Quack, quack


When the large pond in the rear garden was first constructed it was dug deep enough so that I could take an occasional dip in it on a hot summer afternoon. Despite recommendations by pond references to the contrary, I stocked the pond with ten small, inexpensive koi and two goldfish that were transferred from one of the smaller ponds. I’ve little doubt that the concern about having fish in a swimming pond is justified, but I’ve never heard of any harm done from swimming in farm ponds that are inhabited by all manner of beasts, so I didn’t figure it would kill me.Japanese iris blooming by the swimming pond in early June

The pond was designed with a rudimentary filtration system that has managed to keep the water clear enough to see the pond’s rocky bottom, and I’ve not been too worried, even though the fish have multiplied far beyond the number that I’m able to count. No, the problem is not that I ran out of fingers and toes, but koi and goldfish are unwilling to stay still to be counted, and in a pond of fourteen hundred square feet it’s difficult to get even a rough count while they’re swimming in every direction.Koi in the swimming pond

Finally, this year the abundance of fish has overwhelmed the capacity of the filtration and the water has been a bit murky, and occasionally a little green from algae growth. The formula for this is fairly simple. Nutrients from fish waste and typical decay of organic materials, plus sunlight, will result in algae growing, and without more sophisticated filtration there’s no sense in me worrying about it. In fact, I’ve never done anything more than float on an inflatable lounger a handful of days through the summer anyway, so it’s not a big deal to just declare that it’s now a koi pond, and give up on the swimming part.Dragonfly

In addition to fifty or sixty (or eighty) fish, there are frogs and more tadpoles than you can count, an occasional turtle, and a snake or two that regularly inhabit the pond. A variety of insects skim over the pond’s surface, and dozens of dragonflies now patrol the skies immediately above the water. More than once in past years I’ve shooed away geese that appeared intent on taking up residence. Two large farm ponds are within a stone’s throw, so I’ve never felt guilt that I was denying them shelter.Tiger swallowtail on Pickerel weed

There are regularly dozens, and sometimes hundreds of geese on the farm pond just across the creek, and they often congregate in the road and on the neighbor’s front lawn. The mess isn’t too terribly bad, but I’d rather they stay there than come over into my garden. In recent weeks a Great Blue heron has spent more time in the shallow filtration area of the pond and peering down from branches in the swamp maples that overhang the garden than I’d prefer. The heron is there for one reason, and I’d prefer that my koi not be its evening meal, but it’s difficult to dissuade a hungry bird who’s spied a pond full of dinner sized fish.Frog

Despite the profusion of wildlife, I was still hedging on declaring that the pond was no longer for swimming, until recent weeks when ducks moved in. At first, my wife saw them on the back patio, but they were apparently just exploring. And then, we began seeing them regularly in the koi pond. So, now there are fish, frogs (and tadpoles), turtles, snakes, and ducks, and at this point it seems more clear that I’m the intruder. The ducks come and go, and when my wife and I go near they hop out to hide in the bushes, so there’s still a doubt that they’re here to stay.Ducks on the pond

I much prefer the ducks to geese, though I don’t know why. They’re certainly quieter, and I don’t think I’d mind if they decided to stick around. Especially since the pond is now off limits to swimming.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. It sounds as if there isn’t room for you to even wedge in! hahahahahaha!
    The butterfly shot is really spectacular! I’m not too good with insect identification…can I ask you what type it is?
    Great post, and even greater example of “if you build it, they will come!”

    1. Dave says:

      The butterfly is a Tiger Swallowtail. This summer there are dozens in the garden, along with many smaller butterflies and moths that I can’t identify. Certainly, if you plant Joe Pye weed, butterflies will find their way.

  2. Don Peters says:

    I found this posting especially interesting since I’m into gardening and always wanted to install a pond like that. Unfortunately, my 1/4 acre lot prevents it. But I am curious about the filtration system. Can you supply a few more details on it?

    1. Dave says:

      The submersible pump is contained in a skimmer box at the pond’s edge. A leaf basket captures large debris, then a single filter pad prevents other debris from fouling the pump. Two thirds of the water is pumped to the waterfall, and the remainder to the bottom of a one hundred fifty square foot area of gravel that is about three feet deep. The upflow through the gravel further filters debris, but it is primarily intended to cultivate large colonies of bacteria that consume nutrients.

      Along with a thin layer of gravel on the bottom of the pond this has been sufficient to keep the pond clear, but this year a layer of organic silt has accumulated on the floor of the pond. Koi are notorious for rooting around in the soil of pond plant containers, and the murkiness of the pond this year is mostly due to this layer of silt. Next spring I’ll add one of the heavy duty bacteria products that is used to clean septic ponds, and I expect the silt layer will go away.

  3. What an incredible pond and garden! I’d let the ducks stay, too. They’re better behaved than geese, anyway.

  4. Anne says:

    Beautiful and relaxing just to read about. I live vicariously through your large lot. I have a 6,000 sq ft lot so a couple of bird baths are my only sources of water. But isn’t water a lovely addition to the mix!

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