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Building my first pond

 
Posts: 5
Location: Savannah, Georgia
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I own a five acre homestead in Vernonburg, GA, a community of 55 homes completely surrounded by the city of Savannah.  Savannah's storm water drains across my five acres in two ditches.  The first runs through my front woods, across my driveway and then down the edge of my front lawn.  The second runs along the back/lower acres behind my house.  Both of them feed into the salt marsh of the Vernon River which I own a small corner of.  You can look at Google satilite maps to see the toppo of my home at 12880 White Bluff Road, Savannah, GA.  I have had this storm water tested commercially and have learned that its clean enough to water my vegetable garden with.  I hired a landscape architect a couple of years ago to do a master plan and she sited a pond in the front lawn where I regularly have flooding when the storm water over flows the ditch bank.  She identified three massive pines for removal and gave me an outline on a scale map on where to dig, and then dropped off my radar.  Its winter, which is when I usually do my landscaping work.  Without her to assist me I am turning to this platform for advise, ideas and resources.  Here is a picture of the three pines down, and the white line painted for the utility companies to understand the excavation plan.  I have already discovered I need to remove one of the lawn's underground automatic sprinkler heads and cap off its feeder pipe.  Do I need to have the soil tested for perk?  I saw a video where a small scale model was built in the excavation site to see who the system worked, but what other way will I know if I need a liner, or to raise some pigs in the pit after the excavation, or maybe muscovy ducks?  I'm interested in hearing on any subject, not just these first questions I have.  Thanks!
pond-site.jpeg
White outline of proposed excavation
White outline of proposed excavation
 
pollinator
Posts: 364
Location: East tn
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hugelkultur foraging homestead
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Rj

I will share my thoughts with some disclaimers.

I have not lived in Savannah, nor built ponds in that type of soil.

But I have built ponds in clay soil which I imagine is easier in some ways.

Paul has a DVD on building ponds that I found useful, world domination gardening.

Alot depends on the soil. You could do a test dig and see if you find red clay (or grey clay) layer. If so, you can build a pile of this red clay and use it to form a plug on the downhill side of pond and it should seal.

If you dont find clay, then gleying may be your best natural option. One option would be to dig pond to desired shape, then fence it in hog panels and put a few feeder pigs in there for some weeks/months. If you go that route, I would also look to add leaf litter weekly through the process. They will trample it down, roll in it, and create an impervious layer that should seal the pond.

Good luck and keep us posted on how it goes.
 
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RJ,

Beautiful picture of your place and good prep work so far.

I am going to second the idea of the test dig.  I will relate a little story my uncle told me.  My uncle was a construction manager in Wisconsin and before he did ANY construction on a house that would have a basement, his first action would be to send out a backhoe or a small excavator to dig a test hole.  The purpose of this test hole was simply to see how much water would fill in and how fast—if at all—it would drain.  His reasoning was that it was far cheaper to dig a hole than to put in a whole foundation just to watch it fail.

Granted, you want water to stay and my uncle wanted water to drain away; you have clay and he had sand.  Either way, a simple hole in the ground is a cheap way to get an idea of how water will behave.

My 2 cents,

Eric
 
Rj Vinson
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Location: Savannah, Georgia
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Thank you both for your quick responses.  

I don't know yet if I have clay, but I will dig down and I will go ahead and test what I find.

I LOVE the idea of having some pigs, but I never have because 120 yards from the excavation is miles and miles of 1000 square foot ranch houses built in the 60s and stacked 10 feet from each other.   I understand that pigs are smart and hard to keep fenced in.  Would electric fencing work for pigs?  I've been thinking of using muscovy ducks.  

Another question is about the pines I've dropped and there is also a big oak.  Could I use these pines as the base of some hugelkultur swales around the pond, or will that cause more trouble than help?
 
master gardener
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Location: southern Illinois.
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Hi RJ

Not all pigs are created equal.  I have Kunekunes.  A while back I forgot to lock the gate. The next morn they were still there. Yes, I have raised breeds of pigs that could bust out of anything.
 
J Davis
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Close quarters and pigs might eventually be problematic. But the pigs dont need to stay forever. You could even fence with utility panels and t posts so you can repurpose when they have done their job.

As for the pine/oak. Hugel mounds are great but best when comprised of variety of sizes of wood. Big logs take longer to break down. That said, if you have a topsoil layer (not just sand) then digging impression, layering logs, then branches, then sticks, then leaves, then topsoil will work. Id position it just uphill of where rain enters the pond and make the rain hit it and go around, soaking in in the process. That should serve double duty to cut sediment flow into the pond and give you a raised bed that is self irrigated.
 
Rj Vinson
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Location: Savannah, Georgia
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I dug a hole today in the excavation area and found two feet of beautiful black top soil and then grey clay.  So excited about both.  The top soil goes on the piles of carbon I've been lining the boundry between my lawn and my marsh with for the past 7 years, and the clay of course will be used to seal the bottom of the pond.  Also, the landscape architect finally responded to my emails.  Yay!  It was a good day.  
 
Rj Vinson
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Today the friend who is going to do the excavating for free (thank you!) and the landscapre architect met me in the front yard for our first joint conference.  The landscape architect offered her services for free!  Wow.  and Thank goodness because just the excavator rental is going to cost $3K. and then there is the cost of the diesel to run the excavator.  Also, the $200 a day for a man and  his machine to move the dirt around once we dig it out of the hole.

We made a plan to build a small swale upstream and to leave the stream bank untouched, except to build it up higher so that its level with the taller bank that is further inland from the stream.  

We've decided not to pull up the stumps between the stream and the pond site so that we don't damage the current stream bank.  To further stabilize the stream bank we are going to replace the massive pines we cut down with cypress trees.

How to get water out of the storm drain/stream and into the pond?  We are going to dig a hollow/trench to lay a massive live oak trunk I cut down to build the hugelkultur swale at the upstream portion of the pond and to divert the water into that swale, and then send the water that doesn't soak into the ground at the swale into the pond with a small drop, even if its just a pipe jutting out into the deeper part of the pond bowl.  My understanding, please correct me if you know different, is that a stream of water dropping just a foot or so into the pond will create the churning effect to keep the water oxygenating.  We assume that the pond will dry out sometimes and I'm fine with it being a wetlands when it isn't a pond.  We are thinking to put willow along the swale, and local rather than invasive species of cat tail and iris on the wetland buffer around the pond.  

I need to figure out how to remove excess water from the pond.  I understand there has to be a spill that doesn't send water over the dam, as water over the dam will undermine the dam.  We think we will try a pipe again, further downstream running from the pond back into the storm drain ditch/stream.  

I'm trying to think of all the ideas we had.  

I know we want a 3/1 ratio slope for the sides of the pond.  And we are discussing having a very deep section to allow fish to get deep in order to avoid being captured by coons or wading birds.

That's all I can think of now.

 
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