or garden, both functionally and aesthetically. Trost and Fogg both find the most common mistake most new enthusiasts make is building too small a feature. As Fogg says, "Put as large a pond as your area and budget will allow. Ninety-five percent of people who build a pond will love it, and if you create too small a pond you will fill it too quickly and want more room for bigger fish and plants." This misstep will also end up costing you more money and effort if you decide to retool your pond or garden.
As for shape, Trost recommends an oval. "Ovals are the best shape to ensure proper water circulation. This is essential for both koi and water gardens, as improper circulation causes 'dead water' areas which can be dangerous to both fish and plants." Since shape is part of the creative decision-making process, keep in mind where you are placing it and how much area you have. Kidney shapes and circles are also acceptable shapes and can fit aesthetically into many areas.
If you use the fall and winter to make wise decisions about your new construction, you will guarantee a better pond-building experience. Then spring groundbreaking will be an exciting and stress-free adventure.