Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Puddle to small water garden

EDIT: If you cannot see the images, there is a collection in the Pond 2015 folder. It was brought to my attention that the images were not showing. 

It's hard to believe it's been so many months since a post. I've been intending to write a few things up, but didn't get to it, so I'll start with the puddle to pond project.

Before I ever rode bicycles with any real enthusiasm, I identified as a gardener.  A particular dear friend and I used to maintain a subtle competition focused on who could give the other the best wine-infused garden tour and remember all the Latin monikers.  In fact, I used to aspire to making Lincoln's garden tour.  In any case, this year I'm letting the bug blossom (intended mixed metaphor).

When I moved to the cottage, the extensive shaded back yard and lovely south-facing side yard distracted me from the many many house-buyer-deterring issues I should have perhaps given more consideration.  There was also a small, pre-formed pond liner serving as an optimal mosquito breeding facility near the alley.  Thank goodness for progeny.  Dearest Erik dug it up, cleaned it out, and dug it in again near the patio. I planted around it, tried to defend fish against the racoons, watched birds bathe, and generally enjoyed the life and sound even a modest puddle brings to the garden space.

This year, however, general happiness coupled with an improved post-PhD budget has seen me fully regress into the gardener lifestyle and this year kicked off with a water feature makeover - along with getting those radishes and snap peas in on time.  The photos below begin with the puddle after the plants have been extracted and the site is ready for digging.  The gent is also digging into a favorite project, but don't let all the flash distract you from the classy worn wheel barrow and luscious soil.
Project day

Plants removed. Prepare to dig.

This is going to take a while.
One of the mistakes I've made in past water garden projects is not making the initial shelves deep enough.  This time, I'm taking a lot of care.  I want plenty of room to do something creative so the liner won't be visible along with space for plants.  A critical aspect of the shelf, however, is that it be level all round the pond. For this pond, it was small enough to just use a level with a long board.  If the pond were bigger, I would use a clear length of tubing and fill it with water.  I suppose a laser level might be pretty useful as well.

Is the lower shelf level?

Booyah! First try.

 One of the constraints of this pond was that materials found on the property needed to be recycled. It wasn't going to be one of those... I built this dream pond and it only cost 10K deals.  Personally, I like design constraints.  The tighter the envelope, the more creative you have to be.  The rules here were that the big pile of scrap and miscellany had to be tapped and it couldn't look out of place.  This little house is a hodge-podge.  It's 96 years old and has never met an architect or had a posh redo.  It's been a little house in which families were raised negotiating for a single bath and space in a small kitchen.  That's togetherness.  Because of this, I wanted the pond to have the same feel -- a sort of "this was made with materials at hand" kind of thing.  For this project, that meant odd-shaped bricks, broken concrete, worn 2x12s, and roofing tin.

Next was the liner. Plenty of liner. You never want to be short. After all, you might want to build ANOTHER pond, or marsh garden, or even something for your mother.

Fill it up - the true test of level.

Smooth out wrinkles during the fill. Don't cut until you are
absolutely sure things are as you desire. Even then,
better to hide extra liner than trim if you can.

South side gravel wall complete, but will be redone in a few
days. I couldn't stand the lack of levelness of the bricks.
I wanted it to have a casual feel, but not sloppy.

Rain chain plumbing installed. This too would undergo
modification in subsequent weeks.

Installing the basin which will become both a focal point
and function as a biofilter.

Garage corner needs protection from the splash and the
basin needs a backdrop.

Giving the backdrop shape and then using acid to age the tin.

Putting the tin in position.

Testing the lights.

Red lens on basin light, yellow on the others.

Lyle loves pond water.

First few plants installed on a rainy day.

If you put water in the garden, prepare for many visitors.

The initial algae bloom has cleared and Lyle notices the fish
for the first time. 

I'll post more pics as the plants I've ordered come in and either die or take hold.  The pond is in full shade, so planting is tricky. But, like I said, the tighter the constraints, the better the creativity workout.