Yesterday I mentioned that the sight of my pond stopped me from continuing with my spring garden cleanup, and teased that today I would reveal what nastiness I enjoyed next.
So I now hesitantly show you my pond, which was once the jewel of my garden. A leak created last summer resulted in months of neglect, the end result being a pond unfit to even show in photos. Sunday I had enough and decided to do something about it.
Let's start by seeing the state of things. Here's the south edge of the pond:
The west side, which contains the "beach":
And the north side, which is where most of the water plants were:
You'll notice a few things I think. First, the water looks quite dark. Black even. Second, there's a lot of black "muck" exposed at the water's edge. All of this blackness is caused by excess organic material rotting in the water. As I said earlier, neglect, as in "I neglected to cover the pond with netting to keep the leaves out", mainly because I just didn't care about it -- that leak really bummed me out.
Another thing you may have noticed from the photos above is that the edges of the pond slope downward rather gently. The idea was to leave shallow areas for wildlife -- this was a big mistake! Besides being a constant source of aggravation with pots and rocks sliding down into the deeper water, it also left the liner relatively exposed. My theory is that raccoons felt the folds in the liner, thought they were something worth biting (maybe a snake?), and tore holes.
Another huge mistake was the "beach". Although the river rock covered with a thin layer of water was quite attractive and a rich habitat, in practical terms it was terrible. An almost endless supply of smooth round rocks for raccoons to handle and drop into the deeper water, a place where deer always seemed to tread (forming hills and holes), and the place where muddy water flowing down the hill would enter the pond. Also the first part to dry out whenever the water level dropped a bit.
Luckily all of these problems could be fixed by one change: bringing the edges of the pond in a bit all around, getting rid of the gentle slopes and moving the liner holes above the waterline.
Step one was lowering the water level, which for me meant buckets and buckets of horrible water, bailed by hand. I thought about using a pump, but I didn't have anything that could handle the leaves and muck.
So buckets it was. Luckily I could just throw it over the east edge which is where the "wild" part of my garden starts -- my compost piles are back there.
If you're wondering what happened to all of the goldfish that were living here, well, that's the thing that I'm most upset about: they all died. The water was just too noxious after all of the leaves fell in.
Proof of this was found in one bucket:
Blech. I'm so sorry fish!
So, let's get to the fixes. The beach was first. This...
...got converted into this...
The cinder blocks which were holding the gravel in place gave me an idea: I'd build a wall under the liner! I actually didn't have much choice. When digging a pond you leave the solid walls of the existing, packed soil in place to form the pond walls. Once you've removed that soil and need to rebuild the walls, it's just not possible to pack the soil back in. So a block wall it was.
Another angle, better showing the shallow area:
After putting the blocks into place and backfilling with some topsoil:
This sedge (on the left) was at the water's edge before:
Now it will be high and dry. Adjustments will have to be made.
Here is the former "beach" as seen from the water side:
It needs a bit more defining, but it's going to work. Weird to see the edge move so far in (at least 3'), but it's worth it.
The Petasites japonicus at the southwest corner are blooming:
And now will have more room to spread out toward the pond. If you're not familiar with Petasites, it spreads via snakes! Now visible with the liner pulled back:
Okay, they're not really snakes. Softer than bamboo rhizomes though.
After working on the former "beach" area I built up the wall around the rest of the pond, using blocks and old bricks. I knew I had been saving those for something!
In that photo the north edge still hadn't been worked on, but the rest was taking shape.
The spot that got moved almost as far in as the beach did was where the main liner rip was:
That flagstone is covering the rips, which are now above the waterline. Note that the planting space between the pond and the retaining wall has increased -- about double! Also note that the yellow leather work gloves are dirty, but in good shape compared to how they'd look soon.
With the edge built up now all the way around, it was time to call it a day. My legs were exhausted after dozens and dozens of buckets of water lifted, and I was quite dirty. It felt good on both counts as it has been several months since I've jumped into an all-day garden project like this!
Tomorrow things get worse before they get better -- in part 2!