An Earth Pond Maintenance Guide

Keep your farm or garden pond in good condition with these guidelines for maintaining and repairing the inflow, outflow, and basin.


| April/May 1992



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If, indeed, pond culture requires less labor than most counter endeavors, the reason has more to do with the pondkeeper than with the pond itself.


PHOTO: DENNIS BARNES

"Ponds need no such labor and charges as other commodities do." That was how the elder Pliny saw the need of pond maintenance 19 centuries ago, and it's a view that still looks good, especially to stewards of land-based, labor-intensive farming schemes. To many of them, pond culture has all the lure of a forever-standing GONE FISHIN' sign. Yet anyone who's maintained a pond knows the periodic chores: erosion and weed control, spillway repair, cleanup, and, most vexing, plugging leaks. The pondkeeper who neglects them imperils fish, water, pond, and the neighbors downstream. If, indeed, pond maintenance requires less labor than most country endeavors, the reason has more to do with the pondkeeper than with the pond itself—for the cunning pondkeeper works with the seasons, synchronizing chores with the life cycle of the pond and tapping the forces of nature for support.

Pond Repairs

All ponds are divided into three parts: the inflow, the basin, and the outflow. The inflow may be a spring, stream, pipe, watershed runoff, groundwater, or a combination. The basin consists of the pond bowl, adjacent shoreland, and—in the case of an embankment pond—the dam. The outflow may be a natural spillway, a piping system, sluice gate, or a combination of these. In some cases, a dug pond will not have a visible inflow or outlet, but unless it's stagnant, ground water is flowing through. "Sky ponds" and other reservoirs that depend on precipitation have no ground-water inflow.

Inflow brings the water, the basin holds it, and the outflow releases it. When a pond is in good shape, the three elements work together. Elementary stuff to be sure, until something goes wrong.

Pond Inflows

Most ponds depend on a combination of several water sources. When operating properly, a pond will have good water volume and adequate exchange, or overflow, to ensure against stagnation. When the inflow goes awry, a pond will have either too much water or too little, and perhaps siltation due to erosion. The most common problem with inflow is lack of sufficient water to sustain pond level and ensure a healthy exchange. The problem might be simply drought. Or perhaps the pond was built with the option of eventually developing a supplementary water source, if needed. Or it's simply sited incorrectly.

New ponds often take a year or two to seal naturally, so it may be premature to search for leaks until the pond has had a chance to settle. Moreover, it may be difficult to decide if low water is due to inadequate inflow or a leak. Since it's easier to add water than repair a leaky basin, solutions for low water usually begin with an examination of supplementary water potential. Even if the pond does leak, a fresh source of water may compensate for the loss.

Keeping Inflows Clear

Before developing new water sources, it's important to determine if existing inflows are clogged or cut off. Spring flows and small streams often become overgrown with vegetation or clogged with silt. A previously reliable source of water may back up and soak the ground above the pond before reaching the basin. I worked on one pond where a pipe carrying spring flow to the shoreline had been crushed and sealed shut by an excavator during a cleanup job. It was just enough of a loss to slow down the exchange to a point where algae bloomed and covered the pond. A cleanout won't be especially helpful for a pond that's short of water.

carsanmck
7/13/2017 2:02:03 PM

How to kill ants. Here in EasternOnt., Can., the farmers are trying to grow corn for the ethanol. industry and are using atrazine, so they can grow corn every year. Having abandoned companion planting the are killing our bee population. SO i find and move black ants to my garden as pollinators!!!!!!


carsanmck
7/13/2017 2:01:22 PM

How to kill ants. Here in EasternOnt., Can., the farmers are trying to grow corn for the ethanol. industry and are using atrazine, so they can grow corn every year. Having abandoned companion planting the are killing our bee population. SO i find and move black ants to my garden as pollinators!!!!!!






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