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Kevin Mertz checks out his backyard fish pond. Submitted photo

Home & Garden: A year round pond interesting, serene addition to landscape

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Since we have a water garden, my husband and I were interested in viewing Kevin and Candace Mertz's year round pond here in West Fargo. In our case we have to bring our fish into an aquarium each fall. Kevin is able to leave his fish in the pond all winter.

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Kevin and Candace dug their 9' by 13' pond by hand two years ago. It is two feet deep in order to keep fish alive over winter. They used the excavated soil to form a mound for a waterfall. The pond is lined with a 30 mil thick liner that they purchased locally.

The Mertz's surrounded the pond and created the waterfall with field stones plus some flat slates on the falls. A submersed pump pushes water over the waterfall and through an above ground filter. It runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week all year long. They formed the backside of the waterfall with landscaping blocks.

Kevin stocked the pond with 12 Koi that are 8" to 12" long. He also has algae eating fish (Plecostomus) and a bio ball which contains barley straw to hold down the algae. Water plants add more life to the pond and make it into a water garden. There are two cattails, four water lilies and Parrots feather, a floater.

Daylilies and Coral Bells are spotted here and there among the rock edging. These along with colorful light fixtures and a frog spitter add much interest to the pond. The pond is situated in full sun which is good for all of the plants.

During the summer Kevin cleans the filter every three days early in the season and once a week later. Once the water temperature goes under 50 degrees he quits feeding the fish so that they will go into dormancy. He uses a stock heater to make sure there is a 6-inch hole in the ice for aeration all winter long. The fish are hibernating, but they need oxygen to survive. Kevin disconnects the hose from the filter and lays it under the water to keep it circulating. This has proved successful for two winters.

Ponds and water gardens can be an interesting and serene addition to your backyard. Water is an attraction for people, plants and animals. Frogs usually manage to find mine each summer. The sound of a babbling fountain or waterfall is very relaxing. Fish are friendly and fun to watch, plus they eat mosquito larvae. Plants feed the fish, fish excrete their waste, and aerobic bacteria break down the waste turning it into nutrition that feeds the plants. When this naturally balanced aquatic ecosystem is attained the water will become clear. Plants also control algae by competing with them for the nutrients in the water. Plants add beauty and eventually shade the pond keeping it cool. The ideal is to have the water plants eventually cover 75 percent of the water surface.

Ponds and water gardens come in all sizes, from a half wine barrel to as large as you can dig. For a healthy pond a minimum depth of 18 inches is advised. Most ponds in this area are not year round like Kevin's.

The hard part is creating the pond, but maintenance is not difficult (no weeding). In the fall remove the pump and filter and find a home for your fish and plants. Keep the water in the pond so the sides do not cave in. In the spring empty, clean and refill the pond and reinstall the pump and filter. Keep a net handy to skim the surface debris each day and clean the filter every week or two. Goldfish are easier than Koi to maintain and are cheap. Both are very colorful and swim to you each day expecting to be fed.

There is a multitude of information about building a pond and water gardening. I highly recommend water gardening as a naturalistic escape from the everyday grind that can quiet the mind and soothe the soul.

Mary Jane Breitling writes Home and Garden

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