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Building a backyard pond: Pt. 1

Building a backyard pond  is an excellent way to add natural interest to your home’s landscaping. The sights, sounds and movement associated with these tranquil water features can transform your ordinary backyard into a wondrously relaxing sanctuary.

In fact, your household might not be the only ones appreciative of your new backyard pond. Domesticated animals like fish, and wildlife such as birds, insects and maybe even a frog or two (depending upon where you live) can happily inhabit your backyard pond if it’s correctly built with their needs in mind.

Getting Started

Backyard pond construction can vary in difficulty depending upon the size, materials and whether you plan to add fish or frogs. We’re creating a 3-part series that provides homeowners with an in-depth look at what it takes to add a beautiful, thriving pond to your backyard. Here is a cursory look at what it takes to build a pond of your own.

 oncallogoNOTE: Once your pond goes from idea to actual project, your first step must be to check your local by-laws to ensure that you can legally add a pond to your property. Following that, you might also need to alert your town/municipality about your plans to dig on your property. This is to confirm that there are no cables or service lines located beneath the surface of your preferred site. If you’re in Ontario, contact ON1Call to request a “locate”.

Pond Placement

When you finally get into the actual planning for your pond, you’ll want to begin by determining where you want it to be located. Ideally, you will select a semi shaded space that receives 6 – 8 hours of sun a day. This is essential for most of the plants you will use both in and around your pond.

If possible, you will also want to try to avoid building your pond too closely to any trees; especially those of the deciduous variety. Doing so will help your pond stay cleaner and aid in preventing problems with tree roots encroaching upon your pond from below.

building a backyard pondBackyard Pond Size

Next up, you’ll want to think about your pond’s size. Consider how you plan to use your pond? Will it be the focus of your backyard or will it be an accent to an existing garden? Do you plan to introduce fish or frogs (more on this later)? Do you want to have a waterfall or stream as part of your build?

A good rule of thumb is to build your pond slightly larger than you think you might need. Once your plants begin to flourish and any fish or frogs start to grow and multiply, you’ll be surprised by how quickly your “big enough” pond becomes too small.

You also want to ensure that you leave sufficient work space around the pond. This will allow you to maintain things once it has been built.

Plant Selection

The most obvious reason to add plants to your pond’s atmosphere is the fact that they contribute a considerable amount of texture, colour and general interest. However, that isn’t their only purpose. Aquatic plants help fortify the water with increased oxygen production, which is essential to the proper aeration of your pond.  They also prevent the spread of algae and offer comfort and safety to many types of animals and fish.

Take note of the amount and type of sun in your future pond’s location. Then, you’ll want to consider your pond’s population. Will you have fish, amphibians, or simply offer a home to neighbourhood birds, insects and other creatures? Choosing the right plants definitely matters, but we’ll talk more about this in our third installment of this series.

Wildlife

While there are different requirements for a pond dedicated to fish and one dedicated to becoming a habitat for amphibians, both scenarios do share some commonalities. The first thing you’ll need to consider is overwintering.

Your fish or amphibians will need to survive our cold Canadian winters, so it is extremely important that you build a pond that is double the local frost depth at minimum.

Don’t forget to create some shallow areas as well. In fact, an important part of your build involves having sides that slope into a shallow area. This is because it allows others creatures to escape your pond if they happen to fall in.

building a backyard pond for frogsAdditional considerations for Amphibians: When you invite frogs into your backyard pond, you’re also providing yourself with a front row seat to the sometimes cruel circle of life. Unfortunately this means that there are certain other critters, such as raccoon and even your beloved cat, which may look at your pond as a frog buffet.

While it is inevitable that a few of your amphibians will become a meal, if you add an island in the centre of your pond, it will provide them with some sanctuary from these predators.

Situating your pond in close proximity to a garden will ensure that your frogs will have a steady supply of water-seeking insects to snack on throughout the day.

Note: Building a frog pond isn’t the same as building a pond for fish. The primary difference is that you stock a fish pond with purchased fish. With frogs, you’re looking at more of a “Field of Dreams” type scenario. As in “if you build it, they will come” … assuming you live in an area that is naturally inhabited by frogs.

The Toronto Zoo has a very informative article outlining why you should not purchase frogs for your pond. You can read it here.backyard pond for fish

Additional Considerations for Fish: Never have more than 1 kilo of fish per cubic litre of water in your pond. As mentioned earlier, you also want to size your pond for how big your fish may become, not how big they are in the beginning.

Be sure to get detailed instructions from your fish supplier to learn the best practices of introducing your fish to the completed pond.

This is the first in a 3-part series on “Building a backyard pond”. Read part 2, a look at Essential Pond Equipment.



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