Wednesday, March 13, 2013

DLG Ponds & Water Features

  Water gardens and waterfalls have become one of the most sought after installation services that Douglas Larson Gardens provides. Whether you're considering a koi pond, a smaller wading pond, a trout pond or just an over-flow rainwater catch pond, you can rest assurred that we have designed and installed many of each kind with much variety and customer satisfaction.

Small wading pool with waterfall. The kids love it!
Our focus in water garden creation is always that of a "functional natural balance" involving a design goal centered around utilizing proven intallation techniques, implementing the latest technologically advanced components and incorporating indigenous materials that take their complement from surrounding structures and local topography. Plants and the natural use of plants in our waterscapes have also always been a primary focus.

Although true koi ponds are said to work best with a concrete bottom, the climate and sometimes extreme temperature variations experienced in Minnesota can create severe damage to concrete lined ponds. Because of this and the heavy cost of maintaining concrete ponds in the Midwest, we prefer the more flexible and cost effective approach of rubber liners.
Key Elements to a Healthy Pond

Every water garden, pond or waterfall will be invaded with algae, especially those that are lacking in key elements which keep ponds clean and healthy. The more of the following elements that you can incorporate, the healthier the water garden will be and the faster it will recover from algae blooms.
Skimmer Box Filter
1. Filtration Systems.
There are a lot of pond filtration systems on the market. Filters, skimmers, bio-falls units, external filters and even external pumps with filters attached are affective in treating water. Most of the systems that I install include a skimmer (water flows in, passes through filters and exits through pump) and Biofalls units. Bio-falls units receive the water pumped from the skimmer, through an additional set of filters and then out into the pond, usually down a waterfall course.

2. Biomedia and Bacteria.
The introduction of bacteria to a pond is crucial. Bacteria competes with algae in a pond for available nutrients caused by fertilizers, decomposing plant and animal debris and even fish food. The higher the population of bacteria, the less algae you will have. Bacteria is available in powder and liquid forms and is used intermittently throughout the season with Spring and Fall being the periods of heaviest use.  In order for bacteria to successfully colonize, bio-media (anything bacterium can attach itself to) becomes necessary. Bio-media can be anything from gravel to plastic tape or balls. Traditionally in my water gardens I use gravel as a pond bottom base anyway. Because of the gravel introduction there is little need for additional biomedia.
Water Hyacinth

3. Pond Plants.
In order for pond plants to be effective in keeping water clean, their root systems should be in direct contact with the water. One way to promote this is to use screened-sided plant pots. Another method is to use floating plants such as water lettuce and water hyacinth, which have un-contained root systems. These plants float on the water and receive their nutrients (like bacteria and algae) from the water. Its a good idea to have water plants on all different depths of the pond. Waterlillies and lotuses are the plants of choice for the deepest part of the pond but try not to place them in areas where water is flowing heavily.

4. Fish
Pond Fish such as koi and goldfish are beneficial also. They will eat algae from off of rocks and larvae from undesirable insects. Pond fish can be expensive but also very tame and friendly, soon becoming familiar with their owners voice, rushing to the ponds edge for a tasty handout of fish food, lettuce, peas or their favorite-watermelon. Some koi species can grow as large as four feet and easily out-live a human. One famous koi named "Hanako" was owned by many individuals throughout her lifetime. Hanako was supposedly 226 years old upon her death in 1977, based on examining one of her scales. Because of their inability to survive in sub-zero temperatures, their introduction to the waterscape ecosystem should only be considered when you have also secured a winter home for them.

6. UV Light Sterilizers & Ionizers
UV lights and Ionizers are a fairly recent introduction to the pond industry. Their arrival came with high expectations and much anticipation. Before the use of devices such as these, pond owners and installers alike were constantly fighting algae invasions and finding the prospect of ever having a clean and clear pond a fleeting one at best. Algaecides are expensive. They can cost up to $200.00 to treat a small pond and that cost could be exacerbated by not having the prime elements that I am naming here, incorporated into the system. Much to the shagrin of skeptics and algaecide manufacturers, UV sterilizers and ionizers have worked miraculously in treating ponds succeptible to unwanted algae growth.
UV Sterilizer
UV Sterilizers are the antibiotic treatment of the pond. The UV sterilizer consists of a tube, which has a UV light housed within. A pump (sold seperately) is attached to the light assembly, pushes water through the tube, which is blasted with UV rays. The water emerges out the opposite end, dead of both algae and any beneficial bacteria that was in the water. The unit is expensive but well worth the money. You should expect to pay $600-700.00 for the unit and an accompanying pump. The units bulb lasts up to three years with continued use. In most cases the unit will provide crystal-clear water year around.

Pond Ionizer
Ionizer's are 2nd genereation sterilizers.  The benefits it has over the UV sterilizer is a reduced cost, no parts to replace, no pump required, it's virtually invisible and best of all it is also adjustable in its output. The unit consists of a electric controller component that attaches to a post or a tree. A copper head, attached to the controller by a long wire that dangles into the water inside the skimmer unit of the pond. When turned on, the water passes between the two fingers of the copper prong and it gets ionized. The water's ions are reversed, effectively killing algae within the water. The Unit cost is $450.00. The unit can be turned up when algae is more prolific and adjusted based on pond size and water volume. This unit is only effective on ponds with moving top water created by a skimmer-housed pump.

7. Circulation
Circulation of pond water is a vital element of a healthy ponds ecosystem. Circulation, or the movement of water is essential for the elimination of insect larvae such as mosquito's that can only develop were water is placid. Circulation prevents pockets of nutrient-rich, algae promoting water from forming and becoming the seed bed for algae proliferation. Water flow is attributed to the systemic spread of good bacterium and nutrients on which they feed.
Proper circulation can be accomplished by the addition of fountains in a limited form but is best achieved through the addition of waterways, streams and falls that join the pond upon descent.
With regards to UV sterilizers and Ionizers, without moving water these components are rendered useless. A skimmer unit placed at the ponds edge will pull water toward it, clearing top-water debris from the pond and filtering the water as it passes through the component.

Pricing a Pond
Ponds are a lot like cars in that the more amenities it has, the bigger and deeper it is, the more gallons of water (and electricity) its pumps consume and the more components to curb maintenance, the more costly it is.
The following is a list of components and labor tasks involved in pond construction with a full filtration system.
  • Excavation of soils
  • Disposal of soils (best to use them for waterfall building)
  • Sculpting of pond contures and levels
  • Installation of underlayment fabric (protects liner)
  • Installation of EPDM liner
  • Installation of Skimmer unit, Biofalls unit and connecting piping
  • Installation of pump
  • Installation of rocks or boulders
  • Installation of gravel
  • Placing of UV or Ionizer unit
  • Placing of electrical outlet (Done in advance)
  • Sculpting of waterfall dirt
  • Installation of falls liner
  • Installation of waterfall rocks and gravel
  • Add water
  • Turn on pumps
  • Enjoy

At Douglas Larson Gardens we are proud to say that we can install any size pond. From a small, elegant and inviting entryway waterscape to a giant mega-falls like our state record sized 85 ft cascade in Darwin Minnesota. Lets us give you some ideas and options.


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