Very, very large pond with many problems

spanky_mdAugust 11, 2012

Hi, all--I have been a Gardenweb member for many years but haven't been active in awhile. But i'm back with a big one.

My daughter and her husband are buying a house with a very large pond. I have accepted the position of Head Water Gardener with great pleasure and growing trepidition! I used to have a small 800G pond years ago that I loved messing in and I have wanted another ever since. Now I essentially have it.

It measures 110 feet by 50 feet. Depth when full is I think mostly 2' but there is supposedly a 4' deep area, too. So probably at least 80,000 gallons, maybe 110,000 or more. Eeek!

Biggest problem: it is lined ONLY with landscaping cloth. No butyl liner, no betonite, just...synthetic burlap-weave fabric. It is held down around the edges with random rocks. We do not know if the owners installed the pond or if it was there when they bought the house. We do know that it was there in a 1992(ish) land survey so it's at least 20 years old.

We have seen the house twice in the space of a month and at the second visit the water level had dropped at least 8", maybe even 10". So obviously water is seeping out. The second time, more of the liner was visible around the perimeter and there were 1" holes in it here and there.

Nothing is growing in it except wolffia and duckweed that covers the entire surface (mostly wolffia). No algae, not even any cattails. There are numerous old, blackened lotus seed heads floating in the water so something USED to grow there.

I poked with a stick and estimated there to be about 6" of muck on the bottom near the edge---possibly thicker muck farther out? Dunno. It reeked like sewage. Anerobic bacteria are hard at work.

There is electricity to it but all that's left are the ends of the cable sticking out of the ground. We would have an electrician test this for viability before doing anything with it.

We don't know if rainfall is enough to keep it topped off most of the year, or if they also used a hose. They did say something about the water getting low in the summer "due to evaporation" but not much else. There are one or two 4" diameter plastic pipes exiting the ground near the edge, draining into it. These come from the direction of the house and we think may carrying downspout water. Not sure, though. The pond is at the foot of a slope and there's no grading to keep runoff from flowing into the pond.

I think a bog filter is maybe the only practical way to get the water healthy and there is PLENTY of room to build one within the pond. But it seems pointless to do it without putting a real liner under that part of the pond at the very least. Maybe it's pointless to do anything at all without a real liner...???

Of course, money is an issue. They can't afford to do much with it for a year or two (or maybe more), but in the meantime it is a red hot mess and I did see some mosquito larva in there, too. UGH. (No fish that i could see but there are frogs, little ones and a few bullfrogs! Yay!)

So...opinions? Worth restoring? Not possible without lining the whole thing?

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OMG What a project: daunting but exciting.

Personally I would want to bring it back to life; to be a healthy thriving pond. However I have no idea what the best way to do that would be. I look forward to seeing what others recommend.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:43AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

There are many kinds of ponds. What you've described I would call a mud bottom pond, or a farm pond. I had one growing up and visited many around my home.

Muck on the bottom is part of the pond. It isn't something to be removed, it's an important component reducing water loss. These types of ponds don't have liner. I've never heard of geo fabric being used so I don't know what the thinking was. Maybe you could research that.

These types of ponds are normally built in low areas, sometimes even in swampy areas. Some of these ponds depend on runoff, so there wouldn't be a reason to stop runoff. Some of these ponds depend on a high water table, which can become lower in summer. Some depend on springs. Filling with a hose...well a 1" water loss to evaporation would be about 3400 gals. That would take a normal hose about 5-6 hours full on. That doesn't sound reasonable to me. I'd assume based on your post there is another water source, like rain or springs.

It is what it is. If you treat it like a 800 gal water garden you're going to be very disappointed I think. For example, what is a bog going to do?

You can of course replace it with a water garden, Koi pond, or whatever you like. Or you could manage it as it is. You could add some marginals and keep it as a Vernal Pool, so as the water drops in summer it would still look good. Or keep it just as it is. These types of ponds don't need all the things we do for water gardens, Koi ponds, etc. They are what they are.

Over time these types of ponds normally do fill with muck and have to be re-dug. Cattails for example can basically fill the such a pond, so I'd be careful about what types of plants I added.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 1:41AM
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sdavis(z7b nc)

Wild guess the landscape cloth was set in the pond to discourage wild plants from rooting in

Lack of a balanced combination of plants and fish seems the first thing easy to fix

Dredging where leaves would have collected would improve water quality, to reduce the amount of gunk decomposing

Not much else to do really, other than keep weeds from establishing, to discourage pests and predators from being a destructive problem

Fancy schmancy features like fountains, pumps, decks, can wait

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 2:08AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

that would be one Major undertaking not to mention expense to reline. Since it's getting late in the year think I'd wait until spring before doing anything. Firt consideration would be size . Think if it were mine I'd make it MUCH smaller depending on what kind of water feature you want it to be. Overwintering would give you some time to see what happens and maybe some inspiration??
good luck and keep us informed ?? gary

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 3:07AM
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Thanks for the great responses!

Of course we'd like to do as little as possible to it to get it looking nice. Right now it's an eyesore with liner and rubble showing around the edge and murky, brown water covered with wolffia. (The first time we saw it, there was nothing floating on the top and my little grandson said it was a pool of chocolate---it was that brown.)

They did have a "pond restorationist" give them an estimate so that they'd have an idea of what it would take to redo it all at once (vs. the investment of time and energy) and he said 2 weeks to just dredge it but even then the liner could be damaged further. Of course the cost was through the roof.

I did think that the muck would help keep the water in. But my concern about it is that it is producing noxious gases that keep plants and fish from surviving, and that we should do something to promote aerobic bacteria growth. Or maybe plants would do ok in it, I forget. Yet something did kill all the plants that were there! There are a lot of dead stalks of something sticking out of the water. I thought maybe lotus but maybe they're reeds of some sort.

The bog filter---I thought that the way to get the water oxygenated would be to put a bog filter in and get a big honking pump (found one that does 20,000 GPH and also read that with big ponds you need only to do a 1/4 capacity turnover per hour---dunno how accurate this is, there's very little info on big ponds). Is this unreasonalbe? Pointless? We aren't looking to make crystal clear water but something other than chocolate brown would be nice.

It is situated in a lowish area near a storm drain "creek" that right now is just a little trickle, but it is at least a foot or two lower in elevation than the pond. There could be a spring that feeds it, who knows. Right now the most obvious thing would be rain runoff.

I'll attach photos of one end of it. I did have a lot of photos but lost them all due to a hardware malfunction. They'll be moved into the house in 2 weeks and then I'll be able to retake pics.

First was taken earlier in the season by the realtor and shows the slope to the pond and also how the ground slopes away from it on the right end. Second was taken by us about 6 weeks (?) after the first. We saw it again about a month later and the wolffia had completely taken over again. I have no idea what killed it off in between.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 10:37AM
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Your local county extension office might be a good place to start. I have attended pond workshops the local one here has given and they are fabulous.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 1:19PM
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Was going to suggest the co extension office but Anne beat me to it. They are the keepers of a wealth of info and, at least in my area, have tons of experience with ponds of this nature. They can also provide you with tips on determining the source of the water. Have fun on your new adventure & be sure to keep us posted.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 1:40PM
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Thanks for the suggestion to contact the county extension office. I will look into that after they close on the house. In the meantime, Cornell's extension office has a lot of info on their site, and on Purdue's there is a good brochure on duckweed and watermeal (wolffia). GAH! That's a bigger problem than I thought! Apparently it's gonna be very hard to eradicate and is also probably causing some of the water quality problem instead of just being a benign result of it. Dang.

I have a feeling too that the owners may have applied fertilizer to the lawn regularly. This is one of those suburban neighborhoods with beautifully kept yards, lots of grass that looks really nice, and probably frequent appearances of Chemlawn trucks. And I have learned that it can take a long time for those excess nutrients to be used up in a pond (which is another good reason to have a bog filter, I think...?)

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 9:28AM
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steiconi(12a-Big Island, HI)

do be careful cleaning it up. We dug the muck out of our natural pond, and it wouldn't hold as much water afterward. A year later, I pulled a lotus out, with more muck, and the next day all I had was a mud flat with fish flopping feebly. Fortunately, they were tilapia, so there were waaaaay too many of them, and we had an empty tank, so were able to rescue enough that we now have way too many again.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 4:55PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Excess nutrients is another red herring. They do get locked up in plants, but then released when the plant dies and decomposes. Unless plants are removed from the pond the nutrients remain in the pond. They aren't "used up".

It is a long time myth that nutrients play any part in whether a pond is clear or not clear. Increased nutrients can make a green pond more green, but you could never reduce nutrients to a low enough level that a pond would turn clear. A green pond for example will normally have an ammonia and nitrate level of zero, but remain green. These chemicals are used to make new algae cells, but are not needed to keep current cells alive. As ammonia and nitrate becomes available from decomposition it is used to produce new cells and the level stays at zero. After a green pond turns clear the ammonia and nitrate levels will increase as the cells die, decompose, and release elements back into the water and because the algae is no longer using available nutrients. Some times ammonia and nitrates grow to very high levels in clear ponds, yet the water will remain clear. So nutrients play a part in what shade of green a pond will be, but no part in whether water is clear or not.

When keeping a 800 gal liner pond it isn't really that important to understand how ponds work. That small a pond is easy to control. When dealing with a 100,000 gal mud bottom pond you really need to leave the myths behind and learn how these systems actually work if you're going to have any hope of pushing the pond in the direction you want.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 6:00AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Another thought I had was to make this into a Victorian type water garden. Plant with lilies so the cover the surface at some point.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 9:19PM
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sdavis(z7b nc)

Heh, wild guess what killed the lotus was the stuff that was intended to bump off the Wolffia (which came back on the back of a duck)

One stormy day, you could stand on the downwind side of the pond and net out the bulk of the wolffia.

A flock of Shubunkins would go some way to eating that stuff... With nothing to graze it early in Spring, the pond is doomed to be a green lagoon

A few baskets of well behaved hardy waterlilies and iris would go a long way to perking up the pond visually, as well as making a start next year on sucking up the high fertility levels in the pond and turning it into something picturesque

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 1:55AM
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kimka(Zone 6B)

A flock of Shubunkins would also help if you have a mosquito problem as well. Where are you in Maryland? It may well be worth your while to make a pilgrimage to Lilypons near Frederick (the great grandaddy of all pond nurseries, Take photos with you and a notebook for all of the information they will be happy to pour out, especially if you go when they are not busy.

They will have great advice to improve the pond and will have all of the pieces you need. And they understand being on a budget and can help you prioritize.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 4:33PM
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Thanks, kimka, I have been to Lilypons and thought about going out there again for this pond. Probably in the spring. It's about 90 minutes away at most.

Thanks for the other responses, too. Plenty to think about.

And for the record, I do know that this is a whole different beast than the small pond I used to have. I just meant that I'm excited about having water to mess around in again!

We just heard from the owners that the pond has been there since before 1986, so it's at least six years older than we thought, and that there is no liner at all. The landscaping cloth is only around the perimeter (probably to control erosion?). So it's definitely a true mud bottom pond.

They also said that they were told that it is fed by a spring and that "a civil engineer created a system for water to flow in and out". They didn't give details and I'm not sure they know more than that. It would explain why the water level has dropped since the stream when I looked at it a couple of weeks ago was just a little trickle. I didn't see any diverter coming off it but it was really overgrown and there was poison ivy so I didn't poke around much.

What about an aeration system? Would that help get some aerobic bacteria action going that would get rid of the nasty gases coming out of the muck? Or would that break down the muck to the point of it not sealing off the bottom very well anymore?

We'd be perfectly happy with a Victorian pond full of water lilies, by the way. Well, my daughter might be. I'd like some, not sure about covering the whole pond. But whatever works...

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:00AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Aeration wouldn't affect the muck unless you pointed the outflow of many large pumps at the bottom. And yes that could break up the fine settled muck that keeps water in the pond.

Aeration would speed up decomposition of new dead organic matter. I don't see how that would be much help, you'd still be looking at a lot of added muck. Aeration would also keep more particles in suspension, so if clear water is your goal I doubt you'd be happy with the result.

A complete aeration system for a pond that size would be about $1,000 to $2,000. Earlier you said money was an issue...what is your budget? When you say "can't afford much" that can mean different things to different people. There are a lot more options with a $10,000 budget vs $100.

And that's why it doesn't sound to me like you have a good understanding of how different a large mud bottom pond is from a small liner pond. You say small budget but keep thinking of very expensive solutions. Like adding a bog...for a bog to have any effect on the pond it would have to be large. For the liner, rock, pumps, electrical, labor you're talking in the $5,000 - $20,000 range depending on how much labor you do yourself. A bog for a 3,000 gal pond would cost like maybe $200 and that's assuming there's already electric and a pump. Scale that to a 100,000 gal pond and you'll start to realize that small water garden solutions combined with a tiny budget is not going to be feasible.

Just buying lilies for that size pond is going to be north of $1,000 unless you propagate your own which takes time.

I'm not trying to bust your chops, but you could just waste money if you think a $100 air pump, or a 100 sf bog is going to have any effect on that pond. Better to be realistic imo. Unless of course your budget is $10,000 - $20,000.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 1:48AM
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NaturesFolly(West MI 5)

Hi Spanky,

I was doing a bit of research for you and I found a mud pond forum, but GW will not let me post the site so you will have to search for that one. I also found this site that may help you discover the origins of the cloudyness and hopefully some help. Anyway, I hope it is some help to you

Here is a link that might be useful: Clearing a mud pond

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:05AM
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gardengimp(9B Seminole Cnty FL)

Spanky, take a read about rain gardens and about landscaping at the edge of the wetlands. You can go to your state univ extension website or use floridas system at

Probably best to stop thinking of it as a pond and treat it like a wetlands.

Here in Florida water drains away so fast in our sand we sometimes use landscape cloth in a rain garden.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:43AM
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Thanks for the info on the other sites, all. I was reading extensively on another forum for large ponds but will look into the mud pond thing.

Waterbug Guy, it's not my money I'll be spending so that's what I'm cautious. We haven't worked out a long term budget yet for the thing since there are other more immediate concerns with just working out the sale of the house, and getting moved and settled and stuff. The pond is on hold until at least next spring. But no, I am not counting on getting a $100 pump and putting in a 100 square foot bog filter! I wish that was all it would take but I'm well aware that it will be a LOT more than that. I've looked at pumps in the $500-$1400 range an a bog that would be 10% to 15% of the total area of the pond (with corresponding liner size & price-$$$-- etc). Plus the cost of pea gravel & delivery and plant costs and other stuff like that. We are counting on the renovations to be spread out over a few years minimum and that we'll do as much of the work as possible. I've been a DIYer all my life (with joints to show for it).

They do plan to be in the house for a long time so there's not a huge rush to get this done right away. Which is nice not just for the budget but also for other reasons.

It's just hard to sort out the answers from all the conflicting information out there. Some of it I know is from manufacturers who want to sell you their stuff, but other sources that I think should be free of those motives often seem to conflict with each other.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 3:44PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

There's lots of info out there that's just plain wrong. And that info gets repeated by other people who know nothing but want to take the easy path and just repeat stuff. On the web that results in the same bad info being repeated often.

The other problem is not understanding context. In a Koi pond plants are considered bad. In a water garden plants are considered good. Conflicting info if one doesn't understand the context of why plants would be considered bad in one pond and good in another. Once context is understood the info is no longer conflicting.

In both cases, bad info and conflicting info, a person just has to research, learn, double check and cross check until they start to understand these systems. Then it becomes very easy to start to spot BS and understand context. Sorry, no easy answers.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 4:07PM
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Thanks for your input. I will keep it in mind. I do enjoy the learning part of it a lot.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 5:41PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

IF it were mine, I'd plant and do some rocks around the edges to hide the landscape fabric and toss in some hardy waterlily tubers with rocks tied to them so they sink and root into the muck which is their natural habitat.

That is a big big pond and it would take years for them to grow enough to be a problem.

I'd sink some big pots of cattails or other tall reeds around some of the edges too for height.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 6:56PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Couple things to consider....

For a lined water garden, kept basically clean with filters, skimmers, UV, nets and hands on cleaning, 10-15% of pond size for a bog is a reasonable estimate. Mud bottom pond...not so reasonable. Much higher suspended particle load.

Rocks around the edge...check soil conditions. For mud bottom ponds I've known rocks would sink out of sight pretty fast.

Cattails can grow in 2' of water. So they wouldn't just spread around the edge but out into the pond. In 5-10 years I would expect there to be no open water. A true swamp. There are lots of plants that would stay on the edge. Google "vernal pools".

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:32PM
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Yeah, no, not doing cattails at all, though I do love the look of them. There is a fenced-off lowland swampy area next to where I live now that it solid cattails.

OK on the bog size. I will cancel my order for the pond liner. (Just kidding.)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 11:55PM
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You got quite a few good comments, Spanky. I'd like to reinforce a couple...
Active Bogs are the way to go, 10-15% is a good place to start, especially if you can avoid Koi, which are messy and need feeding. Construct long, narrow (3-4') perimeter bogs with perforated pipe of at least 2" diameter and install cleanouts for clearing the roots that will grow into the pipes eventually. Make them very shallow, less than 1' of gravel! 6-8" is the most you'd want to clean, and keeps costs manageable. Check out Nelson Water Gardens for great tips and some lists of plants to avoid and to consider.
Use asynchronous (also called Hybrid) pumps to circulate as much water as you can afford to through the bogs. The minimum by the books is 1x Total Volume per day, or about 4000GPH, not enough! but you will be able to keep costs low by using multiple small pumps, so I'd recommend 4 bogs, 4'x25' each, each with a 3000GPH Hybrid, for over 10000GPH at less than 1000Watts, depending on mfg. That's the most cost effective way to start with, and you can add bogs as needed, even in the pond (think Bog Islands). But that's another post...
An air pump is a great idea, with an inexpensive diffuser or two, to aerate the pond to the bottom in the deepest areas and get bacterial decomposition going as much as possible, which will decrease the muck in the pond (that's why it's called "decomposition"). Weekly addition of bacteria with proper aeration can literally digest as much as 7" a season. Really. IMPORTANT - Don't add bacteria without the aeration!!!! You can completely deoxygenate the water.
Waterlilies not only pull nitrates out of the water, they also reduce the energy available to algae and duckweed by shading the water. Enough will even lower water temps, slowing the growth rate of unwanted greens. Put in as many as you can afford; remember, they grow! Leave a viewing area clear.
Low growing marginals like Myosotis and Lysimachia aurea will grow down and cover the liner over time.
Good Luck with your project!!! D

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 9:45PM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

check craiglist, freecycle, etc for someone giving away water lilies. many farm ponds are trying to get rid of them b/c they can grow so quickly. all of my hardy lilies came from a fish hatchery about 45 min south of me. they sell HUGE ones that they dig up for $5 ea. cheap!!!!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 4:08PM
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oklahawg(NE OK z6-7)

Chiming in for my own interest as well as to offer a suggestion. Warning: I am a novice - my advice might be detrimental! Hopefully, those with greater expertise can chime in and offer an opinion.

I put in a 12 x 10 pond years ago. Did it on the cheap. I used the thickest black plastic on a roll I could find. It is not unlike painter's drop clothes only a lot thicker. Every 2-3 years I have to replace it due to it wearing out or getting holes poked in it by my kids playing around. It was $30 or so for a monstrous roll I still haven't used completely.

Why not drain down the pond, muck it out, layer the pond with the cheap liner and see what happens?

Full disclosure - I go to the local pet store and buy 25-cent goldfish. The sales people are usually good about letting me select a combination of different markings so my gene pool is diverse. I started with four and had it quickly grow to 40-ish fish. For a while I fed them but found out one winter I didn't have to - I was hospitalized and too infirm to care for them and they survived on the nutrients in the pond.

Trees grew over the pond in time and they would muck up the bottom and clog my submersible pumps. Eventually, the shade countered the algae growth and I didn't need to replace the pumps. A small number of plants in pots that were weighted to stay submerge provided a small amount of cover. A shrub rooted near the pond and branches dangled to the ponds surface. I trimmed them but left the shrub for shade/protection.

The problems were not health of the water or the fish or the plants. The problems were related to leaves filling the pond and "filling it in" substantially each fall.

Until Tulsa changed the chemicals in its water supply. The 110+ degree temps and leaks in the thin-ish liner required fillings 2-3 times a week. I forgot for a week and it got really low. The water I added overwhelmed the existing water, and the chemicals wiped out the remaining dozen fish. The plants didn't seem to mind but I now have a muck-covered liner (several layers of it, actually, as I'd just add the new one on top of the other, figuring the old ones would provide some protection from roots poking through).

Is that a practical solution? Buy some cheap CHEAP liner. Connect them to cover the bottom of the pond. Drain and muck out the pond, drop the liner and let it fill in.


Or...fill in a big chunk of it and create a new "wall" out of liner with rocks, backfilling with rock, soil, sand, whatever. Plant plants that don't mind wet feet and let them live in a bed next to a much more manageable pond.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 12:27AM
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Checking in after a break--thanks for the additional suggestions, especially about getting water lilies from farm ponds and hatcheries. I've been checking CL for stuff like that but so far have seen only other types of plants. I shall persevere.

Oklahawg, the plastic liner and dredging wouldn't be practical at all for this size pond and we who maintain it. But thanks! DemiF, will definitely keep your suggestions in mind. Right now we're just waiting and observing how the water level fluctuates.

We did discover the pipe system that diverts water from the creek that runs alongside the pond. It is about 130' of 4" PVC. The creek end of it is a good 9" above the water level in the creek (which is just a trickle right now, maybe 2' wide at the widest and only a 1-2 inches deep in most parts). It seems that it will only divert water when there is very heavy rain, maybe only very heavy sudden rain. It's been sort of dry so we're not sure.

That pipe ends in a 5 gallon PVC bucket well about 10' from the pond. It had so much mud in it that we couldn't even see the end of the long pipe going from the creek, but we've since cleared all that out and also ran a garden hose with a power washer nozzle on it into the creek end of the pipe for a few days to wash out any remaining mud. Not much more came out, or maybe it's so settled that it would take a lot longer---I dunno. But meanwhile, there's now a lot more water in the pond though still 8-9" below the top of the overflow pipe.

The bucket well is just a cleanout. There's a pipe that goes from it to the pond, too---bottom edge of it is several inches higher than the top edge of the pipe coming from the creek. We kind of need to replace the bucket since the top edge of it is very mangled and mud from the surrounding earth is washing in. But that can wait.

The pond is still covered with water meal and duck weed. Frogs are thriving, though. We are probably going to add aeration in the spring but right now I can't figure out a good way to wade out to find the deepest part. The mud is so deep that it makes walking impossible. Maybe lay down a plank? Which would then float free later...?

(We would put the aeration device on a cinder block to keep it out of the muck layer.)

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 10:29AM
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I wonder if your creek bed has got lower in the 26 years from when the pond was built. I would bet that the pond origanialy had a bit of the stream flowing through it. Maybe the pond isnt getting as much water as it use to. What if several large rocks were placed just down stream of the pipe to back the water up a little into the pipe. I would think if you could get some water flow going through the pond that would fix a lot of problems. It would give you aeration, flow, water changes, and be much cheaper than the other opptions you have put forward.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 12:28AM
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sdavis(z7b nc)

Stacked milk crates, or large cut sections of log make convenient pedestals for a long plank to go over deeper waters, making dredging and planting heavy tub positions easier when the pond is too cold to wade into

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 11:32PM
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groem, thanks, yeah, I have been itching to throw a few sandbags in just past the intake pipe in the creek, just to keep the water level high enough that it's always covered. I built a makeshift dam out of bricks and other things that were laying around and it actually is holding water, sort of---the hurricane helped by washing debris up against it, I guess. But sandbags will be more secure. I only need to make a pool about 18" deep total.

sdavis, thanks for the suggestion of the milk crates---great idea! We are going to get a couple of pairs of hip waders in the spring, too.

I did discover that the mud isn't all that deep in some areas, at least---under the oak tree there is maybe 1-2 inches of mud with a thick layer of un-decomposed leaves under that. It's probably years' worth but they aren't rotting at all, just black. Very easy to scoop up! And under the leaves is a nice, clean SAND BOTTOM. Woo! Very hard packed.

The hurricane did not hit us very hard, just a few small branches down from our many big old trees, but the good part is that the pond filled to just over capacity. Yay! It has already lost water again but still looks pretty good, and the duckweed/watermeal got blown down to one end mostly, so there is a lot of open water that reflects the sky and trees and looks real pretty for a change.

In the spring we are going to muck the leaves out by hand until we can't stand doing it any longer, and do the sandbag dam, and then see how things look.

I did see a painted turtle one day but he didn't stick around.

First pic is of the pond at its worst, water level at least 8" below capacity (closeup of one end). Second pic is right after the hurricane.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 10:06AM
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Looks like a water table pond. Water in these is generally brown like tea. It is natural and very normal.

I would confirm with test hole where the water table is and dig this deeper. But trying to be careful for your turtles etc etc. I would wonder if a backhoe on tires could reach most of it. That's what I'd hope to use, probably a day or two max...

FYI I see herbicide damage around the edge of pic #2. The orange foliage around the edge.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 11:42AM
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The pic with presumed herbicide damage is the second pic near top of this thread.
Amd sorry I didn't notice you had a water intake, I would hope that is easier to adjust than what I was imagining, having to dig deeper into the water table...

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 1:10PM
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So...spring is here and things are looking up. The water level is fine for now and there is at least one submerged plant growing (not sure what it is). There are a bunch of irises coming up and lots of narcissus and daffodils on the banks, so it looks prettier. And we have Eastern painted turtles (five adults and two hatchlings, that we know of), TONS of frogs and a whole lot of toads just finished spawning.

We also had some ducks hanging around for about a month but they finally gave up and moved on, I think because of the hawk that was showing up every afternoon. Probably waiting for ducklings. I made a cute floating duck house to encourage them to stay but they were leery of it and then the hawk was just too much.

Anyway, does anyone have any advice on pulling up dead lotus stalks and roots? The stalks are tall enough that they stick out of the water when the water level gets low and it looks really unsightly. They're definitely all dead and there are a LOT of them. I've pulled a bunch but they're slippery, even with grippy gloves on, and very tough and it's hard to even just break them off lower down. The roots are really mired in the muck. Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 1:31PM
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Found out that our big pond had been treated by the previous owners with diquat, maybe to get rid of duckweed and make it look more presentable to prospective buyers. The diquat apparently also killed off irises, hostas, red ludwigia, common reed, and a kind of rough, scratchy grass that grows in the water (see below). It may also have been what killed the numerous lotus plants. They did not come back but everything else did! Plus some cattails, which we will keep an eye on for invasiveness.

We also cleaned up the inflow-outflow system as much as we could. The best thing seems to have been clearing the overflow drain pipe which was clogged with sticks and globs of duckweed all last summer. Now with all the regular rain, there's always at least as much water flowing into the pond as is flowing out so there's a bit of a current and the duckweed is way behind where it was last year. YAY!

There are also a many Green Northern frogs and tadpoles, gray tree frog tadpoles, American toad tadpoles, some spotted salamander eggs, and five adult painted turtles. We had about 2 dozen baby turtles this time last year but unfortunately the pond was infected with ranavirus and they all died (along with a lot of tadpoles).

We built the A-frame duckhouse a year ago and this year the resident duck couple liked it enough to lay eggs but a predator got them all. we were very sad.

So here's a pic taken today.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 6:19PM
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Thanks for the update. It looks like a very soothing place to enjoy nature.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 5:27PM
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