Regardless of where I placed the tiny goldfish pond, or the bird shower, in my small yard, the water features would not escape the falling pin oak debris. I had to create covers that would allow sunlight and rain to penetrate, keep out the never-ending fall of leaves, acorns, and twigs, yet blend into the surroundings. I hoped the pond cover would keep potential predators away from the fish, and possibly add a touch of decorative whimsy in the yard, too!
Traditional Pond and Pool Covers There are a number of reasons to construct covers over ponds and pools, and I imagine the most important reason is child safety, with public liability and predator protection at the top of the list as well. Our pond is a very small 100-gallon home to eight growing goldfish. I do not have small children, although some little ones do visit on occasion. We have plenty of possible predators that I suspect have tried to "fish" the small pond at night, too! Therefore, I had plenty of reasons to construct a pond cover.
The "bird shower" is a little water fountain fashioned from the inverted top of an old propane tank, painted, and plumbed with the appropriate wires, water tubes, and a small pump. The birds seem to like it as a shower, so that's what we call it. It became a floating collection of yard garbage, as well as a mosquito nursery, and the pump was in constant danger of clogging. A mesh cover would allow the water to flow unrestricted while preventing debris from gathering around the pump. Since the shower is positioned close to the pond, it seemed necessary that their covers be made of similar material.
Inspirational Design Ideas I needed to decide on a design that would be sturdy and look good over the goldfish pond. I checked the Internet for pond covers and found inspiration in the UK on the Creative Pond Covers web site. I was amazed at the utility, as well as beauty, of their handiwork. I decided our pond cover would be a 3-dimensional design, something with curves, spirals, or ovals, and using some of our scrap metals.
The copper tubing is roughly formed to create a frame for the pond cover.
The frame is being adjusted to fit the surface rocks around the pond.
The nearly finished pond cover (with attached mesh to frame) set into place and tested for fit.
The goldfish pond shown from another angle with the decorative cover hard at work deflecting leaves and twigs (fall 2009).
The completed bird shower cover. Now we just need a few rocks to hide the pump, attach the fountain head bell, and turn the water back on.
Recycled Materials I had plenty of materials to consider recycling for use with a pond cover. We always have plenty of scrapped copper tubing, which could be shaped into a frame for the cover. It would be flexible enough to conform to the various levels of rocks surroundings the pond and still be sturdy enough to hold the material for the cover.
I uncoiled a small bit of the copper tubing to make an outline of the pond. Once I had decided on the outline shape, I cut the tubing and found the fittings to connect the ends together. I decided that for decorative purposes, I would add another piece of copper tubing spiraling around the fountainhead.
Bird netting could be stretched over the tubing frame, but I was afraid any predators or a child could easily fall through and collapse the entire cover into the water, so I needed something more rigid. I had an old roll of hardware cloth 3' x 5' with 1/2'" square mesh that I could use and it was definitely rigid enough, and could be formed into a 3D shape.
After I got the copper tubing frame exactly the way I wanted, I laid it over the rolled out hardware cloth. I used a permanent marker to trace the frame's pattern onto the mesh about 1 inch outside the frame form.
I used tin snips to trim away the unwanted sections of the mesh. Beware that the raw edges will cut your hands to shreds. I looked like I had had a fight with a litter of kittens before I was finished.
Forming, Cutting, and Piecing Parts The mesh was very rigid, but could still be bent and forced into a convex shape for a 3-dimensional effect. Gloves are needed for shaping the hardware cloth mesh.
A roll of small gauge, but stiff, wire was used to lace the mesh to the frame every few inches. This is a tedious process with the mesh cutting into the hands. I found that wrapping 8" to 12" long piecess of wire around a dowel or wooden spoon handle into a spring-like coil, could be twisted, or "corkscrewed," through the mesh and around the copper frame (see pictures at right). As long as the springy pieces were attached equally around the frame, the mesh stayed in place nicely.
The Finished Design The finished pond cover is rigid, but flexible enough to be forced under or wedged between the large heavy stones around the perimeter of the small pond, which prevents its blowing away or being accidentally pushed into the water. The cover can quickly be removed to do pond maintenance, or to enjoy a clear view of the water community. The fish can be feed by sprinkling the food right through the screen mesh (hardware cloth). The spirals of copper tubing around the fountainhead bounce a little when the fountain water splashes against them, allowing some motion and light reflection, which I really like. I will be adding small copper faux bug adornments to the mesh as I obtain the materials.
The small fountain cover allows our feathered friends much more "floor space" without them having to jockey for position around the fountain water bell for their daily showers. The leaves and twigs stay away from the pump, and we can apply mosquito Dunks (a brand of chemical pet-safe mosquito control) in a small nylon mesh bag attached to the cover underneath out of sight and away from the pump.
My little cover designs may not be as artistic and grandiose as the Creative Pond Cover's talented displays, but they do serve their intended purposes very well. I am happy with the performance of both so far. I may spray paint them with a flat dark color, deem them yard art, and hang one of them on the side of the shop building when not in use.
I hope you will be inspired to devise your own creative fixes for issues or problems in your yard and garden, using recycled materials and a little imagination!
Caution! If you work very much with recycling scraps that may scratch and cut you, or even have direct contact with the soil, dust, and animal manures while you have unhealed wounds on your skin, you may need to check if your tetanus vaccination is up to date.
According toeMedicineHealth web site, tetanus (Clostridium tetani) is a nasty infectious bacterium that lives in the soil for many years as a spore and can contaminate a fresh or existing wound. The infection can cause uncontrollable and severe muscle spasms strong enough to lock jaws together (another name for tetanus is, "lockjaw"), and block airways to prevent breathing and possible death. A child's vaccination includes prevention from tetanus, but booster shots are recommended every 10 years thereafter.
About Bev Walker
I was a serious organic gardener and composter 30 years ago, then my life took me in a new direction with kids and career. I am just now returning to gardening and learning new techniques, and loving every minute of it. I hope to share my experiences with you from my shady yard.