This time of year I get a lot of people calling me who want to simplify their pond system and make this a summer of cleaner water and less maintenance. The difficulty with answering the question of “how do I make my pond better or easier” isn’t that a beautiful, natural, easy pond is hard to build. The difficulty is that most of the people calling me have a pond that has some problems in design or execution from the beginning.
Many of the people who are struggling with their ponds don’t really understand that the only “magic” solution to keeping a clean and healthy pond is balance. In nature, everything balances out. We need to treat our ponds the same way if we want clean, easy and beautiful. Balance isn’t an easy concept for most people to grasp. People want to go to the local big box store and buy a quick solution to their problem. They want some new fail-safe gadget or water additive that is going to change their pond into a thing of beauty. The hard to understand fact about ponds is that there is no magic, quick solution. There is mother nature’s way or no way. People are constantly coming up with the next quick fix to give you some hope and to line their pockets with your money, but these new products are all expensive and short-lived. Nature is easy, cheap and forever. You don’t need a new gadget, you need a new outlook, a new theory and a new approach.
Many of the ponds that were built and are still being built are stuck in the filter and skimmer world of gadgetry. Don’t get me wrong, I installed plenty of these ponds before I “saw the light”. The entire “Let’s put a small lined pond and waterfall in our backyard” industry started with the idea of having a box for your pump and a box for your waterfall. Connect the two with rubber and you have a pond or a waterfall or both. This system provides some filtration, some pump protection, pump serviceability, and something to keep the client busy. The system works and has provided an easy to understand starting point for the backyard pond industry. People can understand and see how this system works and they feel like they are accomplishing something by cleaning filters and nets and unclogging pumps.
The problem is that this system of boxes is limited by it’s own design and it becomes a bit tedious after years of cleaning filters and nets. The size and location of the intake for the skimmer box will limit the water intake, your pump choices and how much water your pond can lose before it needs you to fill it. To be able to skim debris, the box has a floating hinged door just like a swimming pool and it skims the surface of the water, effectively filling the net with handfuls or bucketfuls of debris depending on the season. Because it must skim the surface to function it is very susceptible to water height fluctuations and oftentimes a drop of one or two inches of water height in the pond will result in the pump being starved of water which causes that chugging and sucking sound that skimmer box owners know so well. This lack of water will also cause the pump to wear out more quickly. Even if the water level in the pond doesn’t drop, you can still have the same result by having the skimmer net or basket fill so full of leaves and debris that it starves the pump of water. Either way, the skimming stops and the pond needs your attention. By the way, this usually seems to happen when you are headed to work in the morning or maybe all dressed up and headed out for the evening. So then you are faced with the frustrating decision to just let that pump chug along for the next day or so, shut the pond down until you have time to deal with it or you could bite the bullet, get your hands and potentially your clothes covered in a bit of pond yuck while you clean the skimmer basket or filters. This system also helps to filter some of the water and it provides some area for helpful bacteria and enzymes to colonize in the waterfall filter. The waterfall filters are meant to be cleaned once per season and then just let go so that the bacteria and enzymes can grow. The problem here is that many people continually clean these filters assuming that the more they can wash dark junk out of the filters the cleaner the pond will be. To an extent, they are correct, but clean doesn’t mean balanced and often times they are causing more problems from over cleaning. The other limitation of the waterfall boxes is they are only small boxes in comparison to most of the ponds that they are installed on and they are just that, boxes. There are no plants growing in them. So now we have a pond that makes sense to the average homeowner or contractor, creates some solutions, creates some problems and creates more work for the homeowner.
Don’t get me wrong, these box and filter systems started this wonderful revolution and set me on the path to creating fabulous, custom water features of all types. They have their place in history as the ones that started it all and they are great because they can be sold in a simple to understand kit that the average person can purchase to build their own first pond. Many people have gotten into the pond hobby and have had years of enjoyment from their backyard pond thanks to this system. This system also allowed many landscape contractors such as myself to delve into the pond industry. So, overall, the box systems have their place and many, many systems are still working today and many more are being installed every day.
The problem with these systems is that they overcomplicate a very simple thing. They are easy to install, but hard to maintain. Believe me, cleaning filters and baskets is not fun. They also introduce another man-made material into your landscape. Sure, most come with decorative plastic rock lids and we can stack rocks or soil around them to try to hide them, but eventually, over the years, they start to raise up out of the ground or the rocks and soil settle down around them which leaves us staring at an ugly plastic box. They also introduce yet another mechanical item into our lives that we need to fix and maintain. Due to their unnatural nature, they have bulkhead fittings that can loosen or crack, screws that tend to corrode and break down in water, fill valves that get stuck either on or off, silicone seals that fail and leak, skimmer doors that crack and fall off, nets that bend and tear, baskets that chip and crack, lids that amplify the sound of the pump inside and tend to blow off in a strong wind and the boxes themselves tend to lean and tilt over time. All of this maintenance and unnaturalness can be avoided with a bit of extra work and creativity in advance.
After years of struggling with these systems and hearing how much my clients just loved cleaning their filters, I began to realize that the most important elements of my ponds were all of the natural ones. To keep a beautiful, clean pond we need water circulation, plants and fish. The correct balance of these three will solve all of our problems. So, I took some ideas from nature and from how these early systems worked and I created a system that is virtually maintenance free and simple. The initial installation of our Hurth Waterscapes custom wetlands and wet-well intakes is a bit more involved that just digging a box into the ground, but it is so easy and problem free in the future that it is worth any extra effort in the beginning.
The beauty of our system is that there are no moving parts other than the pump.
- No Filters
- No Nets
- No Baskets
- No Doors
- No Silicone
- No Screws
- No Boxes
- No Fill Valves
- No Headaches
If you currently have one of the old box and filter systems, the freedom that you will experience once you own one of our systems will astound you.
Not only is our system very, very easy to maintain, it also has the following advantages:
- Eliminates the need to remove your pump for the winter
- Eliminates any filter cleaning
- Eliminate any frogs or debris stuck in your pump
- Eliminate any ugly boxes in your yard
- Eliminate the need to monitor your water level
- Eliminate the sound of your pump vibrating in that plastic box
- Eliminate any mechanical failures other than the pump itself
- Never use pond chemicals again
- More areas for aquatic plants
- More creative options for your waterfall
- No more leaves starving your pump of water supply
- Just let it run and it takes care of itself
If you are thinking about a new pond or thinking about upgrading your old pond, you really don’t need to talk to anyone else. We’ve got the system that will make you smile. End your worries and work, go for simple and easy. Call me anytime, I’d be happy to come out and talk with you.