We've gone to great lengths over the years to take our backyard from eyesore to enjoyable. Though our changes have been a temporary set of upgrades until we eventually do a full scale overhaul in the somewhat distant future, the work we've completed has helped to turn our yard into a bit of an urban sanctuary.
From the work we've done to replace the back gate, to the efforts we've undertaken to enliven the yard with plants, herbs, and vegetables, we've had the pleasure of transforming a forgotten part of our home into an enjoyable and relaxing area, one spring season at a time. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to cover one of our very first backyard projects, a slight bane of my existence, and at the same time, one of the more pleasant aspects of our yard. Yes, I'm talking about our little pond and fountain.
We've shared the awful state of affairs our backyard/garden area was in when we moved into the house in 2003. The ivy was scraggly and unkempt, the planters were useless and overrun, and the whole area lacked any sort of visual nicety. In our eyes, the biggest problem spot was actually the odd planting area near the house. It just looked sloppy and unattractive.
We decided we needed to take care of immediately remove this blight on our yard, and at the same time, wanted to add a water feature of some sort. We kicked off our project by removing the bricks and dirt, and started with a project that any new DIY homeowner can do -- we dug a hole.
Knowing this was going to be a small area, we picked up a 50 gallon molded plastic pond liner from the home store. Our goal was simple: dig a hole, pop in the liner, create a water feature, and be good to go. In reality, it took a bit more effort.
Though we put lots of sweat into digging the hole, we also kept an eye out for any cool things that we might find in the ground. We knew that the land our 1880s Victorian was built on has been used by families for hundreds of years, so there had to be some cool things, right?
Though we didn't find the bags of gold or rare artifacts we've long hoped for, the items we found are now very near and dear to our hearts. We discovered small shards of blue and red transferware, broken pottery, mables, oyster shells, and a few other cool odds and ends.
After admiring our new treasure, we finally completed the big dig and popped the pond liner in the ground.
I didn't want to rush filling the pond if it wasn't totally set, it was very late, and I figured there was no harm in finishing the project a little while later. Famous last thoughts...
Well, a few days turned into nine days, and the weather largely cooperated with my plans with only a few days of drizzle. But one day, seemingly out of nowhere, a massive thunderstorm popped up as I was on my way home from work. Just minutes from arriving home, I received a phone call from Wendy and she said something to the effect of "Are you almost home? The pond is floating around in the backyard and is headed for the gate!" I had no idea what she was talking about. This was crazy, I had put the pond in the ground. How could it be near the back of the yard? Much to my surprise, this is what Wendy was talking about.
This photo was taken after I got home and retrieved the pond from the back corner of the yard near our gate. So much rain had fallen so quickly that the nearly clogged drains couldn't keep up. The backyard had filled with water and the empty pond had been popped out of its home and was making a break for it. It was a learning experience, to say the least.
A few days later, after the rain had caused dirt to nearly fill the hole, we dug the hole again, put the pond in place, and this time, actually filled it with water. Go figure.
We also put in a smaller upper water tray to create a slight waterfall effect. To keep the water circulating, using a little bit of fountain hose and a small 100 gallon per hour pump, we plugged it in and finally had our relaxing water feature.
Wendy and I then went to a local garden store and found some broken slate remnants to place around the edge of the pond. We wanted to disguise the fact it is a plastic insert, and wanted to make the pond and flower bed sort of meld in with the straight lines of the brick patio.
After a bit of tending to the soil and planting area, we had ourselves a little closer to our urban oasis.
We had put in a fair amount of overall effort, but the ugly and neglected part of our yard was starting to see improvement.
Since those early days we've continued to plant the area around the pond and finally feel like its started to really take root. We finished the small area off with a cast iron fence piece we picked up from an antique store.
Since then, a climbing hydrangea, a few iris, and several other flowers have helped to complete the area.
One thing that's been a bit of a pain about this pond is how full of junk it gets. We have so many tall trees around our yard, and it seems like every single one of this makes it their job to drop leaves, helicopters, or flowers into the pond. I end up cleaning it a few times per year, and it's a horrible and extremely smelly process. Ugh!
But we make do with the periodic stink so that we can enjoy the relaxing trickle of water. This was helped recently by the purchase of a small bronze frog fountain, who we lovingly named "Lem." (I gave Wendy a stuffed frog in high school she named "Mel." But now that we have another Mel in our house, we were extremely creative in naming this frog Mel spelled backwards.)
He sits proudly at the edge of the upper section and spits water into the pond. He's really added that consistent trickling sound that is subtle but does a great job to drown out other unpleasant city sounds that may crop up, like neighbors talking on their phone or traffic noises from the street.
In total, our pond probably cost us about $100 for supplies and the pump. It seemed a bit frivolous at the time, but it was one of those aspects of homeownership that Wendy and I both identified with and wanted. Though it's been somewhat difficult to clean from time to time, and we've had an issue or two with the pumps (we've had to buy a replacement twice), we're both really happy with how it all turned out.
I'd love to add fish to our pond, but given how dirty the water tends to get I just don't think it'd be very fair to them. We'll have to keep that dream on the back burner for a future project (or yard).
What do you think? Is our little pond install worth the effort? Have any of you installed a pond in your yard, or do you have plans to some day? If you have one I'd love to hear how you keep your water clean.