Backyard Ponds (Urban Lot)

  • Backyard Ponds (Urban Lot)

    Posted by Maytag on October 24, 2022 at 2:46 am

    Been thinking about digging a pond into my backyard for a winter project since the weather will be cool enough for extended outdoor work. My yard is super dense sticky black clay, so it will be tough to dig, but I can probably get away without spending any money on liners.

    Anyone got any tips or suggestions? Other than “call before you dig” 😂

    In the pictures here I marked out 6’x41′ area. At 3 feet deep that would be over 5000 gallon capacity. Though maybe I would start smaller and see how things go. If I make it as big as marked, I’d probably leave a walkway in the center, maybe with a culvert (so I wouldn’t need to walk all the way around the whole thing to get to the fence area.

    Since the soil is solid clay here, whatever I dig up will not be of much use for gardening, but I can use it for doing some other earthworks or berms or something. The area gets morning sun and afternoon shade. I think I would probably damage the roots of the neighbor’s oak trees that are close to the fence; their canopies reach a good 12 feet over into my yard.

    Could I get away without aeration? I don’t really want this to be requiring constant electricity to power a pump if possible. But at this relatively small size, maybe stagnation would be a major concern?

    Primary goal is to capture water for garden irrigation. Secondary goals would be water-loving plants, urban wildlife habitat, emergency water for home use (run through filtration first, of course), and possibly fish for food, but I don’t know how much space or input$ (food) they might need (I doubt they can survive just on mosquito larva, even though we get a lot of those around here!)

    Maytag replied 11 months, 2 weeks ago 4 Members · 6 Replies
  • 6 Replies
  • KimC

    October 24, 2022 at 3:18 am

    I love the sound of running water in my yard. Not sure what state you’re in, but here, if even a very small pond is more than 17 inches deep it has to have a fence surrounding it to prevent children from drowning and probably legal liability as well. Might check your local ordinances.

    I had a very small koi pond in a previous home and because it was pretty shallow something (likely a raccoon) killed all my beautiful fish one night. Might need to consider covering it with chicken wire if you have predator issues in your area and don’t plan on it being deep or have a place built in for the fish to escape to in a grotto, cave or deeper area. To keep fish through cold winters in part of the country you have to have depth.

    I’d recommend at least some curvature or shape other than all straight lines, just for interest and aesthetics (if those things matter to you). There’s a YT channel called Plant Abundance. Dan dug his own back yard pond and has fish in it. He did step-by-step videos of the build. Likely a play list available. Another YT channel, Epic Gardening, also did a back yard pond, but it was larger and more elaborate, but could provide ideas or highlight issues to consider? He used quite a lot of edible water plants in his. MIGardener YT channel rehabbed an overgrown, existing pond at their new home and that was interesting. I think they had some good info on things to do and not do to prevent issues like what they were dealing with. I believe they did three videos on it.

    If I could do another one, I’d flank or surround it with raised garden beds and maximize growing space as well as an area for relaxation, with a couple of openings for access and maintenance. Stagnation and foul smells along with algae issues would likely be a problem if you’re not planning to use an electrical circulation pump. In my small pond we fought algae overgrowth constantly, especially at certain times of the year, even though it had a filtration system and a circulating pump running 24/7. There are specific fish you can get that are algae eaters/cleaners. They do also make solar products for aeration and circulation. Might be worth checking into?

    Hope it works out well for you.

    • Maytag

      October 24, 2022 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks Kim,

      Yeah there are some things I’d need to check with local city ordinances. I’ve never seen a ‘coon in my neighborhood though I see roadkills now and then on the edge of town within a couple miles. Opossums, cottontail rabbits, hawks, and other smaller birds do roam my yard.

      As for shape, I was just marking out a general area of the yard. I wouldn’t necessarily make it perfectly rectangular; there is some room for extra edge, but I did plan to keep it at least 6 feet from the fences in all directions, just to keep some space around there for access, utility easement on back of lot, fence repair, storage or plants, etc.

      I could look into solar powered pumps. Lots of sun here and there are some sunny spots I could put something like that.

      One idea I had was to use some of the excavation to make an edge around parts of it that could be semi-raised beds. Mix with compost and the soil should be usable, even if lots of clay.

  • TagNBee

    October 24, 2022 at 7:10 am

    Go for it. Sounds like fun. O ly advice I would give is build it bigger then you think you need.

    • Maytag

      October 24, 2022 at 12:53 pm

      I think this size (or even half) would be far more than I’d need just for garden irrigation. But, yeah, rains are usually 3-5 months between here so a small pond would dry out if I was taking water out for the garden.

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