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?
Yes, we DO have a Fall season in Phoenix, albeit not very darn long. And there are some things you should and should not do to prepare your pond for the "winter" ahead.
Decaying leaves and foliage produce toxic gases that can harm your fish so you want to remove this debris before they can get saturated and sink to the bottom. If you have a skimmer on your pond, this helps tremendously. If you have any deciduous trees around, our Fall winds can blow them right into your pond. You don’t need to remove every single last leaf, but try to remove the majority. If you have a skimmer, check it weekly.
DO NOT Trim & Thin Your Plants Too Much
It's tempting to get everything "cleaned up" to prepare for winter. This is actually the worst thing you can do for your aquatic plants. We typically don't get any hard frosts in Phoenix; however, we can get a freeze or two. If you've trimmed and thin your aquatic plants too much, they will have no protection, and a frost could kill them. After the last danger of frost has passed (around the end of February), THEN you can go after any dead stuff and reveal the new lush growth getting ready to "spring" forward.
Aside from protecting the plant, if you have any amphibious life in your pond, they need the protection from the cold, too. They'll snuggle down into the heart of the plants and hibernate for the winter.
Use Cold Water-Formulated Bacteria
Add Cold Water Beneficial Bacteria to the pond once the temperature drops below 50 degrees, if you need to use any at all. You may not need it, especially if your pond is mature.
Stop Feeding Your Pond FIsh
Once temperatures drop to 50 degrees at night (remember, pond water more closely follows nighttime temps rather than daytime temps), stop feeding your fish. They need to get ready to hibernate and you’ll want to avoid any metabolic complications. You can feed them Cold Water Fish Food, or give them natural treats like melon, oranges, lettuce, and even Cheerios.
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TIPS FOR A HEALTHY LATE SUMMER POND
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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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WHAT SHOULD I DO ABOUT BEES IN MY POND?
7 TIPS TO KEEP POND WATER CLEAN
TREES NEXT TO A POND
Concern about bees is something that we hear A LOT when it comes to backyard pond management. With the Africanized bees and the Honey bees inter-breeding, there have been a lot of scary incidents on the news. Most of those, however, are due to someone interfering with the bees in some way, whether intentional or not. That being said, it's always a good idea to use some caution when dealing with a potentially dangerous situation. Don't scream or use any loud equipment around a known hive. And always use a professional beekeeper for removals.
Why are the bees in my pond?
Can I make the bees leave my pond?
Most bee hives simply want to be left alone to do their thing. When it comes to bees around a backyard pond, remember that the bees are there to collect water, one drop at a time, to take back to the hive to cool it. And what better water than a living, all-natural backyard pond? Can you blame them for wanting the best they can get?
A bee is programed to do a specific job for the "collective," and no more. Guard bees do their job within 100 feet of the hive, so those are not the ones collecting water from your yard. The bees at your pond are specifically genetically programmed to get water to the hive, post haste, without detour. The only way they sting is in self-defense. And when they sting you, they die, so it's really not their first choice!
If bees are fetching water from your pond, you can talk to them (we think they like it), or even pet them (Paul does, but most people think he's nuts, go figure). But don't scream at them, they don't understand. And never molest them or hold them up -- they have blackbelts in beejitsu! ;-)
If they are collecting from a spot that is inconvenient for you, such as right next to your sitting area, you can discourage this pretty easily. Another bonus of having a ecosystem backyard pond with natural rock & stone! Wait until there are no bees around (typically after dusk). Wash the rocks down in the area to remove the pheromone left behind by the bees to guide others to that particular spot. Then re-arrange the rocks to make it a less attractive landing space. If this doesn't work the first time, try again until you get it right. They will get the hint and find another spot, preferably further away from where you want to sit and enjoy your water feature.
Bees are an integral part of our global ecosystem, and we recommend living in harmony with them whenever possible. In fact, without bees pollinating our food plants, we would have no food. No bees = no people.
However, if you have a hive on your property, or your neighbor's property, have it removed by a professional.
A QUICK VIDEO ABOUT INTERACTING WITH BEES:
Most water gardeners are aware of the importance that good quality water plays in a pond habitat. Not knowing how to get or keep water quality can sometimes prove challenging. Your water may be clear, but your fish might be acting differently, which can signify that something might be a little off in your pond’s water.
With a little education and experience, you’ll become better equipped to solve whatever pond water issues you might have. For starters, follow our 7 tips below to help keep your pond water clean!
1. Maintain a healthy fish population
If you have more than 10” of fish for every 100 gallons of water, your pond is likely over-populated. Excessive fish waste can cause an imbalance in pond water. Consider finding some of them a new home. In the alternative, you can increase the size of your pond, or upgrade your filtration.
2. Don’t over-feed your fish
When you feed fish more than they can eat, the uneaten food is left to decay in the pond. Be careful not to feed your fish more than once per day, and no more than they can eat in 2 to 3 minutes. Choose a quality fish food – preferably one that floats as opposed to sinking to the bottom of the pond if left uneaten.
3. Create a proper balance of plants
At season’s peak, you should have 40% to 60% of the surface area of your pond either covered or shaded by plants. Too many plants can cause oxygen deficiencies at night due to the photosynthetic process, when the plants take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Your fish need the oxygen to survive.
4. Choose the right size pump for your ponD
You should be circulating the entire pond’s water volume a minimum of once every hour. Make sure your pump’s flow isn’t restricted by debris in the skimmer or biological filter, and be careful not to pump water higher than it was intended. Every pump has its flow limitations.
5. Clean debris from pond before it has a chance to decay
Your pond skimmer will remove most of the debris from the surface of your pond, but you can also use a pond net to skim leaves and small sticks before they have a chance to descend to the pond’s bottom where they’ll decay, as well as directly from the bottom of the pond. Decaying debris, combined with fish waste and leftover fish food, can cause ammonia levels to spike in your pond.
Ammonia can be harmful to your fish and should be addressed right away. If you see your fish jumping out of the water, you likely have an ammonia spike which can happen after adding an algae treatment. You can purchase an ammonia test kit at your local pet and aquarium store and if you find the levels are high, simply treat your pond water with Ammonia Neutralizer. Beneficial microbes such as Aquascape Beneficial Bacteria helps keep your pond water healthy and clean for your finned friends.
6. Choose proper filtration for your pond
Just like your pond pump, your pond’s filter system should match the size of your water garden. Most pond filters are based on ideal circumstances, and if you exceed those, your filter becomes less effective. Always up-size your filter so that it can handle more than the capacity of your pond and remember to clean your filter according to instructions.
There are two types of filters in an Aquascape ecosystem pond. A mechanical filter, also known as the skimmer, removes surface debris from your pond water such as leaves and small sticks. The biological filter, or BioFalls filter, is positioned to create the beginning of the waterfall in your pond. This filter uses bacteria to break down pond wastes, converting them into less harmful compounds that can be absorbed as fertilizer by your aquatic plants.
7. Keep your pond AERATED
When pond water exceeds 75º Fahrenheit, it has a difficult time retaining acceptable levels of dissolved oxygen, which is critical for the health of your fish. This is why it’s important to have the surface of your pond shaded by aquatic plants to help keep pond water cool. Fish need oxygen to survive. If you see them at the pond’s surface gasping for air, you might want to add an aerator to help them during times of extreme heat in our Phoenix summers. The Pond Gnome designs their ponds to handle our Sonoran Desert environment right from the get-go.
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