Is sustainable pond design an oxymoron?
Those with a passion for gardening, wildlife and nature know better. A sustainable pond, as enthusiasts have come to understand, is a natural world where organisms and wildlife come to depend on for survival.
Water is, as they say, the essence of life. And perhaps nothing proves that more than a sustainable pond.
Through tenacious advocacy, environmental sustainability has enjoyed an increase in practitioners. Homeowners—whether suburbanites or farmers or urban dwellers—now understand the impact of their contribution.
They choose native plants. They don’t reach for big blooms that require harsh pesticides and excessive water. Their choices consider natural habitats. They recognize the needs of even the tiniest organisms.
Homeowners do their research. They realize that ponds are a way to actually use less water and be more environmentally responsible.
Permaculture is a term most environmentalists know. It’s the philosophy of working with nature and following its patterns. Whether in the forest or in the wetlands, every organism serves a vital and essential role. Permaculture promotes the development of healthy ecosystems—sustainable and self-sufficient.
Designing a pond—one that enjoys perfect balance with little effort—provides needed support for life created in and around its banks. Understanding the food cycle—how the pond’s food chains are connected—should factor into how and what goes into your pond.
A sustainable pond can offer benefits to the homeowner, too. It can support edible aquatic plants and provide a breeding place for fish and frogs. Even animal waste provides needed nutrients to plants that serve as shelter to fish and other organisms.
Aquatic plants are central to sustainability. Each serves a separate role to support life within the larger ecosystem.
Take deep-water plants, also called rooted floating plants. These plants boast colorful and delicate members like Water Lilies and Lotus—the gems of the water garden. With roots that reach the bottom of the pond, the leaves of deep-water plants float on the water’s surface. Leaves shade the water and provide a hiding place for fish. They help reduce the growth of algae—a constant concern for pond owners that understand it’s benefits and threats.
Deep-water plants have better odds of surviving than other plants during drought conditions. As water levels decrease, these plants—with their roots in the deepest levels of the pond—are the last to be impacted.
Submerged plants serve as oxygenators. They are rooted in soil with leaves that remain underwater. Oxygenators are responsible for a thankless but necessary job—ensuring the pond is healthy and the water, clear.
They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen—essential in supporting fish and other aquatic organisms. They filter excess nutrients and keep algae at bay, providing food and shelter for fish.
Oxygenators require regular cut back, even some removal if growth is too rapid. Many pond owners use them for compost in efforts to continue the food cycle.
These plants are potted and sit on the bottom of the pond, or even free float on the water’s surface. The more delicate plants often break away and root in other areas of the pond.
Rooted floating plants include Water Primrose and Anacharis.
Floating plants—like Duckweed and Fairy Moss—don’t require soil. Instead, these plants grow with nutrients found in the water. Floating plants are hard workers. They shade the water from the harsh sun and stunt growth of algae.
The Water Hyacinth is one of the most powerful cleaners. Water Lettuce is effective for spawning fish. Identify the needs of your pond—its challenges, inhabitants, needs—before choosing your floating plants.
Marginal Plants grow in shallow areas around the pond’s edge, able to survive in very shallow water. These plants do best in slow moving water, or water with no movement at all.
These plants add color and height, helping to soften the edges of the pond and shelter fish and frogs. They are set in pots in shallow water, on shelves, or planted in soil around the pond’s edge. Marginal plants—like the Yellow Flag Iris and the Cattail—embrace the function and form of this plant group.
Permaculture promotes the use of vertical layers to create a balanced ecosystem. The right balance of marginal plants, floating plants, rooted floating plants and submerged plants ensure a healthy pond and the balance of the food cycle.
The pump is critical to ensure sustainability. It circulates, oxygenates, and distributes water to the pond and extends the lives of plants, fish and frogs. And, by extension, the life of your pond. An OASE energy efficient pump will bring dependability, a healthy pond and balanced ecosystem.
No matter the design, the distinct and disparate elements of a sustainable pond are still the same. It is a format—a formula of plants and wildlife supported by the movement of water—which ensures its survival.