Are five ponds too many?
This spring the Japanese irises planted in the shallows of the swimming pond (below) seem to have doubled in size. I know that there is limited room in the gravel filled crevices between boulders that edge the pond, and those spaces have been filled for a few years, but the irises are more robust and floriferous this year.
Most years one variety of iris flowers, then fades as another begins to bloom, and the succession results in flowers surrounding the pond for a month. This spring all of the Japanese irises except ‘Lion King’ (Iris ensata ‘Lion King’, below) flowered within days of the others, and then of course they faded in the next week. So, the wonder of having irises blooming for four weeks has been replaced by one marvelous week, and then another week with more scattered flowers from ‘Lion King’.
The irises flowering coincided with several hydrangeas (below) that are perched just above the pond’s waterfall, so for one week in late May into early June there are arguably too many blue flowers bordering the pond. I don’t say that I’d argue that point. The irises and hydrangeas are nearly perfect. I’d prefer if the irises would remain in flower another week or two longer, though any longer and they would be taken for granted and the week or two in the spring would not seem quite so extraordinary.
Several weeks ago there was a minor outbreak of string algae in the pond’s shallow gravel filter area, so I waded through the yellow flag irises and variegated cattails to remove as much as I could by hand. Several large bucket fulls were added to the compost heap, and after removing that algae I added a dose of barley straw extract that will help to control further problems. The fifteen minutes wading in the pond removing the algae was the only maintenance time spent on any of the garden’s five ponds over the past two months.
The koi and goldfish have been feeding enthusiastically and several are getting some size to them, though I don’t feed regularly enough to grow them into the monsters that I’ve seen in other ponds. I haven’t seen any babies yet this spring, but sometimes I don’t notice them until later in the summer when they’ve grown a bit. There’s no practical way to count fish in a fifteen hundred square foot pond, even though the pond’s water is perfectly clear.
The original ten koi dropped down to five shortly after they were introduced to the pond, then two goldfish were transferred to the large pond from a smaller one. Over the past five or six years baby koi and goldfish have increased the pond’s population to sixty or seventy by my best guess, and there could be more. I feed them whenever it occurs to me, though now I leave a bucket of feed by the pond so I feed them somewhat more regularly.
Since I’ve had problems in the past with herons there are no fish in the garden’s four other ponds that are shallower than the swimming pond. I see the herons flying around the neighborhood’s farm ponds occasionally, so I know they’re still around. I’ve no reason to feed them, so I won’t have fish in the smaller ponds until the day when the swimming pond is overpopulated and some must be moved.
I’ve had to trim some of the ferns and the green leafed Japanese maple that arches over the oldest of the ponds, but otherwise there is little labor involved in maintaining the ponds after a quick spring cleaning. The ponds must be covered with netting in late October to keep out leaves from the garden and neighboring forest, but sometimes I’m tardy and have to scoop them out before they foul the water. A few times a year I’ll need to add a bit of water to top off the ponds if evaporation gets ahead of rainfall, but this doesn’t amount to much.
I’ve known people who fool endlessly with their ponds, but if properly constructed and filtered there should be little work for most of the year. Pond manuals suggest regular cleaning of pumps and filters, but I’ve seen no advantage to messing with these things, and I’ve rarely experienced a problem. Pumps run flawlessly for five years or longer without any fiddling on my part, and several of the ponds’ pumps have endured for ten years or more.
There is unquestionably considerable expense in constructing a pond (or five), and five pumps will consume a recognizable sum of electricity if you’re watching your pennies. I prefer to ignore this expense. My enjoyment is far more valuable. Five ponds are not required, and I cannot claim that five are that many times more enjoyable than one, but for this garden five ponds is just right, and I would not be without even one.