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Ponds are an easy addition to gardens. They can be as little as a few gallons or scaled up to be huge features. They can be installed quickly, often using repurposed materials (like old billboard vinyl), and they can be maintained with solar pumps that will keep the water circulating. Some people even take advantage of the water flow and create trickling waterfalls and/or babbling brooks in their backyards, while others are quite happy with small, unassuming ponds tucked away in the plant foliage.
On permaculture plots, it is generally recommended that ponds take up about fifteen percent of the landscape. While permaculturists certainly enjoy the beauty as much as the next gardener, usually there is a method behind their madness. Devoting so much landscape to water has to be useful, or they would not do it. What permaculturists try to do is stack functions (useful contributions) in each garden element they choose. This is why ponds are such a popular feature; they are extremely beneficial.
Ponds Attract Wildlife
Wild animals have to find their own water sources. When we litter the landscape with ponds, they take notice. Some animals — birds, bees, dragonflies — will come just for a drink, while others — newts, frogs, crustaceans — might make it a home.
The wildlife is a pleasure to have around just for the visual stimulation, but they also serve great purpose in the garden. Beneficial insects, like bees and butterflies, will pollinate the garden, and other animals — birds, toads, etc. — will help to control pest populations. In the end, inviting this type of biodiversity into the garden creates a cool little ecosystem.
Ponds Support Aquaculture
One of the great misconceptions about putting a pond in the garden is that it will use up valuable space. To the contrary, bodies of water are potentially much more productive places than land. We just have to take advantage of the fact that they are there.
Lots of plants, edible and otherwise, thrive in wet conditions. Wild rice, watercress, water chestnut, taro, lotus, and kangkong (the fastest growing vegetable) like a wet environment. Plus, there are many other thirsty plants that thrive along the edges of ponds by taking advantage of overflow. We can grow plenty of plants in and around our ponds.
Ponds Reflect Sunlight
When we stop to think a little a bit about potential functions in our garden, we realize that different elements sometimes do things we never considered. Water is reflective, so when sunlight shimmers down on it, that light spreads around. When we are growing plants that dig the sunshine, this could be a useful thing.
Whether we are simply watching the light dance around atop the pond surface (a pleasurable thing in itself) or working to get more out of the light, ponds that get sunshine can provide additional value. They could help plants get a little extra photosynthesizing done, or they could be used to bounce a little extra sunshine into a window for natural lighting.
Ponds Moderate Temperatures
While most of us think of outdoor water as something cold, something that requires dipping a toe in before entering, in the grander scheme of things, water moderates temperature. While air can change temperatures much more rapidly, water is a thermal mass and adjusts slowly, which is why it can be freezing outside but ponds are not iced over.
In our gardens, this can have a somewhat profound effect in that it can extend growing seasons. Plants around the pond will benefit from the fact that it is radiating warmth, especially at night. The sun heats it up in the day, and at night, it is slower to get cold. A pond in a glasshouse can be very useful in this respect.
Ponds Store Water
For permaculturists, water is a crucial component to all we do. Life of all sorts needs water to survive, and with our water sources becoming more and more questionable and droughts more common, it only makes sense to move towards supplying some of our own water. This might not be drinking water, but it can be used for irrigation in the garden.
If possible, ponds can be positioned on higher parts of a property so that they can gravity-feed water down to parched gardens. Ponds can also be used to catch the overflow from rain-harvesting barrels, and the ponds themselves can feed swales that soak water into the landscape to feed trees. The more we can play with providing our own water, especially rain, the better off the garden will be.
Of course, for most folks, none of these ideas necessarily factor into putting a pond out in the garden. The simple truth of it is that water features are beautiful. They are great to look at, soothing to listen to, and, with the right plants, even pleasant to smell. Without a doubt, the sheer pleasure of being around water is yet another reason to install a pond.
Lead Image Source: Heather Katsoulis / Flickr