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A Pond Made in the Shade

By Josh Spece

What could be more relaxing than a quiet resting area nestled in a shady spot among lush plantings overlooking a serene pool of water? Not much, but if you’ve ever read anything about ponds you probably wouldn’t even attempt to install a pond under or near large trees. Everyone knows it is a big no-no...or is it?

It is true, trees can be a problem, but with a little extra work and planning they can be limited to nuisance status. Three major things to be taken into account when installing a pond near trees: roots, leaves, and shade.

You need to be careful about the roots, because they could puncture the liner. When you dig the pond be very diligent in removing all the tree roots and other sharp objects from the hole. If you use a high quality liner (45 mil) it is unlikely that the tree roots will grow through it. Chances are you will need to get in the pond periodically for maintenance and as a precautionary measure, it's a good idea to lay a protective underlayment under the liner. Old carpet or many layers of newspaper works great and the price can't be beat! Of course, you can buy pond padding if you prefer.

Falling leaves, sticks, flowers, and seeds can all cause water quality problems. The best way to deal with this is to use a net cover to keep these things out of the water. Leaf nets come in a variety of sizes to fit most any size pond and are fairly cheap. The tricky part will be finding one with small enough holes to keep the smallest debris out. This will depend on what type of trees you have. The net wouldn't have to be a permanent fixture and would only be necesary when the trees are dropping the most debris…probably spring and fall. A dip net or pool skimmer could be used when the cover net is off to scoop out the odd stick or leaf that falls in.

The shade can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it. It might help reduce algae growth, but a properly balanced pond shouldn’t have excessive algae growth to begin with. However, you will be very limited as far as plants that will bloom in shade. Water lilies and lotus are definitely out except as foliage plants. There are plenty of plants that will grow just fine in the shade...they just won't bloom very well. Some plants that do well in shady ponds include:

  • Water Hyacinths (foliage)
  • Water Lettuce
  • Frog-bit
  • Azolla
  • Salvinia
  • Parrot’s Feather
  • Pennywort
  • Water Clover
  • Marsh Marigold (flowers)
  • Water Snowflake (could be used in place of a water lily; will bloom in shade)
  • Umbrella Palm
  • Water Celery
  • Water Forget-Me-Not (flowers)
  • Brooklime
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with other plants!

Don’t let a heavily shaded yard keep you from enjoying a water garden. With a little extra planning and a few preventative measures, you can have a pond made in the shade!

Website by Josh Spece
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