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Seeking ideas for pond edges

Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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Well as I mentioned in a few other threads..I'm working on this little "pond" and his year hopefully we'll get more work done on it..

First..it started out in 2002 after our housefire as a place where i said to the contractor..If you remove backfill from our field would you do it overthere where it gets wet in the spring, so I might have me a bit of a pond Dont really worry about the shape or size, just remove your fill and we'll take care of the rest.

Well him being a person with NO asthetics..he didn't worry about the shape or size..but he did kinda half ways dig me a pond. it has a bottom made of clay that runs about 4' deep..so it naturally will HOLD water, but there is no inlet to it at the time I write this..we hope to drop an artesian well someday..but right now spring runoff fills it up and i put NOSQUITO in it to keep the bugs at bay.

OK it is an irregular shape..it has mostly shallow edges and one side N overflows in spring into a very shallow spot where contractor only dug one layer deep..My son got ahold of a backhoe for a short period when it went dry 2 summers ago and dug out a huge hole in the west central side of the pond..he dug and dug and dug and there was nothing but clay..so it is likely this deeper hole will stay "wet" all summer even if we have a drought.

Cattails naturalized in the shallows..which is cool cause they are edible..and i have put in a pond lilly, several water lilies, and some other water plants along one edge.

Where Joel (my son) deposited the "clay" he dug up around the sides there is now clay on top of the ground in piles..the need to be redistributed elsewhere and the bank edges gradeed..basically there are kinda 2 ponds with an island between them and a peninsula that sticks out towar the island on 2 sides..so 2 kinda partially round areas..like a number 8 with the island in the center of the figure 8..and then shallow floodplanes running off to the n and e.

Joel would love to get his hands on a backhoe to enlarge the pond and deepen it more..he would like to double its size..right now it is probably 2 40' or so circles with a 20 to 30 ' center with the tiny island.

I know that in permaculture all the edges make for good planting..however some of the banks of the edges are actually very very dry as the water all drains down into the pond...leaving the bank tops dry clay..not a lot of topsoil left as the topsoil is fill around our house.

this was originally black michigan peat muck on top of like i said about 4 to 6' of clay.

The job now is to design the edges of the pond without a lot of serious digging for this old person..will have my son use the tractor to remove most of the taller clay piles..

I do have a few plants started around the pond, elderberries, barberries, russian olive, some daylillies and iris. I have ordered and have coming blueberries, more elderberries, winterberries, etc. we actually have "better" wetlands in our woods behind the pond..the pond area is quite exposed to wind and to sunshine..where the woods which we also are planning on working on starting this year..has standing water in it..in mucky peaty places..and better shade.

along the EDGES of the woodland we have already put in some nut trees (this is where the walnut famiy went) 1 black walnut, 1 carpathian walnut, and one butternut...the woods contains mostly dying aspen (they die when they get old) and 2 maple and a few small white ash..a couple wild cherry. Here are pond pictures and some of the woodland behind..open field to the S.



Pond this spring when the birdhouse was going up..no leaves..no lawn..just clay and dirt..this photo also shows that spent garden area and the woods to the N..and possibly the fenceline to the W..you can get a sense of how shallow this S area of the pond is now.

This is a photo taken this spring before planting from in front of the "spent" garden area that needs a lot of work..we haven't used it really for garden at all..and the woods to the North..the fencline is to the left..so far some nut trees seedlings have gone in..and 2 paw paw..there is asparagus to the left and a few rhubarb plants and horseradish here but aren't up yet in these pictures..son ran a tiller behind the tractor last fall. We never really used this area as it was several hundred feet from our old house before the fire..new house sits farther North so it makes sense to develop it now.

we have a property line with a fence..west of this entire area that offers another EDGE to both an open previously unused spent garden area..and also to the woodlands..

I have planted a few evergreen babies on the EDGE where the fence is to get a gathering space started on that EDGE..they are still babies. The spent garden has already had several nut trees and some berries planned for it..have a hedge of 6 hazelnuts on the N ..S of the woods edge..have asparagus, rhubarb, horseradish already in and put 2 sweet chestnut on the west and 2 hardy pecan on the se..have plans to put 8 kinds of raspberry plants in this area, have onions planted but plan on multiplying onions to go in, sunchokes and put in more asparagus this spring already. 2 mulberry and 2 paw paw trees as well as several grape vines are in this area..

I would really appreciate any advice that can be given on my developing these areas ..my zone is 4 but can keep a lot of zone 5 plants going..such as my fruit trees, yes peaches do reach harvest here..but the lower colder areas by the pond etc..will be zone 4.

I'll put in a couple pictures..
Brenda Groth
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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i did forget to mention..there are also wild willow and wild alder trees that grow up around the pond and in the field where the wetlands are and there are a few evergreens that we have stuck in to attempt to provide a wildlife corriodor from the woods to the front of our property..seems to have worked as the wildlife do use it.

also in the picture above with no foliage when Joel was putting up the birdhouse you can KINDA see where the taller banks come down to the BACK circle of the pond..most of the other pictures only show the front circle..and just east of the birdhouse pole is the deeper area that Joel dug with the backhoe..probably 4 to 5' deep and about 10 to 15' around

Posts: 299
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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Wow! Sounds like you've got a lot going on already! I'm glad you took advantage of the wet spot and deepened it to make a pond. That seems like a great idea.

If you're interested in expanding the pond I would recommend finding a sharp excavator operator who is actually interested in what you're doing. Imagine...most excavator operators spend their time digging in septic lines or moving earth for basements. There are probably operators out there that would actually be excited by the challenge of digging a pond with really cool shapes & convolutions. Of course you'll probably want to do this during a dry spell and you may still need to pump the deep area out.

We often like to think of edge and diversity below the water as well as above. When you expand the pond consider creating shelves at different depths, say 2-feet, 3.5-feet, 5-feet, and deeper. By doing this you will create habitat for biota that like different depths from cattails at the edge to hiding places for fish in the deep parts. By having shelves going down instead of an upside down cone-shaped pond you will also make the pond easier to get in and out of for people (slick clay on a 45 degree slope is pretty challenging to stand on).

If the pond is at a low point on your land (which I'm guessing it is since it started as a wet spot) you could also have an excavator operator create some gentle earthworks to steer water from the rest of the yard toward the pond. That will help keep it full when you have summer rains. The other important thing is consciously create an overflow point that takes excess water where it will do no harm (or might even help). You want to make sure that the pond doesn't overflow toward lousy places (like your basement).

Elsewhere on this forum I made some recommendations on wetland plants. You can see those recs at https://permies.com/permaculture-forums/1513_0/permaculture/food-forest-and-wetland.

Other than that, you might consider investing in some sort of pumping system so you can take advantage of that water for irrigation during droughty periods.

Other recommendations are a bit tough to make since we can't actually see your property and we don't necessarily have a full grasp of your vision, although it sounds like you want a landscape that is productive, lush, and integrated with the surrounding ecology. I guess my last piece of advice would be to spend some time walking through the permaculture design process.

1. Do a thorough site assessment:

  • [li]Soil Tests[/li]
    [li]Sector Analysis (fire, wind, sun, wildlife pressure, noise, traffic, flood, etc)[/li]
    [li]Topography (as best you can)[/li]
    [li]Human Use patterns[/li]
    [li]Create a base map showing how the land is right now (it doesn't have to be pretty)[/li]

  • 2. Write down a vision

  • [li]What do you want it to look & feel like in 25 years?[/li]
    [li]What will be the key pieces to making it look/feel that way?[/li]
    [li]What needs to happen to get from here to there?[/li]

  • 3. Create a conceptual design

  • [li]Identify what physical elements you will need to accomplish the goals you have laid out (e.g. chicken coop, pond, house, etc.)[/li]
    [li]Make some cut outs and move them around on your map. Play with the relative location and figure out how things will work together best.[/li]

  • 4. Draw up a master plan

  • [li]Draw each element on your map (or a sheet of tracing paper) where you think it makes sense[/li]
    [li]Run it past other folks you know and see what they think[/li]

  • 5. Come up with an implementation plan

  • [li]Which items will you work on first (based on importance, availability of resources, passion, etc.)?[/li]
    [li]Down the road?[/li]

  • The design you come up with may or may not be what you actually end up with (in fact it probably won't because something won't work as well as you thought or some characteristic of the land will show itself or they will build condos next door, etc.). That's okay. Your plan can be flexible. Since you created it you can change it. Simply by creating the plan you will have clearly defined where you want to go and created a roadmap for how to get there. From that you will always know what piece of the puzzle you would like to tackle next.

    Anyway, that's my two cents. As Paul pointed out, I like to spend the time on upfront planning so I have a clear idea of how I want to tackle things. I certainly don't think it will hurt anything to do it this way, so why not give it a try?

    Brenda Groth
    Posts: 4437
    Location: North Central Michigan
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    Dave, it sounds like most of the suggestions that you have made, we have already thought of and done..

    the pond is "shelved"..it is mostly shallow with just one deep area that is about 15 ' around..kinda like a swimming hole..sorta..but no you can walk out as my husband attests when he fell in the other day when the ladder went with him on top trying to put up that tall birdhouse..

    We have a tractor and rented a backhoe and we totally graded all of the proeprty toward the pond so that all the rain fills it instantly..however we also have a drainage ditch that runs through a swamp and underground creek to a river North of our property..I'll toss in a "paint" rough sketch of the property here..our son lives next door and we share a wood boiler..and share the land..the woods continues about 600' north beyond the sketch much of it swamp and underground creek..
    If we expand the pond it will be dug deeper in a few spots but mostly it would expand into the field and floodplane that is there now..already very wet..Joel hopes to do that with a backhoe, he would put the overflow drain into the drainage swale that goes to the river North through the woods..and we have considered sinking an artesian well with a controllable outlet..not only to fill the pond and irrigate but also for emergency water and possibly power supply..but that might have to wait a while..expense wise.
    the pumping system would have to wait until then as we would drain this little pond dry rather quickly using it to irrigate.

    my husband did excavating work about 30 years ago and my son is a natural at it so they will do good when we can afford to rent the extra heavy equipment we don't have.

    you are right about the pond being on a natural low point, however, the land does continue to drain to the North toward the River a few miles away..through an underground creek to an above ground and then a larger creek.

    We have had our soils and water tested here..they do say our water is some of the finest in the state...this land is a bevy of springs and artesians..all around us.

    I do have a long term plan..had one before but the housefire changed all that. That is the main reason for replanting all the fruit and nut trees right away, to get them reestablished and growing quickly. The house and drainfield is raised 4' above the rest of the surroundings but even with the south edge of the property..which all slopes to the North..toward the river..We have planted a windbreak/shelterbelt on the West and a wildlife corriodor on the edges of the property..which the deer and other wildlife use and sleep in our yard..we have wild turkey, pheasants, rabbits, coyote, racoon, possum and black bear as well as a lot of waterfowl and other birds and other small mammels.

    having lived here 38 years with the fire in 2002 most of our land plan was already established many years ago..however..the fire moved the house back 40' from the back of the old house..it was beside the garage..and the new excavating for well, septic, house fill, pond, etc..disrupted our yard to where we had to do a quick replan..then our son moved his house next to our garage..his house is where our intensive raised bed garden system was, the greenhouse was there as were all of our fruit and nut trees..all had to be removed and replanted..you can see by the rough drawing that most of it is all redone already..my brambles and more grapes came today..already have some in..these will finish off my bramble and blueberry additions to the gardens..and i have several plant orders still to arrive that are not listed on the plan yet..

    i have never harvested the alder or willow for basketry, and would like to figure out how to do that this year..as well as the reeds..

    My husband and I have been huge fans of foraging and we are on the hunt first thing in the spring for wild berries, morels, herbs from the field and woods..etc...but I would like to bring more of them onto the property..we do still have some morels..but the land disruption ruined a large amount of their myc. so they have to reestablish..destruction is hard on an ecosystem.

    right now my main thought is establishing the pond edges, and the woods edges as well as managing the woodland and fencerow..I'm at that place in the plan now to where the trees will be established this year..except we may lose a few..and all my brambles berries and perennial food crops should be in the main part of our property..the 600 x 600 woods in the rear is a project we are heading toward..and of course better developing the pond
    Posts: 262
    Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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    I just have to say I'm totally impressed with the map you made on the computer!!!

    I think your pond looks great--it's hard to get a manmade pond like that to look more natural. Wildlife will want to use it, perhaps a small gravel beach(tiny) they could easily stand and drink at without making a muckhole. THe deer use our pond, which is a natural one, but my hub dug it out a bit too.

    Does it have frogs? maybe you can scoop up a couple 5 gallon buckets from another pond to innoculate yours with bugs and tadpoles?
    Brenda Groth
    Posts: 4437
    Location: North Central Michigan
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    thanks, yes it has frogs..it is teeming with tadpoles now..this time of year.
    2 years ago I was looking out the window in the spring..I'm thinking May or June..right after the does have their fawns..and there was a doe out there washing up in the pond..she was lying down in the shallows cleaning herself..i honestly think she had just given birth..and she was rolling around..feet in the air and having a gay old time..

    Deer LIVE in our lawn..they sleep under our Canadian Hemlock trees during the daytime..broad daylight..esp in the winter and early spring and fall..summer they go deeper into the woods.

    I have created a coridor for the wildlife here from the woods to the road..and they carefully cross the road as they have good cover on both sides..so we dont get car accidents..they are pretty smart deer..


    here is a photo taken early this spring before the martin house was UP on the post..just the platform was up..this is taken from our back yard toward the pond..showing the SW edge of the pond..you can see the humps of clay ..tan where it has baked in the sun..the ladder still lays there..as I took this picture right after my husband had fallen into the pond..just over the top of the birdhouse you can see the island that is in the center of the pond..there is about the same size pond NORTH of or to the left of this picture..out of the picture..as it is a figure 8 shape and the island is in the middle of the 8..

    on the far right or S side..we had started to build a little covered platform for the pond as a place to sit..but we are going to remove that..we don't like it there..it is in the direct view of the house..but..we might put a little dock there? haven't decided..but that pile of wood and the 4 posts are coming out.

    the shallow areas are on either side of that platform..on the far side we want to keep open.
    over by the evergreens on the opposite side is another shallow area where you can walk up to the water..but it is also clay there.

    on the south there is no clay..it is topsoil that hasn't ever been messed with.

    when i remove that wood..there might be a nice area to plant something if we don't reuse it as a dock or something..

    i still have 3 more elderberry plants ordered coming..i have some in already.

    I have a huge flock of wild turkeys that comes through the coridor as well and an occasional black bear.

    There are so many open fields and hunters around here, the deer have learned after 38 years that it is safe here and they come here even when the guys are shooting guns or running the yard equipment (tractor or whatever) they aren't really afraid of the tractor..when I get my laptop back I'll post pictures of the deer sleeping in the yard and interacting with the cats..they are so funny.

    I have a small shallow bank area where the deer and small animals and children can walk into the pond..and a rocky area for the turtles and critters..

    Right now my GOAL is to get the edges that will NOT be being changed when the pond is enlarged..to be better graded..right now they have piles of clay on them that was dug out of the pond..and it needs to be moved..flattened..and spread out..as it is just dry hard cement like piles..

    ON the S end of the pond I have elderberries, flags, sib iris, daylillies, pond liliies, waterlilies, arum, cattails, barberry and some other tree that I moved cause it was near neighbors drainfield..but I don't know what it is..

    on the west so far there are 2 baby evergreens, I think spruce, and some daylillies and that is about all except one wild willow..

    on the North are some winterberries and some aspen trees, and a  baby white pine..there is a floodplane that goes off nearly water level here..that floods in the wet season but goes dry..Joel wants to deepen that and attach it to the pond..and on the East there is alder, willow, lilac, autumn olive, japanese pine, hemlock, barberry and a few sterile lythrum (no not the invasive ones) and some filipendula..This area also has the overflow drainage ditch and will also be a small area where Joel hopes to expand between the existing trees..around the ditch are other evergreens, willows and alders.

    the south and the west sides, which are the sides closest to the house are the areas that really I want to work on this year..there is one area that has a hump that is near the island..i want that hump removed flat so we can put a bridge to the island..there is an alder on the island that really should be removed..??

    the island is quite small..

    Joel used a backhoe and dug a huge deep are betwen that hump and the island..it is about 4 to 6 feet deep and about 20 x 30 ' hole..the bridge would go over one edge of the hole..

    from there back the banks are fairly high and somewhat fertile soil..but not wet..

    from there forward toward the south..house side..the banks are medium high to lower..with piles of clay..and the pole for the big martin house..

    I'd like to have the clay scraped off and bild up the soil nutrients there..the pond edges are accessible if the humps are graded off..the hump around the pole is nearly pure clay and will have to remain to keep the pole in the ground..i put in some daylillies there..a year ago..there is also a pine tree there.

    then there is anothe pile of clay between there and barberry bush..if that was graded off the bank there would be about a foot tall and somewhat fertile as there is some topsoil under that clay pile..then the level of the banks falls off to where the land drains in..so nearly water level..most of the already done plantings are in this area..then on the s there is a small area where the banks are about 2' of topsoil..and then it lowers back down to a water level bank where water drains in from our son's yard.

    then back up again where i have some pines and barberry and other plants..a lot of clay there..and then another shallow area..where you can walk down to the water level.

    these are the areas I want to work on..however, I do want to keep the one shallow area open for access to the water on the South.

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