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turning a seasonal pond into a year round one

 
Posts: 167
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
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We have water that flows onto our property throughout the wet season (which, here in the PNW, is a long season). It gathers in a low spot on the property so that it forms a small pond during the winter. Maybe 20 - 30 feet in diameter, about 18 inches deep, on average (it fluctuates alot). I'm certain this would be bigger but our soil is very rocky and I think it absorbs a lot of the water. After a heavy rainfall the pond will be much bigger but then noticeably shrink after a while.

I really, really want a year round pond for ducks, and all the benefits it adds to a permaculture design, and even perhaps for watering some animals or, bonus, raising some fish some day. I'm concerned that if we simply dig the thing bigger and deeper that won't solve the problem of the water not staying there over the dry season. I don't want to put plastic down, but that seems the fastest and easiest approach. I've read about pond sealing (I have Sepp's book) and frankly it all sounds so damned complicated and that you have to be so precise. We have no equipment (other than a quad/ATV) and budget is tight (though I'd happily save for a viable solution). Then there is the issue of will the person we hire to do the work know more than we do? Which is pretty much nothing.

Any tips on how to start this process? It's such a shame to see so much water flowing through our place for so many months of the year and not have a pond!
 
pollinator
Posts: 4665
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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If you dig a deep hole close by the pond, say 4 or 5 ft deep, what type of soil comes out of the hole? If you fill the hole up with water how long does it take for the water to drain away into the ground?
Do you have anywhere close where you could rent a backhoe ?
 
Mariah Wallener
Posts: 167
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
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Our "soil", and I use the term loosely, is mostly rocks. In fact it is impossible for me to dig a 4 - 5 foot hole without hiring a backhoe (that is easily done, though of course it is expensive). I have tested soil on other parts of the property and always come up with the same result from the jar test: mostly sand and silt (more silt than sand), almost no clay. But that was about a6 - 12 inches down. Further than that I hit reddish soil that was so solid I couldn't dig into it without a pickaxe and that was too much hard work so I stopped at around 12 - 18 inches and built my beds upwards.

I also just realized there might be a problem - the pond lies at the bottom of our septic drainage, which is on a slight incline. Perhaps that's not the best spot for a pond but there is another low-lying spot that I could divert the water flow towards I suppose.
 
gardener
Posts: 893
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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I dug a pond hole on my property that is basically acting like a seasonal pond, it only holds water for a week at most.

I decided to experiment a bit. I've planted grass in the bottom and on the sides and am hoping to build up organic matter.
I also throw mulch materials in there to do the same.

My idea is that when the hole fills with water, it will kill some of the grass and break down the organic matter. This will help to seal
the hole, but also provide organic matter for yet more grass and other green stuff to grow in the dry season.

My hope is eventually there will be a nice solid layer of organic material in the pond hole that will resist the water trickling away so fast.
Even if it doesn't end up working as a pond, it would probably make a nice bog garden.

So far (2 years or so into the "experiment" ) it does seem to be holding water much better than when the soil was bare.
 
Posts: 29
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I recently discovered that vernal pools (the kind that fills up in winter and spring, but dries up in the summer) are an important habitat for certain creatures, such as some kinds of salamanders, where they can complete their life cycles away from hungry fish and other permanent pond dwellers. Some return, year after year, to the same pools they hatched in to mate and lay eggs. If yours is in a wooded area, you might want to check to see what's living there.
 
Cris Bessette
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Posts: 893
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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Sara Harding wrote:I recently discovered that vernal pools (the kind that fills up in winter and spring, but dries up in the summer) are an important habitat for certain creatures, such as some kinds of salamanders, where they can complete their life cycles away from hungry fish and other permanent pond dwellers. Some return, year after year, to the same pools they hatched in to mate and lay eggs. If yours is in a wooded area, you might want to check to see what's living there.




Yes, actually I have wood frogs (Rana Sylvatica) that have colonized my ponds. These guys generally use vernal pools to do their procreation, then go off in the woods to return to the same pools the next season. I made sure there were areas in my ponds that are very shallow and have lots of hiding places for them to hide from predators.

Right now the tadpoles have just finished hatching from their jelly-like masses of eggs. It is so interesting to watch their life cycle every year.
 
Sara Harding
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Yes, my 9 yo daughter is really good at finding the egg masses for the spotted salamander. She's been watching them develop inside the eggs every day, waiting for them to hatch. She's also found spring peepers mating beside their egg mass. I've tried to spot peepers several times with no luck. We really are digging those herps!
 
Posts: 82
Location: Olympia, Washington
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I can only provide input from my experience about the pond I dug on my farm. I dug it for similar reasons you have discussed. Low place on the farm, water sets during wet weather. The first thing I would do in your situation is what I did. During the dry weather, dug a hole anyway you can, as big and deep as you can in the lowest spot in the low spot. I'm thinking about 4 feet around and 4 or 5 feet deep, I spent a weekend digging it by hand, (fence it to keep anything from falling in), watch that for a year. If the hole holds water in any way that makes you happy, hire, barter, beg, etc, a backhoe to dig you a real big hole in the same spot during the dry season. The secret to a run off pond is depth not diameter. Using mine as an example, I had it dug with a bulldozer, it is about 30 feet around and 8 feet deep. Its shape is like a capital ā€œDā€ the straight edge of the ā€œDā€™ on the pond is a straight down drop off to 8 feet. The other 3 sides, (the curved portion) slope down to the 8 foot depth. The pond always fills during the rainy season. During a few months of dry weather in the summer the pond may drop about 4 feet, but will always have water in it. The biggest thing I noticed about having a pond is that it increased the wildlife population many times over in the area around it. The pond is like a magnet for them. I watch in summer as up to 3 pairs of nesting robins stake out their area of shore line on around the pond. There is some squabbling, but they tend to keep an uneasy truce all summer. I can find evidence of all the native amphibians living in or using the pond. Also wild ducks, herons, birds, insects, bats, during the dry season my honeys bees gather in large numbers around the edges for water. Trust me, if you can get a run off pond on your farm, it will bring you a lifetime of enjoyment and also will make your corner of the world a little bit better place for some of the wild creatures to live in.
 
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