Besides all of the wonderful aquatic plants available to us, we can also use annuals in Phoenix ponds and water features to spice things up a bit. Being annuals, yes, they will eventually spend and die, but they last for a whole season! This is most helpful in the wintertime when most aquatic plants are dormant and not showing off with blooms. However, it's also a great way to really liven things up in the summer, and add even more variety to your aquatic plant palette.
Check out a short video on how and why The Pond Gnome adds annuals to our water features:
One of the first questions we're often asked when folks call us for the first time is how long will it take to build my pond. Obviously, that depends on the size. The short answer is that our average pond project is started and completed in the same week. Part of our reputation, besides being the cleanest contractor people have ever worked with, is that we show up when we promise and we stay until the job is done. As a rule, we don't hop around between projects.
Keep reading to understand our entire process -- it's a bit different than you may have experienced with other contractors before. ;-)
If you're planning on building the pond yourself, then it can take anywhere from a weekend to a whole lot longer.
Contact to Contract
We estimate that the average time it takes for someone to go from first contact with us to signing a contract and getting on our construction schedule takes about 2-3 weeks. That time estimate depends on our client's schedule, as well as the amount of incoming requests at any given time.
We do our best to get back to people who first contact us within 48 business hours. During times of unusual incoming requests, this can take a little longer, and we try to keep you posted on where you are in our que.
Once we've had a chance to chat, we usually get out to see your job site and put together your plan and contract within a week from the first telephone conversation.
Once we have a plan, contract, and deposit, we can schedule your start date for next in line.
When Can You Start?
The next question is almost always, when can you start? Depending on the time of year (Spring being our busiest season), we are typically between 3 and 5 weeks out for a new project. Not gonna lie, we've been as far as 3 months out before. We always appreciate people who can plan ahead just a bit! ;-)
Our Unique System
It's as easy as 1-2-3! You might find our process a bit different than what you've experienced with contractors in the past. Our system is designed to first and foremost make sure that we're a good fit for you -- that we're the company that can best meet your needs, goals, and expectations. If we're not, we have no problem referring you to a colleague that we feel would be a better fit.
Step 1. The initial contact is typically done through a phone or video conversation. We ask a whole bunch of questions, so please be patient with us as we get to know you and go through the discovery process of how we can be of service. Again, we have your best interest at heart. The last thing we want to do is jam our product down your throat and create an unhappy client because we didn't meet your expectations. We have a stellar reputation for a reason! If we're looking at remodeling or replacing an existing feature, we'll also ask for photos so we know where we're starting from. If everything goes swimmingly with the phone conversation, and you're comfortable with moving forward with your project -- and our company, we move on to the on-site design consultation.
Step 2. We call this an on-site design consultation because we're coming out to design your pond or water feature. The "free estimate" part has already been handled during the phone conversation beforehand -- another factor in making sure we're a good fit for you. At this time, we meet with all the decision-makers involved to make sure that everyone gets their questions answered, their concerns addressed, and their expectations heard. When everyone involved is comfortable and chomping at the bit to get the party started, we lay out the design, write up the contract, and collect the deposit. The deposit is 1/2 of the contract amount, which allows us to go ahead and order and dedicate the materials necessary to complete your project.
We do have a design consultation fee if you're not quite yet comfortable, or want to continue to talk it over amongst yourselves, etc. That covers our time, education, and expertise for this visit that was set aside just for you. This is why Step 1 is so important to make sure we're all on the same page before Step 2.
Step 3. You are put on the construction schedule for next in line. And we don't just leave you hanging until then! We send out communication emails to let you know what comes next, and keep you informed along the way.
That's really all there is to it. It's as easy as 1-2-3 to elevate your outdoor living experience! Can we get started on yours?
The beauty and joy of a pond makes summer far more memorable and relaxing! Summer is still in full swing here in Phoenix (as demonstrated by the 100+ degree days) and every moment with your finned friends and pond plants should be thoroughly relished. To fully enjoy yourself while Living the Aquascape Lifestyle®, you want to make sure your water feature is healthy and functioning optimally throughout the remainder of the warmer months. When water temperature remains above 80 degrees, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
Health of Your Pond Fish
Keep an eye on your fish. Do your finned friends appear stressed out, gasping for air close to the water’s surface or especially close to a fountain or waterfall? Warm water has a low capacity for holding oxygen, while cooler water can hold very large amounts of oxygen.
Warm pond water and increased fish activity go hand and hand, and that increased activity also means your fish require more oxygen when less oxygen is available, thus creating a vicious cycle. Stressed fish often begin to develop diseases, and soon enough you’ll have a domino effect.
If you haven’t already done so, add oxygen to your pond by placing an aerator in your pond. You can also install a fountain with a pump, or even a simple spitter, if your pond doesn’t have a waterfall or stream -- and even if it does, this adds more interest in addition to more oxygen. Make sure all areas of the pond are skimmed and the water is being circulated -- keep those streams and waterways clear and flowing. And keep in mind that waterfalls, streams, and even fountains play a huge part in the oxygenation of the water in your pond.
Beat the Heat
There are some preventative measures you can take in order to keep your pond from turning into a warm, unhealthy mess at the end of summer. It all starts with a well-designed water feature. Depth of water, plant coverage, shade, and circulation should all be considered when designing and building a pond. A minimum depth of two feet is suggested; the bottom of the pond will remain cooler.
You’ll also want to stock your pond with a lot of plants to provide shade for the fish. A good rule of thumb is to provide plant coverage of approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the pond’s surface area. It’s not too late to add plants to your pond.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of pond design is circulation. Hopefully your biological filter and mechanical filter are placed across the pond from each other, so that your pond receives optimal circulation. If not, consider adding a fountain or spitter for additional circulation and to create movement in stagnant areas.
Additional Late Summer Pond Tips
During the final months of summer, you can use these tips to help keep your pond performing optimally:
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We’ve heard a variety of reasons why people might not want a pond, and most of them happen to be common pond myths that simply are not true. Rather than a maintenance nightmare, a properly designed and installed pond provides more beauty and relaxation than any other outdoor home improvement element. Flowers don’t create soothing sounds, and patios don’t help reduce stress and blood pressure. So, if you’re apprehensive about owning a pond, read through the most common pond myths and rest assured that Living the Aquascape Lifestyle® is a true pleasure you don’t want to miss!
1: Ponds are breeding grounds for mosquitoes
Mosquitoes breed in still, standing water. A well-designed pond has lots of water movement. In fact, we recommend turning the water over once every hour. Also, ponds support fish, frogs, toads, and other wildlife that are natural predators of mosquitoes. Did you know that a dragonfly (a pond-loving creature, for sure!) actually eats hundreds of mosquitoes each day?
2: Maintaining a pond is constant work
A properly installed ecosystem pond takes less work than the expanse of grass it replaces. A balance of five key factors creates the basis for a truly low-maintenance pond, including filtration, circulation, plants, fish, and rocks and gravel. Will you need to perform a bit of maintenance from time to time? Of course, but you’ll spend less time maintaining a healthy pond than you will a mowing, fertilizing, and watering the lawn. And how much fun is it to watch that grass grow?
3: Ponds need daily water testing and corrective treatment
If your pond isn’t chemically-dependent, there’s nothing to test! Rivers, lakes, and oceans aren’t tested and plenty of wildlife thrive in their waters. Stick to a philosophy of a balanced pond with minimal maintenance and your water should remain healthy throughout the year. Granted, there might be outside forces (such as a big ol' dust storm) that can temporarily alter water chemistry. But as a rule, you won’t need to test your pond water. If you do need some help from time to time, there are natural water treatment products available.
4: You should never have algae in your pond
A proper proportion of algae is considered beneficial and an integral part of a healthy ecosystem. Pristine, over-treated water isn’t natural, nor is it good for your fish who enjoy snacking on algae that cling to rocks. An abundance of algae has a simple cause – too much sunlight and plenty of nutrient-rich water. That’s why a well-designed pond includes proper filtration to diminish the nutrients that contribute to the growth of algae. In addition, aquatic plants compete for the same food source as algae and can help control its growth.
5: Any contractor or landscaper can install a pond
Building a pond, and building it right, are often two very different things. This is one of the pond myths that can prove costly. A good landscaper might be talented with hardscapes and softscapes, but that doesn’t mean they are knowledgeable in the concept, design, or construction that makes a naturally balanced pond function properly. Be sure to hire a trained, certified installer like a Certified Aquascape Contractor. Hiring the landscaper with the cheapest bid often becomes the most expensive option when you realize you need the pond completely renovated when it doesn’t work right.
6: Small ponds are less work
Actually, the larger the water feature, the easier the maintenance. Aquarium hobbyists know it’s much easier to achieve a healthy, stable tank with more water, not less. The same is true for ponds. Small water features don’t have the flow or capacity necessary for long-term stability. However, regardless of size, a properly designed pond is better able to achieve ecological balance. Ponds become more stable with each passing year as plants, bacteria colonies, and other vital life becomes established. The most often expressed regret is: "I wish I had made it bigger."
7: Predators will eat all the fish
While it’s true there are predators that would like to snack on your fish, you can do things to deter them from visiting your pond. Built-in fish caves are a great option to create a safe retreat for fish to hide from herons, raccoons, etc. Decoys such as a floating alligator or blue heron can also deter predators from your pond, as well as a motion-activated "scarecrow." Some pond owners choose to put netting over their pond to keep predators out. Fishing line can also be crisscrossed over the pond to keep herons from wading in the waters. And some people simply choose to stock their pond with cheap feeder goldfish and enjoy the birds.
8: To keep fish, ponds need to be deep
Pond fish, including koi, go dormant in ponds just two feet deep through winters as cold as Minnesota’s bone-chilling temperatures. A small circulating in-pond pump and pond de-Icer are all you need to keep a hole in the ice for the exchange of gases.
In our Phoenix, Arizona, environment, we deal more with the heat issue. With a pond that circulates 24/7/365 and some plants in and around the pond for shade, fish do just fine! We've been building ponds in Arizona since 2000, and we haven't boiled any Koi yet.
9: Ponds are expensive
Professional installations for a small pond is about the same price you’d pay for a paver patio (but you’ll enjoy the pond so much more!). At the most affordable end of the spectrum, DIY pond kits begin at roughly $1,000, plus another $700 for items that don’t come in the kit such as rock, fish, and plants. If you have a smaller budget, consider an AquaGarden Mini Pond Kit that retails for approximately $200. It comes complete with a waterfall, filter, and waterfall light. All you do is add water, plants, and even a few small fish if you’d like. Lots of our clients start out with a small DIY model, and then come to us when they're ready for an upgrade.
10: Water gardening involves a lot of hard work
This is the last of the common pond myths that we’ll debunk! Well-designed, ecologically balanced ponds need only an occasional treatment of beneficial bacteria or algae inhibitor. In addition, the pond skimmer basket should be checked once a week for debris. A pond cleaning in the winter (in Phoenix; Spring in other parts of the country) might be in order but isn’t always necessary. Maintaining a pond is less time-consuming than pulling weeds and watering annuals and perennials. In fact, you don’t have to water aquatic plants at all!
And, for your convenience, we offer several different pond management programs to help you out!
Trees really naturalize the look of a pond. They help provide shade for the fish and plants, giving them respite from our brutal Phoenix summer sun. They add to the general cooling effect of having a pond or water feature in your yard. They provide areas for native and migratory birds to hang and between drinks and baths and to serenade you with their pretty songs. And they provide shade for you to enjoy sitting next to your pond.
But not all trees are appropriate for next to a water feature! Some have invasive roots that will seek out and destroy your pond. Some drop copious amounts of litter into your pond (which, if you have a skimmer basket isn't fatal, but can be a pain in the butt). Some grow in a manner that will heave your pond or water feature -- and maybe even your patio and walkways. And, no, the plant nursery won't always tell you these things. So, which ones are good, and which ones not so much?
Trees That Work Great Next to a Pond or Water Feature
All trees drop debris. Having a skimmer on your pond is the easier way to deal with that, and you may have to empty it more often during some times of the year. And, frankly, most trees really should be planted 10' or so from the pond's edge to avoid issues. You can absolutely have it closer, and many people do; you may just need to be prepared to deal with a partial rebuild from time to time, depending on the tree's growth.
If you want a tree next to your pond, here are some good choices:
Trees to Avoid Next to a Pond or Water Feature
You'll want to avoid planting any riprian tree within 20' of your pond because they tend to seek water. However, these trees are great in your landscape for attracting native birds to your yard, and tend to discourage the pesty birds like pigeons.
Some examples of trees to avoid within 20' of your pond are:
So, choose wisely, and enjoy having a personal backyard haven to decompress, de-stress, and simply enjoy!
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