Backyard ponds have become an exciting landscaping trend! Most homeowners want a pond to add ambiance to their yard or to simply enhance their outdoor living space. Their goals range from fish collecting to plant collecting to simply wanting to enjoy the sight and sound of water. Ponds create a respite from the techno-crazy world and a haven for prized Koi and local wildlife. Yet few realize the countless environmental benefits of installing an ecosystem pond or water feature.
According to the National Gardening Association’s 2008 Environmental Lawn and Garden Survey, 9 out of 10 households believe it’s important to maintain their landscape in a way that benefits the environment. However, only about half of those are knowledgeable about how to maintain lawns and gardens in an environmentally-friendly way. Lots of homeowners hire a service to care for their landscape, and as long as it looks good, they don't really pay attention to what chemicals are being used, etc. Those that maintain their own, tend to run to the big-box store, buy chemicals, don't really read the instructions, and use way more than what is truly necessary. Many people don’t realize that by replacing some (or all) of their lawn with a pond or water feature, they can conserve water and energy, save money, and support the environment – not to mention reduce personal stress.
Lawns use A LOT of water
According to the University of Arizona, the average 15'x15' bermudagrass lawn uses over 5,000 gallons of water per year. A typical residential lawn sprinkler system broadcasts about 10–18 gallons per minute, per valve or zone. By the way, broadcasting water like that increases evaporation and the lawn doesn’t really receive as much water as is being broadcast.
So, if a lawn has two zones and runs for 15 minutes each three times per week, the water consumption would range between 4,500 and 7,560 gallons per month. In Phoenix, that would equate to about $175 to $275 per month on your water bill. Yikes!
PONDS USE LESS WATER THAN A LAWN
Evaporation on a pond is the same as on a swimming pool: 1” per day per square footage of surface area during the hottest, driest months of the year (typically mid-May through mid-June). During the rest of the year, the evaporation is negligible. AND you’re not adding water during monsoon storms and general rain days. Unless you have one of those expensive timers that detects the moisture in the air and doesn’t water when it’s raining, your lawn gets watered no matter what. A pond will have an autofill device that only adds water when it’s needed.
Lawns GENERALLY require more maintenance than ponds
Maintaining a lush lawn obviously requires regular watering, as pointed out above. But there’s also a LOT more that goes into maintaining a nice-looking lawn, right? You also have to fertilize it. When not done properly, runoff of excess fertilizer causes groundwater pollution. The EPA estimates that only 35 percent of lawn fertilizers applied ever reach the grass plant – the remainder ends up in our air or seeps into our water supply. During a typical year in neighborhoods across the country, over 102 million pounds of toxic pesticides are reportedly applied in pursuit of that perfect lawn and garden, says the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns. Is your “little patch of estate” worth that?
You have to mow and edge it, enslaving the average man (or woman) for at least half a day on any given weekend. Aside from the time involved, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns each weekend, using 800 million gallons of gas per year, AND producing tons of air pollutants, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Garden equipment engines emit high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides, producing up to 5% of the nation’s air pollution (and a good deal more in metropolitan areas). A traditional gas-powered lawn mower produces as much air pollution as 43 new cars, each being driven 12,000 miles. Lastly, more than 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year refueling lawn and garden equipment. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the amount of oil that was spilled by the Exxon Valdez in the Gulf of Alaska. And this all adds to groundwater contamination and smog, the EPA reports.
And then there's the noise pollution. The sounds of lawn mowers and edgers are NOT soothing. They are an irritant to anyone within range.
PONDS ADD TO THE AMBIENCE AND REDUCE STRESS
Ponds, however, reduce the need for lawn pesticides and fertilizers. They require about 10 minutes of maintenance per week, and pay you back with hours of enjoyment. And they certainly don’t require any gas-powered equipment. As an added benefit, the debris and sludge collected by your pond filter can be used as a nutrient-rich fertilizer for your lawn, garden, and/or trees.
And as to sound, who wouldn't rather listen to a waterfall or babbling brook rather than mowers & blowers?
Now, if you have a bunch of kids that need a football or soccer field to play on, then by all means, plant a lawn! Or you could make use of a nearby park and let the City deal with the time and cost of the maintenance. But if you’re looking for a low water use, low maintenance, super enjoyable, and entertaining landscape option, you might want to consider an ecosystem pond or water feature.
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Yes, we have raccoons in Phoenix, AZ! Arizona's backyard ponds serve as tranquil havens, providing homeowners with a slice of nature within their property. However, maintaining these water features comes with its challenges, especially when raccoons decide to make your pond their nightly playground. Raccoons can wreak havoc on ponds, causing damage to aquatic plant life and disrupting the aesthetics of your backyard paradise. In this blog, we'll explore effective strategies to defend your Arizona backyard pond from raccoon intruders, while preserving the harmonious coexistence between your water feature and local wildlife.
Understanding the Threat
Raccoons are intelligent and resourceful creatures, known for their curiosity and dexterity (some people call them cats with hands). When they discover a pond, they view it as a potential food source and an opportunity for play. The potential damage caused by raccoons includes uprooting plants, disturbing the pond substrate, and even predation on fish and other aquatic life. They can be quite destructive, especially if your pond is hosting an entire gaze of raccoons (yes, you read that right: a group of raccoons is referred to as a “gaze”). Now you know.
Implementing RACCOON Defense Strategies
The most effective direct barrier for raccoons is an electric barrier fence. Ranch supply stores, like Tractor Supply, sell very affordable electric barrier fencing options. The obvious drawback is that this type of fencing will also limit your pet’s ability to access the pond. Since raccoons are nocturnal predators, the answer to that issue is to put a timer on the fencing transformer so that it is only active between bedtime and dawn. And then remember the times when you can let your dog out without mishap.
You could install motion-activated sprinklers or lights (sometimes called “Scarecrows”). Raccoons are nocturnal, and sudden bursts of water, light, or sound can startle and deter them. These devices are an effective way to discourage raccoons from approaching your pond. If you opt for water, be sure to deactivate it before you go out, or you’re gonna get an unexpected shower. The funniest noise option story I’ve heard is using a motion-activated power source to activate an electric drill with a bent bit inside of an old metal mailbox. The racket will scare the hair off the raccoon and if it happens to wake you that makes for a good chuckle before you fall back to sleep and dream about your koi greeting you from their safe haven in the morning!
Place floating objects like large plastic balls or inflated pool toys in your pond. Raccoons are less likely to enter water where these objects are present, as they can be unpredictable and uncomfortable for the animals.
Use predator decoys or scents. Strategically place decoys of natural predators, like owls or hawks, around the pond. Additionally, you can use predator urine or scents to create the illusion of danger, making raccoons think twice before approaching.
An actual patrol dog is another obvious choice.
Secure Feeding Practices
Refrain from feeding other local wildlife near the pond, as this may attract raccoons looking for an easy meal. Remove any potential food sources, such as fallen fruit or pet food, that might entice them onto your property.
Strategic Landscaping and Regular Maintenance
Keep surrounding vegetation trimmed to eliminate potential hiding spots for raccoons. This also ensures clear lines of sight, making your pond less appealing as a shelter.
Professional Pest Management
If you have an ongoing raccoon issue, you can contact a pest control company properly licensed to capture and relocate these critters. One good choice would be Arizona Wildlife Control.
Defending your Arizona backyard pond against raccoons requires a combination of preventive measures and thoughtful landscaping. By implementing physical barriers, motion-activated devices, floating deterrents, and/or natural deterrents, and maintaining secure feeding practices, you can coexist peacefully with local wildlife while preserving the beauty of your pond. With these strategies in place, you can enjoy the serenity of your backyard oasis without the fear of raccoon disturbances.
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Also known as oxygenators, submerged pond plants live entirely underwater – well, almost. They do flower and the flowers will rise to the surface of the pond for pollination. However, most of these flowers are insignificant and don’t constitute a compelling reason to purchase the plants. Submerged pond plants act as a wonderful natural filter in your pond, consuming excess nutrients. Here are some great reasons why you need submerged plants in your pond.
For the most part, submerged plants take their nutrients directly from the water, which means they compete with algae for their dinner. Algae is nothing more than a single-celled, green aquatic plant (the first weed in the garden, we like to say). Being bigger, more voracious, and better-looking than algae, submerged pond plants usually end up with most of the food, thereby starving the algae out (like a healthy vegetable garden or a healthy lawn). So, if algae control is at the top of your list for maintaining your pond, you’ll want to add a few oxygenators to the water garden.
Another great function that submerged aquatic plants serves is providing areas for fish to spawn and baby fish (fry) to hide.
Purchasing (or adopting) and Planting
When purchasing submerged plants, you’ll find they are usually sold in bunches of stem cuttings and are available weighted or unweighted. Weighted bunches have a weight tied to the bunch that helps keep the plant in place at the bottom of the pond. If you’re unable to find weighted plants, simply tuck their ends under a rock to keep them from traveling and floating into your skimmer (or being plucked up by your Koi).
Weighted bunches can be tossed into your pond. Unweighted plants can be planted in an aquatic plant pot with gravel, sand, or potting media. If you have a rock substrate, you can easily plant them directly into the pond. Most submerged pond plants prefer water that is 24” to 36” deep, except for hornwort which floats near the surface of the water.
Adopting pond plants from other people’s ponds carries a few caveats, and we have a separate blog on that subject.
Types of Submerged Pond Plants
Just like with marginals and waterlilies, some pond owners have their favorite submerged plants. Here are four of the more popular varieties that are all native to North America.
Anacharis – Egeria densa
Anacharis is the most popular of the submerged plants. It grows rooted in pond substrate or potted in sand or pond plant media. It has tiny white flowers that develop on the surface of the water in the summer. Each stem has short, thin leaves whorled around it, like a bottle brush, and can grow up to six feet in length. Hardy in Zones 5-11.
Hornwort – Ceratophyllum demersum
Hornwort grows as a dense, rootless mass that floats below the surface of the pond. It has very small white flowers in the summer that often look like pollen floating on the surface. Keep these wanderers in place by weighting them with a rock. Hardy in Zones 5-11.
Cabomba – Cabomba caroliniana
Cabomba lays completely flat when growing out of the water but produces a beautiful fan when submerged under water. The tops of the finely cut leaves are dark green and the underside is dark red. Cabomba bears small white flowers in summer. The fronds of cabomba are softer than hornwort, and therefore, more agreeable to pond fish. Hardy in Zones 5-11.
Eel Grass – Vallisneria americana
Eel grass has long, eel-like leaves that grow from a rooted runner planted in the pond substrate or in a pot with pond plant media. It grows 24 to 36 inches long and forms a thick mat across the bottom of the pond. There are many varieties of eel grass, each with different growing habits such as a corkscrew form and some that have red foliage. Hardy in Zones 4-11.
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There's something truly captivating about a beautiful pond that draws us into its tranquil embrace. Whether nestled in a garden or gracing a grand estate, these shimmering water bodies have an inherent allure that seems to enchant us effortlessly. But have you ever wondered what creates this magical ambiance? Delving into the world of ponds, we discover that the secret lies in the art of design and the delicate balance of an ecosystem. Join us on a journey to unravel the mystique of a stunning pond, guided by the expertise and insights shared by The Pond Gnome, a premier Arizona resource for all things aquatic.
The Art of Pond Design
The Pond Gnome emphasizes that the magic of a beautiful pond originates from a well-thought-out design. Just like an artist's canvas, every pond presents an opportunity to create a unique masterpiece. From the shape and size to the positioning and materials used, every element plays a vital role in sculpting the final outcome.
The shape of the pond is crucial, with curves to mimic the organic flow of nature. A naturalistic design allows for a more harmonious integration with the surrounding environment, enabling the pond to blend seamlessly into its surroundings.
Elements of a Balanced Ecosystem
A visually stunning pond extends beyond aesthetics; it nurtures a thriving ecosystem supporting diverse aquatic life. The Pond Gnome highlights the significance of establishing a balanced ecosystem, ensuring the longevity and health of the pond's inhabitants.
Water quality stands as the cornerstone of a thriving ecosystem. Proper filtration systems, such as biological and mechanical filters, are employed to achieve this. These mechanisms, together with natural water treatments, work together to eliminate debris, excess nutrients, and harmful substances, resulting in crystal-clear water.
Aquatic plants are another vital component. They provide oxygen, compete with algae for nutrients, and offer shelter for fish and other aquatic organisms. By selecting a mix of floating, submerged, and marginal plants, the pond gains a harmonious balance of oxygenation and visual appeal.
The Role of Fish and Wildlife
The inclusion of fish in a pond adds a captivating dimension and completes the overall ecosystem. Koi and goldfish are popular choices due to their vibrant colors and graceful movements. Fish contribute to the ecological balance by consuming algae and insect larvae, thus reducing the risk of imbalances within the pond.
Additionally, attracting and supporting wildlife in and around the pond further enriches the ecosystem, not to mention establishing integrated pest management. Dragonflies, frogs, turtles, and birds create a dynamic environment, adding life and intrigue to the pond. Many creatures attracted to a pond also contribute to maintaining a balanced insect population, fostering a natural harmony within the ecosystem.
Maintenance and Care
To maintain the enchantment of a beautiful pond, regular maintenance and care are essential. The Pond Gnome advises routine tasks such as removing excess debris, checking and cleaning filters, and ensuring proper water levels. Careful monitoring of water quality parameters, such as ammonia content, is vital to prevent imbalances that could harm the ecosystem.
A beautiful pond is not merely a visual delight but a testament to the symbiotic relationship between design and ecosystem. The Pond Gnome's expertise reveals that every aspect, from the initial design to the nurturing of a balanced ecosystem, contributes to the allure and longevity of a stunning water feature. By appreciating the magic that arises from a good design and ecosystem balance, we gain a deeper understanding and admiration for the artistry of ponds. So, let the beauty of a well-crafted pond inspire you to have The Pond Gnome create your own aquatic masterpiece, merging art and nature in perfect harmony.
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In the ever-evolving landscape of home improvement and renovation projects, hiring the right contractor is a crucial decision. However, the current economic climate has brought about significant changes in the way contractors operate. From pricing structures to initial interactions, contractors have adapted their approaches to meet the demands of a shifting marketplace and utilize advancing technology. In this blog post, we will explore the key changes in hiring a contractor, including the shift towards charging for estimates, requesting photos, and seeking a budget from clients.
Traditionally, contractors would provide “free estimates” to potential clients, often based on a preliminary on-site inspection of the project. This involved saying goodbye to their family, leaving their home, and driving to someone else’s home, typically in the evening or on the weekend when the homeowner was readily available (in addition to the contractor's already full work schedule). On the client’s end, this involved setting the appointment for when they can be home or take time off work, making sure they are actually home during the timeframe that the contractor said they would be arriving, and waiting around for the contractor to arrive – or maybe not show up at all, creating a frustrating, time-consuming process.
We all know that nothing in life is free. The contractor’s time and gas money expended on these “free” estimates would simply be built into their pricing for all of the people who actually hired them. With rising costs of labor, materials, fuel, and operational expenses, experienced contractors have now started charging for on-site estimates. This change helps them cover the time and resources involved in accurately assessing the project's requirements.
While it may initially seem unfamiliar, paying a reasonable fee for an experienced contractor to provide a comprehensive and well-informed estimate can save clients from unexpected costs and ensure a more precise project evaluation. It also creates a contractor-client relationship right from the start so that the contractor views each prospect as an existing client and not a “suspect” who might just be gathering the traditional three estimates or simply picking their brains.
A good place for homeowners to research what their project may cost is on contractors' websites. If a contractor doesn't have pricing on their website, you might want to keep searching. This harkens back to building a transparent relationship between contractor and client.
With advancements in technology, contractors are increasingly asking clients to provide photos or videos of the project area, or any existing water feature if renovation is the goal, before initiating the on-site process. This allows them to assess the scope of work more effectively without physically visiting the site initially. Photos provide contractors with essential details, enabling them to identify potential challenges like access issues, determine the necessary equipment, and evaluate project feasibility. It streamlines the estimation process, saving time for both parties involved. It also increases the likelihood that the client will find a contractor who is truly a good fit for their project, taking some of the guesswork out of the process.
Seeking a Client Budget
In the current economic climate, where costs can fluctuate rapidly, contractors have started requesting a budget from clients upfront. By understanding the financial limitations and expectations of clients, contractors can tailor their recommendations and proposals accordingly, again saving time for both parties. This collaborative approach fosters a transparent working relationship and ensures that the proposed scope of work aligns with the client's financial parameters. Contractors can offer alternative options or suggest cost-saving measures to optimize the project within the specified budget.
Importance of Detailed Contracts
As the economic climate becomes more uncertain, both contractors and clients recognize the need for clear and comprehensive contracts. Contractors are placing increased emphasis on developing detailed agreements that outline project timelines, payment schedules, change order policies, and dispute resolution mechanisms. This approach ensures that both parties are protected from potential misunderstandings or disagreements throughout the project duration.
The insertion of an expiration clause is not unheard of these days, either. This clause is becoming more common as contractors deal with surprise price changes while waiting for the client to be ready for them to start their work. This clause simply says that if the project start date is delayed beyond a certain date, the project may need to be re-bid. Most of the time, this doesn’t come into play, but protects the contractor’s bottom line so that they are able to make a fair profit, which in turn enables them to continue to be in business to provide service after the sale.
The hiring process for contractors has undergone notable changes in response to the current economic climate. These changes reflect the need for contractors to adapt their pricing structures, improve efficiency, and foster better communication with clients. While adjustments such as charging for estimates, requesting photos, and seeking a budget may initially feel unfamiliar, they ultimately benefit both contractors and clients by improving project accuracy, managing expectations, and enhancing transparency.
As clients navigate the process of hiring contractors, it is important to recognize that these changes are driven by a desire to provide better service and deliver successful outcomes. Open and clear communication, along with a shared understanding of the project scope and budget, will help establish a strong working relationship between contractors and clients. By embracing these changes, homeowners can confidently embark on their renovation projects while contractors can ensure that they deliver high-quality results in a cost-effective manner.
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