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How to convert old swimming pool to garden bed

 
Kim Male
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We recently bought a home with an older full-size swimming pool which we are not interested in renovating, but would prefer to use that space for gardens. Initial research indicates a pretty hefty price for fill dirt, etc, so we're thinking instead of filling it with lawn debris which we can pick up in the neighborhood and maybe having a landscaping service dump off some cut-up trees. We realize in time the "pile" will shrink so are considering layering in some fill dirt.

Anyone have any experience with this? Any suggestions? Any problems with having a compost pile this large?

Thanks so much for any feedback.
 
Seva Tokarev
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Location: Minnesota, zone 4, loamy sand
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Just today, I discovered this site: http://gardenpool.org/.
Referenced in this post: http://www.permies.com/t/45006/projects/Guide-Permaculture-Projects.
 
Steve Farmer
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someone somewhere is having a pool dug. They are probably having to pay someone to take stuff away. Try a couple of local builders who constuct pools.

If filling a space that large with stuff that will compost, be careful of fire.
 
allen lumley
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Kim Male- I have no idea from the information you have shared about the swimming pools location, its orientation, or any solar isolation especially late fall early spring,
but consider the possibilities of an in ground Greenhouse !

Steve is right Look in the Yellow pages for Excavation Contractors, They have to pay to get rid of the Spoil from an Excavation/Foundation job, so- especially if its a

shorter drive for them to your place than the next person they will deliver all you want !


Make shore you can get close to the pool or be prepared for a lot of work ! Expect /demand that someone come out to see your site they can estimate exactly what you

need/want and will probably ask questions about where your septic is ! Good Luck ! For the Good of the Cause ! Big AL
 
Kim Male
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Thanks for feedback!

Pool is located in wide-open backyard with southern exposure so it gets lots of sun all day being in zone 9 on the East coast just a couple of blocks from the marsh. There is a saltwater pond, good for fishing, just yards from the pool site. And there's a small existing greenhouse which will work tacked onto the back of a shed.

Because of those elements already in place and because the yard isn't real big, we've decided the best use of the old pool for us is as a garden spot. We hope to plant the back yard pretty full with fruit trees, berry bushes, perennials, etc.

I had looked at the greenhouse site and other sites involving water ideas but with the existing pond which is great (rises and falls with the tide), felt those ideas weren't the best choices for our situation.

What we plan on doing is creating a big compost pile in the pool using yard waste folks put out for pick-up on a weekly basis, probably adding fill dirt and sand as we go along.

My main concern is that we may create problems doing this. Certainly this would be a compost pile too large to turn.

Again, all suggestions appreciated.
 
Randy Grant Heacox
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Kim, check this out before you do anything https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEkFFRjDkvs. Woods chips are free if you contact most any landscape company you just gotta buy the fungi and bacteria concentrates; mix them with the chips in a small rented concrete mixer and add some water... if i were to creating or redoing my central growing area this is what i would do. another idea i had for you since its in an old pool and it has space for a pump is do some crazy big hydroponic set up! a giant eb'n'flow or even just layers of pvc on the side walls as you walked down towards the deep end; its not hard or expensive and it produces plants FAST just the woodchips(after they break down)!
 
Kim Male
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That's exciting! So glad I asked for input. Have looked at other videos regarding the benefits of wood chips but hadn't seen this one. OK. So, that's the road we're going down! Decision made.

But not sure about the mushroom additive. What kind? How much? When? How? Do we really need a concrete mixer? We're older with limited time, energy, and resources. Could we just sprinkle rock dust and mycelium around, work it in?

THANK YOU!

The hydrophonics idea, though intriguing, is just too big a project for us.

 
Sofiya kiely
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Read this article http://porch.com/advice/how-to-set-up-the-best-compost-pile-and-it-wont-cost-a-cent Might be it useful for you. It will describe you some major and minor point about compost pile, I hope you will enjoy with it.
 
Nancy Pinetree
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Location: Sacramento, California
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I had an old swimming pool that I had dug out in 2011. We got a few good years of use out of it when my daughter was younger, but it became way too labor and cost intensive compared to the one or two times a year that it was used.

I looked into so many different options. I considered a swimming pond, hydroponics, or raising tillapia in it. But in the end, I opted to have it dug out. The cost of upgrading the thing was more than the cost of digging it out, although the cost of digging it out was pretty expensive (~$12,000). I had three options: 1) fill it in with dirt as is; 2) have the top couple of feet of the pool removed, and then fill it in with dirt; 3) have it completely dug out. I went with option 3 (the most expensive option), because if you go to sell your house, you have to disclose that you have a buried pool back there. There's a lot of rebar and gunite and plaster and electric lines (for the equipment and light in the pool) and gas lines (for the heater) to deal with. The company I went with (Pool It Out) took care of all if it. I didn't want any complications if I ever decide to sell. If you fill it in, no matter what, you have to have holes punched into the bottom. All the weight of that water is holding that pool down against any groundwater that may want to push it up. I've seen pictures of empty pools that have popped out of the ground.

When I was having it removed, so many people who have pools that they now hate came by asking me about it.

I expected my property tax to go down since a pool supposedly increases your property value, but housing prices in my area went up in general, so that didn't happen.

What I have now is garden beds, fruit trees, and chickens running around. I have 1/3 of the yard for my dog to run around, too. I am so happy I got rid of the pool. My electric bill was cut in half due to not having to run the pump. And I'm saving so much money by not having to make constant repairs to the thing. Not having to store and handle chlorine is great too. Unless you are big on entertaining, swimming pools literally are a money pit.
 
Nathan Pickard
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We had the exact same issue and considered all the alternatives mentioned. What we ended up going with was keeping the pool walls as a rhizome barrier and filling it in with dirt, etc. We then planted edible bamboo and timber bamboo on alternate sides of the pool. It is the one place we could think of with an adequate rhizome barrier for bamboo and we are excited about it. Once it fills completely in. We are going to cut out a secret room in the middle that will be very private and fun for the kids. We just visited a bed and breakfast that planted their whole back yard in bamboo and then cut out all kinds of unique rooms within it.
 
Louie Dinan
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Check out this website in Australia....there is an area called the upper North Shore with very large blocks of land and large swimming pools. As the children have moved out the pool often gets rarely used - its too cold to swim in an unheated pool from April to November so it sits there unused with the expense of maintenance pool chemicals etc.....Kuringai Council announced an initiative for a free consult from a pool to garden conversion consultant and you would have to agree this is a marvellous idea creating a wonderful wildlife habitat. Check out this website

http://www.kmc.nsw.gov.au/Current_projects_priorities/Key_priorities/Environment_sustainability/Our_community_programs/WildThings/Pool_to_PondL

Louie

 
Dale Hodgins
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My dad filled a big concrete pool with gravel and soil, about 18 years ago. The concrete patio surrounding it was retained. It became the most productive portion of my mother's garden. Squash were planted along the 6 ft chain link fence. A moist micro climate with less wind resulted.

It was filled because my younger brothers were using the roof of the house as a runway. The fools were jumping across 12 feet of concrete, to the deep end of the pool. Dad filled it in after numerous safety talks and warnings. Idiots.
 
Louie Dinan
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The link I sent did not work but went to the council website. If you put in Pool to Pond in the search bar you will get the information you are looking for. Here is the PDF from the website.

Filename: 2_Pool_to_Pond_Flyer.pdf
Description: Pool to Pond conversions
File size: 318 Kbytes
[Download 2_Pool_to_Pond_Flyer.pdf] Download Attachment
 
Joseph Walker
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pond with fish, and floating garden above, same pump system but without the filter. best and most productive garden you could ever have.
 
Ross Raven
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Whoa!..... Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. Lots of people are doing Wofaties (partially underground green houses). I'd give a testicle for an old pool as our dirt is too wet. This means a far greater growing season. Don't fill the entire pool. You can walk down into it to garden. put a simple hoop greenhouse over it (Where the plastic can be removed in the summer)...and you are planting into the winter. If you change your mind, you can always fill it in later
 
Rick Valley
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I don't see why a person would have to keep putting chemicals in a pool. And I think a pool would make a lousy compost pile or mound bed. (turning it would be a pain in the butt What if you used it as an aquaculture project? There are plenty of good edibles that will grow in such a situation. In Portland my business partner Steven Ganister and I took on converting a pool to a natural pool. The trick was that we couldn't easily add enough marsh area for it to work, because of the topography. Couldn't even drain the pool because it was on a somewhat unstable slope. Basically we built a filter of river rock and geogrid in the shallow end, and put an intake manifold in the top level of the rock terrace. Just that improved the water quality, but then we connected the intake manifold to a pond pump and piped the water up to a waterfall we built, and a series of marshes, streams and waterfalls. The client wanted "over the top", so only 60% or so of the plants are edible or medicinal, the rest are just gorgeous and/or habitat for hummingbirds, beneficials and pollenators. We did have some problems with the (Gasp!) invasive BULLFROGS moving in, but a 10 yr.-old boy who was visiting happily caught the tadpoles (which were eating the water lilies) and sold them to us for a penny each. We turned the tadpoles over to Steven's chicken flock at the ecovillage, and the chickens thought tadpoles rare fun indeed. So: the water is very clean, the fish are happy, and you can eat the wapato (Sagittaria latifolia- the best tasting Sagittaria, local indigenous crop) and the variegated water celery, and lots more things. And there's still room to take a dip. In zone 9 you could grow Lotus too... and papyrus, also edible. We haven't tried floating veggie beds, but why not? If filling the pool in, I would use round gravel (river rock) because that would allow more water storage than "clean fill" would. Fill might have things you didn't want... In any emergency you'd have lots of good water.
 
Kim Male
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Thanks so much everyone! Am going to take some time to digest all the info. In the meantime though caught a tree service truck and yesterday had a couple of loads of chips dumped in the back yard.

Besides the surround, our pool is not concrete but instead there's plastic liner for the walls and some thin substance covering the bottom that's easily broken with a sledge hammer.

Again, many thanks.
 
Phyllis J Beard
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Hi,

It’s quite natural for many homeowners with older pools, facing dangerous situations of pools which was once a source of recreational areas. Repairs are costly, and so, to make the most of it, it is possible to convert the pool into a pleasant garden. You can design your garden to be either level with the yard or a sunken garden with the top of the pool walls serving as handy built-in seating or shelf space for potted plants.

Requirements:
Building or demolition permits
Fill dirt
Gravel
Mechanical tamper
Soil
Topsoil
Rake
Garden plan
Plants

Ensure that your project is legally permissible through your local planning reviews and zoning department ordinances and gets any necessary building or demolition permits before beginning work.

Hire an engineer or qualified inspector to check your pool for soundness and follow the recommendations regarding the pool.

Hire a demolition contractor to remove the pool if that is the recommended option. Obtain coarse fill dirt, which may contain chunks of masonry construction debris or large stones, and spread a layer up to three-fourths the total depth of the pool over its bottom. Adjust the depth of this coarse fill as needed for your planting goals.

Use gravel to fill in any irregularities or holes throughout the fill dirt, including covering large rocks and other debris to create a smooth, level surface on that layer.Tamp down the gravel and fill dirt with a mechanical tamper to make sure that it is well-compacted and firm. It should not shift or depress when walked on.

Add 2 or 3 feet of good soil over the layer of fill and gravel and firm it as before, then follow with rich topsoil to the required finish level, raking it smooth.

Hire a professional swimming pool installation company and water the surface of the soil until puddles form, and then let it stand for a few days to drain and settle before planting your garden according to whatever design you prefer. These companies can even renovate your outdoor in any design you want.
 
Marco Banks
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One thought would be to use part of the pool as a cistern by setting a large tank down into it, and then backfilling around it. If you can pipe the water from your rain-gutters to the tank, all you would need is a small sump pump to use that wonderful soft water on your garden. Large polyethylene tanks are not that expensive (about $1000 for a 2500 gallon tank) and will last forever.

That way, you wouldn't need so much fill-dirt to back fill the entire hole.

Two additional thoughts: if you are going to fill it in, you'll want to punch a few holes in the deepest part of the pool (perhaps with a jack hammer) to insure drainage. I'd fill the bottom 2 feet of the pool with aggregate or even urbanite. Something that will allow excess water to flow through, or it could become a big stinky anerobic mess. Then, before you fill it all the way up to the top with dirt, throw a bunch of tree branches or even large rounds of firewood in there --- basically, a buried hugelkulture. It's a pain in the butt to have to excavate a bed deep enough to do this, but in your case, it would be tremendously easy. So the bottom layer of the former pool would be stone/urbanite/drainage . . . the middle layer would be tree trunks . . . and the top layer would be garden soil and compost.

And the deep end would be the cistern from which you'd water the rest of your pool garden all summer. Brilliant.

 
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