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Dug a pond - now what?

 
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Hey  

We dug a fairly large pond last year, about 1.5 acres in size.  It was in a depressed area of the property and all the seasonal streams run into it.  It filled very quickly after it was dug, so quickly in fact that we didn't have a chance to add in any snags or rocks.  It is unlined, with a clay base.  No real dam as we dug into natural contours.  About 14 feet deep at the deepest point.  Hopefully it is water tight, but only time will tell!

My question is - what now?  I've been reading up on ponds, but most things really seem to apply to garden sized ponds.  

How do I plant out a large pond economically?  We do have a lake on the property so I can snag some material that way, but only so much.  Pond plants in stores are extremely expensive considering the amounts I would need.  

Can I plant wild rice or will it take over the whole pond?

Should I toss in rocks or snags after the pond has filled?

How close can I plant trees to the water?  Some sources say trees are bad because the leaves fall on the pond and then sink and decompose, other sources say they provide necessary shade - what is the balance on a large pond, what is the shaded to unshaded ratio?  Are willows helpful or will they draw too much water?

We want this to be a multipurpose pond - some irrigation, swimming, wildlife, and a few fish for fun fishing with rods.  Is this possible or a pipe dream?  

What about muskrats?  Are they going to give us all giardia or crypto?

We have a shallow entrance slope for swimming, will a thick layer of sand prevent it from getting scummy? Some sources say sand is good and some say don't use sand.

That's a lot of questions, but I think I probably have a million more that aren't bubbling to the surface currently.  Any answers or other tips are welcome!
 
pollinator
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Hi Makyla,

Congratulations on your pond!

You will probably get better answers if you mention generally where you are,maybe with USDA climate zones if they are relevant.

I think there was a good multi-part article on a natural swimming pond area in the Permaculture UK magazine a few years ago - I will try to find it but also suggest subscribing which gives you access to all of their archives.

What do you want from your pond - food/biodiversity/game?
 
pollinator
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Ooh, that sounds awesome! Congrats!

Makyla Deleo wrote:Can I plant wild rice or will it take over the whole pond?  


Don't know about wild rice specifically, but I'd suspect 14 feet is too deep for most plants that would show on the surface. So while something you plant might take over the shallows, or maybe the whole bottom of the pond, my guess would be that you'll have open water in the deepest part at least.
 
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https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-trouble-with-fish-stocking/ - now it is time for some research! Agricultural extension office might help. If it were my pond, I'd be investigating the native species of all sorts that are best suited to the pond. The good news is that many of those species will move right in whether you invite them or not. A good tool to consider is iNaturalist - you can locate lakes and ponds in your region on a map like Google Earth and then use iNaturalist to find all identified species of, say, plants or fish or whatever near that location. For each identified species, you can read if it is indigenous, introduced, invasive, etc. You have a whole new ecosystem and you want it to be harmonious; it is just as important to know what to invite to the pond as it is to know what to be alert for keeping OUT.
 
Makyla Deleo
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Morfydd St. Clair wrote:Hi Makyla,

Congratulations on your pond!

You will probably get better answers if you mention generally where you are,maybe with USDA climate zones if they are relevant.

I think there was a good multi-part article on a natural swimming pond area in the Permaculture UK magazine a few years ago - I will try to find it but also suggest subscribing which gives you access to all of their archives.

What do you want from your pond - food/biodiversity/game?



Apologies!  We are in Northern-ish Ontario, about your zone 4 I'd say?  

We're looking for a multipurpose pond if that is possible.  Light irrigation, swimming, very minimal fishing (not required, just would be cool if possible), and biodiversity on the property.

UK Permaculture Mag sounds cool, but maybe something closer to home would be best.

Thanks!!
 
Makyla Deleo
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Eino Kenttä wrote:Ooh, that sounds awesome! Congrats!

Makyla Deleo wrote:Can I plant wild rice or will it take over the whole pond?  


Don't know about wild rice specifically, but I'd suspect 14 feet is too deep for most plants that would show on the surface. So while something you plant might take over the shallows, or maybe the whole bottom of the pond, my guess would be that you'll have open water in the deepest part at least.




Yes, makes sense, they certainly won't grow out in the middle, just have to make sure we have room to get in/out of the pond round the sides.  Thanks!
 
Makyla Deleo
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Cade Johnson wrote:https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-trouble-with-fish-stocking/ - now it is time for some research! Agricultural extension office might help. If it were my pond, I'd be investigating the native species of all sorts that are best suited to the pond. The good news is that many of those species will move right in whether you invite them or not. A good tool to consider is iNaturalist - you can locate lakes and ponds in your region on a map like Google Earth and then use iNaturalist to find all identified species of, say, plants or fish or whatever near that location. For each identified species, you can read if it is indigenous, introduced, invasive, etc. You have a whole new ecosystem and you want it to be harmonious; it is just as important to know what to invite to the pond as it is to know what to be alert for keeping OUT.



Yes, good thought on Inaturalist, but then where do I get these native plants?  I'm not finding them online and I live in a very rural area so won't find them in person either.  I can steal some from the lakes in the area, just don't want to take too much of anything, probably can't take enough to hurt anything though....
 
Cade Johnson
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native plant propagation is often easy to do by seeds. If you find a pretty place, watch for spring wildflowers transitioning to seed-heads and gather those to seed around your pond. As the year progresses, more seeds will come available - right through into the autumn. I would definitely visit local lakes to see what looks nice and abundant.
 
Makyla Deleo
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Yes, I'll definitely be doing as much of that as I can, my local seed supplier is selling riparian mixes for $275/kg and I'd need a number of bags!

Cade Johnson wrote:native plant propagation is often easy to do by seeds. If you find a pretty place, watch for spring wildflowers transitioning to seed-heads and gather those to seed around your pond. As the year progresses, more seeds will come available - right through into the autumn. I would definitely visit local lakes to see what looks nice and abundant.

 
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Hi Makyla,
Your pond sounds like a wonderful resource - well done! I suspect that you will find the water level changing quite a bit through the seasons, which is perfectly normal and natural. In terms of planting, you could just leave it. It is surprising what will come in of it's own accord on the feet of wandering birds for example. This approach will take patience, but I think this year it will look a bit muddy anyway unless you spend a fortune in time and money finding plants. I wouldn't even think of introducing fish until the pond has gone through a year and you are confident you unlikely to leave them dry.
A pond of that size will find it's own balance in time. You will probably get a bit of algae growth because of the recent disturbance, but that should clear as the pond matures. Seeds are easiest and will find their own niches to grow so I agree that would be the optimum if you can bear to wait!
I did a bit of research in ponds when I was contemplating digging a crater garden and it morphed into a natural swimming pond (still entirely in my imagination hence free!). I was thinking of getting small round pebbles for beach areas. I thought they would be soft on bare feet, but dense enough to stay clean. You would need to put them down pretty thick (6 inch?) as they will sink and mix in the clay base. I was contemplating using a wool fleece layer in between to help separate the layers - farmers locally have been burning or burying their shorn fleeces since they have to pay to have them taken away, the value is so low.
Leave it this year and you will find where you want to access the water, where would make a good sitting out/fishing point as well as how the vegetation starts to fill in.
Good luck (and show us some pictures!)
 
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where are you located? pond plants have a way of growing on their own and before you know it they can become out of control in certain situations.
add some fish is what I would do first. maybe get in touch with a local fish hatchery and see if you can get it stocked with local native fish species. bug and frog populations will come naturally over time just like the vegetation.
 
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Congrats on the pond.
I'm green with envy.  Your pond is 6X's of my lot!
If I ever get a pond or a friend with a pond that is close,
I would 100% do floating gardens of some sort.
Good luck.
 
Makyla Deleo
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Keith Odell wrote:Congrats on the pond.
I'm green with envy.  Your pond is 6X's of my lot!
If I ever get a pond or a friend with a pond that is close,
I would 100% do floating gardens of some sort.
Good luck.




Aww, yeah I feel you!  Before we moved here our backyard was about the size of a postage stamp, so having over 100 acres is a bit overwhelming at times.  Floating gardens are a great idea, we have lots of geese and sandhill cranes though, so they might not last long lol.  
 
Makyla Deleo
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bruce Fine wrote:where are you located? pond plants have a way of growing on their own and before you know it they can become out of control in certain situations.
add some fish is what I would do first. maybe get in touch with a local fish hatchery and see if you can get it stocked with local native fish species. bug and frog populations will come naturally over time just like the vegetation.



I'm in Northern-ish Ontario.  I figured we'd eventually get some plant life, but I wanted to help things along  Maybe I'll just start with wild rice around the periphery and toss in some lake lillies and let it go from there
 
Makyla Deleo
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Nancy Reading wrote:Hi Makyla,
Your pond sounds like a wonderful resource - well done! I suspect that you will find the water level changing quite a bit through the seasons, which is perfectly normal and natural. In terms of planting, you could just leave it. It is surprising what will come in of it's own accord on the feet of wandering birds for example. This approach will take patience, but I think this year it will look a bit muddy anyway unless you spend a fortune in time and money finding plants. I wouldn't even think of introducing fish until the pond has gone through a year and you are confident you unlikely to leave them dry.
A pond of that size will find it's own balance in time. You will probably get a bit of algae growth because of the recent disturbance, but that should clear as the pond matures. Seeds are easiest and will find their own niches to grow so I agree that would be the optimum if you can bear to wait!
I did a bit of research in ponds when I was contemplating digging a crater garden and it morphed into a natural swimming pond (still entirely in my imagination hence free!). I was thinking of getting small round pebbles for beach areas. I thought they would be soft on bare feet, but dense enough to stay clean. You would need to put them down pretty thick (6 inch?) as they will sink and mix in the clay base. I was contemplating using a wool fleece layer in between to help separate the layers - farmers locally have been burning or burying their shorn fleeces since they have to pay to have them taken away, the value is so low.
Leave it this year and you will find where you want to access the water, where would make a good sitting out/fishing point as well as how the vegetation starts to fill in.
Good luck (and show us some pictures!)



Awesome, thanks Nancy.  I think I'll do a small amount of planting and then just wait it out as you and others have suggested :)  And yes, no fish this year for sure, we need to see how well it holds water first!  Love the idea about the pebbles with a wool liner, we do have a fair number of sheep farmers here and there is gravel on the property that could work as pebbles perhaps.  I'll take some pictures when the snow melts :)
 
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What a fun project!

There is, of course always responsible wild harvesting, and the wind and animals are very good at planting seeds but...

I might consider planting one of theses mixes from the Ontario Seed Company - they have several meant for wet areas.

https://www.oscseeds.com/product-category/native-seed/riparian-and-wet-meadow-seed-mixes/

I might also consider harvestig some local pussy willow, dogwood, etc, cutting it up, and sticking the sticks into the bank. Willow is pretty easy to grow from hardwood cuttings and relatively easy to ID in winter.

My grandfather did this on his farm many decades ago - 15 ft deep pond in a swampy area. Other than minnows amd catfish he didnt stock it at all. It was amazing the variety of fish he had, evidently carried by birds, and plants, and amphibians...

Edit -  the pond made both a fantastic swimming hole and a fantastic fishing hole. The trick was a small dock to get into deeper water past the weeds.
 
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You will have fish whether you put them or not. I had several catfish and 30ish carp in mine that I didn’t put when it got low from 2year drought we were able to see everything. What most amazes me with new ponds is how quickly it attracts frogs. Almost instantly. Sound is very relaxing at night for me. Plants seemed rather quick to show up too.  Mine was a very big runoff so things from other peoples ponds show up and there’s probably some seed that hung around that will pop up now. Birds dropping in leave you surprises as well.  

Congrats on the pond I absolutely love them. It will be awesome.
 
Makyla Deleo
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Catie George wrote:What a fun project!

There is, of course always responsible wild harvesting, and the wind and animals are very good at planting seeds but...

I might consider planting one of theses mixes from the Ontario Seed Company - they have several meant for wet areas.

https://www.oscseeds.com/product-category/native-seed/riparian-and-wet-meadow-seed-mixes/

I might also consider harvestig some local pussy willow, dogwood, etc, cutting it up, and sticking the sticks into the bank. Willow is pretty easy to grow from hardwood cuttings and relatively easy to ID in winter.

My grandfather did this on his farm many decades ago - 15 ft deep pond in a swampy area. Other than minnows amd catfish he didnt stock it at all. It was amazing the variety of fish he had, evidently carried by birds, and plants, and amphibians...

Edit -  the pond made both a fantastic swimming hole and a fantastic fishing hole. The trick was a small dock to get into deeper water past the weeds.



Yeah, OSC is where I checked first, but it is a bit cost prohibitive to get the amount I need.  I'm going to check Northern Wildflowers next to compare :)

And we have tons of dogwood and willow, so that part will be easy, just wasn't sure if they would suck up too much water?  But they are pretty much unlimited already on the property if they are good :)

I'm actually getting excited to see what just shows up!
 
Makyla Deleo
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Joe Hallmark wrote:You will have fish whether you put them or not. I had several catfish and 30ish carp in mine that I didn’t put when it got low from 2year drought we were able to see everything. What most amazes me with new ponds is how quickly it attracts frogs. Almost instantly. Sound is very relaxing at night for me. Plants seemed rather quick to show up too.  Mine was a very big runoff so things from other peoples ponds show up and there’s probably some seed that hung around that will pop up now. Birds dropping in leave you surprises as well.  

Congrats on the pond I absolutely love them. It will be awesome.



Looking forward to the frogs myself! We have some at the small pond but it dries up in the summer and they disperse.  Interested to see what fish species end up here without assistance!
 
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Makyla Deleo wrote:

Catie George wrote:What a fun project!

There is, of course always responsible wild harvesting, and the wind and animals are very good at planting seeds but...

I might consider planting one of theses mixes from the Ontario Seed Company - they have several meant for wet areas.

https://www.oscseeds.com/product-category/native-seed/riparian-and-wet-meadow-seed-mixes/

I might also consider harvestig some local pussy willow, dogwood, etc, cutting it up, and sticking the sticks into the bank. Willow is pretty easy to grow from hardwood cuttings and relatively easy to ID in winter.

My grandfather did this on his farm many decades ago - 15 ft deep pond in a swampy area. Other than minnows amd catfish he didnt stock it at all. It was amazing the variety of fish he had, evidently carried by birds, and plants, and amphibians...

Edit -  the pond made both a fantastic swimming hole and a fantastic fishing hole. The trick was a small dock to get into deeper water past the weeds.



Yeah, OSC is where I checked first, but it is a bit cost prohibitive to get the amount I need.  I'm going to check Northern Wildflowers next to compare :)

And we have tons of dogwood and willow, so that part will be easy, just wasn't sure if they would suck up too much water?  But they are pretty much unlimited already on the property if they are good :)

I'm actually getting excited to see what just shows up!




The amount you get doesnt need to be very much at all. Just take whatever makes sense in your budget and get small amounts of a variety of plants. Every few steps drop a seed or two of whatever kind and within a few years nature will fill the rest in.
Think of it as introducing the plants to your pond, not planting the boarder. All you need is one plant of each type to seed and you will be able to collect and move seeds and plants in a few years all you want.


I highly agree with what a few people have said here about making sure you can identify what you DONT want around and every few months going around and making sure that stuff is managed. Dealing with it diligently now will save lots of work later on… as once it seeds it too is everywhere just like what I suggested will happen with seeds you add in here and there now…
 
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