Wednesday, July 29, 2020
To Vineeta Anand, all the creatures that flock to her backyard pond are so familiar they’re like pets to her, with the pond being the common bond.
It’s the center of the ecosystem she’s created in her Alexandria backyard and a feature that’s becoming more common in the area as the definition of a pet is getting as diverse as the population.
“The hummingbirds and Monarch butterflies have brought me so much comfort, I just go out and sit there and watch them,” Anand said. “The foxes come for a visit, birds come down and drink from the pond,” she said.
Inside her pond, there is a school of fish, frogs that aren’t afraid to let out bellows right in front of her, and plants of all sorts that provide shade and oxygen for the water. “The plants are food for the fish,” so she doesn’t add any food, and this keeps the school wild, she said.
Although there’s a big natural role for this feature in the yard, the pond does need a certain level of maintenance to keep everything in balance. There’s a filtration pump and aerator, and a fountain that keeps the water oxygenated, and occasionally everything needs cleaning, including the lily pads. The duckweed that invades from time to time has to be removed, otherwise it will overgrow and fill the pond with plants. “It’s a lot of work,” she said, but with the pandemic outside her yard, the pond and all the creatures that live there are her escape. “I like to think of this as my slice of heaven,” she said.
Lilypons Water Gardens, is a local company that specializes in these ponds, that they describe as a place to nourish the soul. They sell everything from a starter kit to plants, fish, snails, tub liners, waterfalls and filters, with prices that vary depending on the size of the pond and accessories.
Putting in the Pond
As with any home project, an expert can be hired to do it all and the homeowner only needs to write the check, but backyard ponds, there are a batch of do-it-yourself models too. Most consist of a plastic shell to hold the water, or digging a hole and then lining it with plastic to hold the water, and then putting rocks around it to hold the plastic. After that, the sky's the limit to the designs.
HomeBNC, a home beautification and creative organization, even has one that is built around an old truck tire, they call the Recycled Tractor Tire Pond, and it is basically a shallow hole for the tire, then cut the top of the tire off, fill in the middle, line with plastic, and fill with water.
Kirsten Conrad is a Agriculture Natural Resource Extension Agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension in Arlington that works with the Master Gardeners, and she finds many gardeners incorporate a pond too. “It’s a popular thing to do,” she said. Conrad has worked with Anand to keep her backyard habitat a spot for wildlife in busy Alexandria, and likes the pond as well. Although it is a water structure, Conrad finds the mosquitoes don’t seem to be a problem, that’s when natural species take care of the situation. The fish and birds eat the larvae. “Natural organisms take control,” she said, and Anand has the same feeling for nature around her yard.