Should I put a pond here?

dmestanJune 23, 2007

I'd like to put in small kidney shaped pond (maybe 6'x9') and low waterfall in a corner between the house and screened-in porch. The idea is that it could be viewed from both the porch and the living room. The pond would start about 4' away from the corner (planning on putting an everlow yew there). The one problem I see is that there is a large black walnut tree about 20' out from the corner. Will this cause a problem with being poisonous to plants or fish? I guess I really don't need to have fish (would have a problem with overwintering in Chicago area), but I'd like a few plants and the sound of running water.

For the waterfall, the screened-in porch is only 12" from the ground so I don't want the waterfall too much higher than that. Can I make a small waterfall or spillway that will be effective enough to produce a nice sound?

Any advice? If this isn't a good idea I could go with a fountain instead, but I'd really like to try a pond project.

thx, Don

Here is a link that might be useful: pics

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You have a lovely home. I know nothing about digging, but will tree roots be a problem? How much sunlight does that area get per day? Most plants need at least 6 hrs a day to bloom well.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 10:08PM
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That looks like a perfect place for your FIRST pond! looks like a nice little corner area.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 10:08PM
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sheepco(MN z4)

Can't answer about the possible black walnut problem, but the site looks great for a pond! You can net the pond in the fall to catch the leaves. There are numerous possiblities for plants for a mostly shady pond. Do lots of research first and save yourself the money and frusration of buying the wrong plants. Even hosta can be grown in ponds and they'll grow just about anywhere!

Good luck, keep us posted!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 10:40PM
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The area doesn'get get much sun. I took that picture at about 10 AM. It's east facing, there's that big black walnut tree, and at the back of the property is a row of tall white pines, so I'd call it filtered sun in the AM, then shade after 1.

Are there any water plants that will do OK in shade?
Not sure about the tree roots - that's another concern of that black walnut tree.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 10:42PM
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sheepco(MN z4)

can produce lots of sound! Depends on water flow, layout of rocks or tiers, etc. Mine is only ~12-14", with 2 levels and makes a nice quiet but clearly audible sound. Not so loud you can't carry on a conversation or hear the birds, but loud enough to hear clearly.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 10:45PM
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Ponding can be additive - may want to consider room for expansion, adding features, etc.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 11:15PM
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We put our pond in a "similar" location and love it. The big differences are no big tree and our foundation is significantly higher. Ours borders our family room and a screened-in porch and is viewable from a window seat in family room, the porch, and an outside bench. It's a partially raised pond, but the depth (40 in deep in center) is below ground level. Note that my waterfall is not very high, but enough to achieve that wonderful, soothing sound!
I would guess your biggest problem would be dealing w/ the tree roots.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 12:19AM
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I had the same problem with tree roots...I did one foot below ground and used the dirt to build sides above ground.As to plants that grow in the shade...all kinds of ferns will grow in ponds, just don't have water level above plant crown. Elephant ear will grow in filtered light also (at least it does here in Calif)..hostas do well also.Horsetail may grow in filtered light..sometimes you just have to try different plants to see what works and what doesn't.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 1:15AM
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It looks like a perfect spot for a pond to me. Viewing from several rooms in your home is always nice. Your backyard (and walnut tree) are beautiful. I do think you are going to run into some roots so digging may be a difficult process. It also looks to me like you can expand it out into your yard if you catch the ponding bug (plants, fish-keeping, etc.)! My best suggestion would be to take plenty of time to really think about what you want and plan it out thoroughly before you start. It seems that many of us new ponders wish they had made their pond larger or planned out the dimensions/filtration differently, especially on first ponds.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 9:13AM
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Please be sure it isn't close enough to the foundation of the house to cause problems in the future also. I saw a pond on another site that had to be totally redone bacause of this problem.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 9:32AM
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Thanks to all for the advice - I'm glad I found this forum.

My current plan is for the edge of the pond to start about 5' from the house, 1-2' from the porch. The waterfall would start at about the middle of the windows 2' out. This would give me room for some perennials next to the foundation, and a low shrub in the corner. I'll try to post a sketch of the plan later.

The digging still concerns me - if I do encounter tree roots that I need to cut through, is it likely that they'll continue to grow and possible puncture my liner? I assume that EPDM would be the most durable. Any recommendations on the underlayment?

thx again, Don

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 11:19AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Black walnuts are supposed to produce a chemical that retards other plants growing under them. However, I didn't notice any problems when I lived in a house with a mature black walnut.

Your biggest problem will be removing leaves and nuts from the pond.

Waterlilies won't bloom in deep shade but many plants will live happily.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 5:07PM
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Please forgive me, I took the liberty of making your pictures easier for me to see. I think that is a great place for a pond. Glenda

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 5:54PM
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chickadeedeedee(z 6-7 ish Ohio)

You have a roof-line valley in that corner. Are your gutters able to handle the occasional downpour from thunderstorms or does the water over flow out onto the grass? If you experience a torrential downpour the rain that has washed off your roof may end up in your pond. There's roof sludge, may alter the pond pH, may introduce contaminants to your pond...

Would your gutters over flow when the leaves start to fall from your walnut? Can you still clean your gutters if the pond is there? Can you get to your windows above with the pond there? Does your walnut tend to have branches broken during storms? Would these potentially puncture your pond liner?

It IS a great place for a pond. These are just some things to consider in the long run. :-)

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 7:08PM
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My pond is in mostly shade. I get about an hour of sun, early afternoon, and then a little filtered sun. I bought waterlily's that can tolerate part-shade. Even though the tags recommended 4 hours sun, which they don't get, they bloom for me. Not as profusely perhaps as they would in sun, but last year I always had at least two blooms at a time all summer (from six plants). That was good enough for me since I wasn't expecting any. Water forget-me-not also blooms in the shade, as does pickerell rush.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 10:19PM
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Thanks to all for the comments. I've been doing a lot of research but still have more questions:

1) I'm planning a small waterfall - maybe 1 - 1 1/2' wide, 1 foot tall, 2-3' long. How is the tubing/pipe from the pond to the top of the fall routed? Is it buried outside the pond area, or in the pond and up the run of waterfall? I can't picture how it would be hidden.

2) For a small pond (6' x 10' x 2' deep), what kind of filter should I use - mechanical or bio? I'm not sure that I'll put fish in since I live in Chicago area and don't want the pond deep enough to overwinter and don't want to deal with bringing them inside.

3) Rock/stones on the bottom of pond or not? I've seen pictures with that look really nice, but read elswhere that it's not a good idea. Another idea I've considered is making the pond shallow with a rocky bottom (no plants or fish).

4) For a natural looking pond, what type of stone do people prefer - round river stone/boulders, field stone, ..? Do the stones need to be mortared, or can I just dry stack them?

thx, Don

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 11:06PM
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I tried to stay away from this thread because you seem to have your heart set on putting a pond nestled in the corner that your screened in porch has provided.
I wish I could see more of the backyard, including a photo from inside out.
Firstly, the roots from that gorgeous tree will be a problem, so you need to rethink your location. I am not saying that you couldn't put a pond in that location, however I think you could do better by pushing the pond out and using that location as a setting for the pond with a bench and appropriate low landscaping to enhance the pond.
A pond doesn't have to be so close to a window to get the maximum effect for viewing.
Our pond actually starts about 18 feet out from our den window. The deck in front of the pond is 16 feet deep, then there is a step, then the pond starts. The pond is viewable from the entire back of the house, both inside and out.
In other words you don't have to get up close to the window to view the pond, it can be viewed from both sitting in the family room and from sitting at the dining room table.

My suggestion to you is to take a garden hose and layout a pond and go into the house and view it from there. A garden hose is easily movable, you can try out many shapes and locations. I would also take pictures from both inside and out of the 'mock up' locations you choose.
If I had your set-up, I probably would push the pond further out and have a small narrow-ish 'dog leg' section coming up closer to the living room window, so that if you have fish in the pond you can see them up close from the house.

Ponding is addictive, lots of people start small and end up
making it bigger the next year after they get their feet wet. Keep that thought in your head, allowing for expansion
if you get bit bad by the pond bug.
Before I go on any more, are you open to these suggestions?


    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 3:59AM
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Well, as far as the rest of the yard goes, along the back of the property is a row of tall (70'+) white pines, so the pond can't go there. I don't want to go further our into the yard. You can see from the 2nd photo that there is a playground area which eats some yard space. Actually I took that picture while standing in the back in front of the white pines. On the other side of the screened-in porch is a brick patio. Between the patio and the side border of the property is more wooded area with a path going through it. SO, I really don't think there's another suitable location for the pond (without going in the middle of the yard). As far as expansion, I only want a small pond with some sound from a trickling waterfall - not looking to expand to something large with a lot of plants, fish, that will take a lot of $$ and effort to build.
If I have problems with the tree roots, I could create a more shallow pond, or just forget the whole idea and put in a fountain instead.

I'll try to post more pictures this weekend. BTW, how do I post the pics in the message rather then in the link URL?

thx, Don

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 10:42AM
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Hello, personaly I like ponds tucked into corners such as yours. But if I were you I wouldn't start digging around that tree myself. I dug out some of the roots from two trees cut down due to storm dammage. They are only half the size of yours. Some of the roots were four inches around. My back ached for a good while after that, and I only did one side, that went into the veg patch. My suggestion would be to hire someone with a little backhoe to dig for you. But then I wonder what that would do to the tree? If your not overwintering fish a raised pond surrounded by rocks and backfilled with dirt, then planted with low maintenace plants. As for the tree roots damaging the linner, Im not sure I have not heard this, don't most roots go around obstacles? Leaves of any kind need to be kept out of the water. They will break down and create a mess in the pond. As for your other questions Use stones that are localy found, will look the most nautral. If you use a lot of stone in the pond I think you need a lot of really good filtration becuase muck finds its way between the rocks and sits there accumulating. You can hid you tubbing under the rocks out side the pond, I wouln't dig it in until you know your pond is running well, pain in the but to dig it up to fix problems. As to how to filter there are almost as many ways to do this as there are styles of ponds. Try checking to see if there are any pond clubs in your area, this is often a good source of information too. Good luck, and happy ponding.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 11:21AM
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>img src=" post your url from photobucket here in between the quotes"On both ends ... reverse the > and

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 11:44AM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Not only might the roots cause your liner some problems, you may really hurt the tree by disturbing its roots. Just something to think about.
Also......I have a few thousand black walnuts on my property, and you might knock a few fish out with falling walnuts!
It is pretty you probably won't be able to have many blooming plants, but you could have some foliage ones. there anything underground there, like a gasline, waterline, electrical line?
Be sure to leave room on all sides for work on the house.
I hope I don't come across as too negative......just trying to help you avoid some potential problems.
Would you consider a more rectangular-shaped pond that is more along the porch, so it gets less close to the tree?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 1:26PM
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bryan(z7 Atlanta)

1. I would build UP and avoid digging down into those big tree roots. A higher water level might produce a pleasing illusion from both rooms.
2. I would also position the waterfall between the tree and the house. That way you could view moving water from both rooms and lawn. That would also project the sound of the falls toward the porch.
3. The shadier the pond, the cleaner the water stays.
4. A good skimmer would be helpful. I don't net anymore. Too many birds and other wildlife were getting caught.
5. If you can afford it, rocks on the bottom as well. I find it looks more natural. Or even gravel mortared in.NO black liner should be visible.
Just my lil' o' opinion.
Hope it helps.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 2:47PM
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tomkaren(z9 Citrus Co FL)

I also see problems with tree roots.

Have you thought about a pondless waterfall since you don't want fish.

You have quite a shady spot and could be growing only shade plants therefore you could plant ferns, hostas and sinular things around it.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 5:30PM
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Yeah, I thought about a pondless waterfall/stream too. But how deep does the reservoir need to be? I might have the same problems with roots. I guess the way to find out is start digging and see what I find. The way I've drawn it now the edge of the pond would be about 8' from the tree - not sure how deep walnut roots are. There are no utilities in that area.

For those that were intersted I added more pics and a sketch of my plan (start from the end - Photobucket reverses the order).


Here is a link that might be useful: more pics

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 4:05PM
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Just a about a water fall between the tree and the house with a stream downhill curving around with a pond out in the sunlight?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 4:51PM
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There is only one thing not suggested so far...drop the tree. Make up for it by adding a new smaller species or something. We all love black walnut for its eco purposes but for a few bucks it solves the whole list of problems. Maybe even buy yourself a small outside woodstove so you can make use of the wood.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 12:57PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Hi Don,
I've looked over your other pics, and would you consider putting your pond out farther? ...out from the screened in porch, or even out in front of the porch and patio? I think your options would be increased alot if you could move it out further. Maybe you could put a smaller fountain-type water feature where you originally wanted the pond, but I think you will be happier with a slightly larger area to work with, and out from under that walnut tree.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 1:13PM
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I appreciate all of the advice, but I think I'm going to limit my options to the original location. Not cutting in to the lawn is important since we have 2 small children. We like to kick the soccerball around, play T-ball, croquet, etc., so I really can't take away from the lawn. When the kids are older and don't want the playground any more, I'll take over that area and have a much space to play with. For now I'm stuck in that corner by the porch.

As for chopping down the tree, not an option either. The village rules here are that if I take down a perfectly good tree I need to replace it inch for inch.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 3:59PM
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pfmastin(8 N. Carolina)

I've been following the thread because I'm getting ready to do a pond my self. I hope you don't think I'm rude. Of course, it's your pond and your decision to make. I hope it turn out fabulously and that it brings you years of joy.

May I just gently suggest that you take a peek at the linked article before you get started...especially if you might have to replace the tree?

Best to you.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tree Care Information

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 4:17PM
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pfmastin(8 N. Carolina)

And I should suggest to myself to check my spelling before hitting the "submit" button! ;)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 4:22PM
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As has been mentioned, black walnut trees should not be planted near flower or vegetable gardens (as well as rhododendrons or azaleas). These trees curb plants either by secreting a growth-inhibiting substance or by root competition.

I would go above-ground or forget the idea altogether as long as you have that black walnut.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 12:41PM
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Yeah, I'm beginning to lean that way. What about a pondless waterfall and shallow stream? How big/deep the the reservoir need to be?


    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 2:13PM
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nancyd(5/Rochester, NY)

The tree would concern me. Our pond has large trees nearby and I can tell you what a mess they are in the spring and fall. The wind blows even my neighbor's leaves into my pond and his is about 50 yards away! Not to mention the "helicopters" and all the other stuff trees drop. A net is essential at those times.

One thing that I didn't anyone mention is the safety concern since you have small children. A pond is like a pool and you need to think about that. Children love ponds because of all the wildlife they attract and they can drown just as easily in them. Your town may even have a code regarding ponds.

I'm not sure how many people on this site have a pondless waterfall. We're all ponders. But I found a pretty basic step-by-step article for you and it should give you some idea of what's involved. Reconsider a pond once your children get older, and if you find you've become addicted, then go for it. Not only will that elimate the safety concern, but you'll have more yard space - and time - for a fish pond. And you will need time - don't let anyone tell you it's low maintenance. I think it's a great hobby, but you should do your homework first. Think about how much time and effort you're willing to put into this. Adding fish adds a whole new dimension in care and maintenance. If all you want is the sound of running water, then maybe the pondless waterfall is the way to go for now. Talk to other ponders in your area first to see what's involved. (I like the stream idea leading into a more sunny area of your yard - that's how our pond is constructed and it's great.)

Here is a link that might be useful: Pondless Waterfall

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 3:27PM
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Thanks Nancy. I have considered the safety issue which is another reason why the pond will be small and no more than 18-24" deep. Also we really don't leave the kids out back unattended.

I guess the tree mess is a concern we need to think about too. How do you attach the net? Is it placed above the pond, or secured to the ground level with the pond and covering the edges? I guess for blowing leaves it would need to cover the edges.

As for the digging and cutting of roots, I spoke with our village forester and he said that for a pond that size any roots I needed to cut would do minimal damage and not be a concern for the health of the tree.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 10:15PM
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sheepco(MN z4)

Don, beautiful yard! And good for you for doing your homework 1st! (So many of us didn't:) Keep at it, what ever you do, don't be discouraged, all this discussion is great! I'm sure whatever you decide on eventually will be lovely and provide your family with SO much enjoyment!

Toddler safety is huge, but your attention, and a shallow area or at least a step/ledge or rocks where kids or pets can get out if the fall in are ways to minimize risks.

Good luck!

PS: DON'T cut the tree down!!! It is a priceless beauty! (I know you won't)

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 10:52PM
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pfmastin(8 N. Carolina)

I'm glad to hear that the forester gave you the go ahead, Don. Go for it! :)


    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 11:03PM
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nancyd(5/Rochester, NY)

Don - We place our net completely over the pond held up by stakes. We let the ends drape down. We leave one end open a few inches higher so the frogs can get in and out. Ours is 14 x 20 with a long stream and waterfalls (which we don't cover). If you strategically place taller plants, they will hold the netting up in the middle and sides. We use bird netting and it's completely invisible until you get right up to it.

There's a lot of misinformation out there and snake oil salesmen who are only too quick to sell you expensive bottles of "miracle goo" to solve every problem. We have learned quite a bit the last few years. We were about to turn ours into a hot tub (!), but thankfully we didn't. If you're patient and find knowledgeable people to talk to (maybe a local pond club in your area), it all starts to make sense. I'm disappointed in many pond store owners who aren't educated in fish ponds at all. Good luck to you.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 4:23PM
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