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Pond shelves....Why???

Kansasville, WI(Zone 5a)

Besides having a shelf built into your pond for plants, is there any other reason a pond shelf should be dug into a pond?

I am digging a new pond and a landscape company was here and they said the pond would colapse without shelves.
Does anyone know if that is true? With the water inside the pond it is hard to believe. The area is all flat.

I do not want shelves because the herons and raccoons can get into the pond. I am not even going to grow plants around
the pond, just a walk way.

The sides will be straight down.

i have had a pond for 10 years and I have now moved onto a very large lot and want to bring my fish over and into their new
pond but I want to do it right for my fish.

Does anyone know the anwser? I am just confused and winter is coming quick.

Burleson, TX(Zone 8a)

You must have a grade/slope of some sort or the top will 'fall' into the water causing a slope anyways. Water is very strong and the force/pressure on the sides of your 100% vertical walls will be too great therefore causing it to collapse in. Does that make any sense? If you choose to not have a grade of any kind you will need to strongly reinforce the walls of your pond.

Athens, PA


Catz is correct - if the walls are 100% straight up and down, the dirt will cave in before you can get your underlayment and liner up. A slight grade will keep the dirt from caving in. I totally understand what you are saying and no, you don't have to have shelves in your pond. Up and down is safer when dealing with herons and raccoons.

My pond technically does not have shelves, but built in bogs to help filter the water. Thus creating a verticle wall. We have still had problems in the past with herons as the fish are drawn towards the edge of the pond when they see a figure approaching. We have dealt with this by installing a sprayer sensor and knock wood, have not had the heron issues since. That is not to say, we couldn't have issues with hawks or eagles.

It is your pond, build it the way you want it. The only caution I can add is to make sure you build the pond at a high spot in your yard so run off water doesn't become a problem draining into your pond. You will also want to make sure the pond is level, so one side does not appear to be full while the other side is not.... a 2x4 laid across the opening of your pond with a level on top will help with this.

We would love to see your pond construction photos when you get started.


(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

My pond is 4' at the deepest. The walls on top of the liner are large rock, some 3'+ long 30" wide and maybe 24" thick. Really big. There are two layers of those, one atop the other, then somewhat smaller ones on top of them. All needed to keep the walls from collapsing. Being oddly shaped they are not strictly vertical, but about as close as you can come with large rock. then it transitions to 30" and the walls are smaller (thought still quite large) stones to the other end. No ledges. Just little pockets between the stones at the top where I can stuff soft planters with water celery, etc. Make sure your water table is low enough. I have problems as my water table tends to push up the liner at the deep end if not kept down with gravel.

Dallas, OR(Zone 8a)

If your short like makes getting in and out of the pond easier too!

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

it perhaps saved my life last winter. I went through the ice in the deep end and only because I was near the large rocks was I able to scramble out. The ice was thicker going to the shallow end.

Athens, PA

oh, that is scary....

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Served me right for being so stupid as to walk on honeycomb ice. I was just in a hurry to try to break it up so it would melt faster. Best done when not standing on it! :( Sun for two days and the fishies are all happy. I put the prazi in yesterday and I don't see that dark spot on the platinum fish now. So if it was a fungus type thing, maybe the prazi fixed it. No sign of kohaku in three or four days. But we are pumping the meds into the caves as best we can to try to reach where ever he is.

Athens, PA

Well... apparently it worked. If you went through the ice, then it was broken up

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

LOL. And then some. not quite what, or rather, HOW I intended.

Amherst, NY(Zone 6a)

My wife is wishing she had put planting ledges in our pond. In fact, she is planning to re-do part of the pond next week during her vacation to have a bog area. The floating planters are working great, but I from what others here have said I know the Iris and the Lobelia will get large and make them lean over. We'll put the larger bog plants in the new area she is creating, including a rose mallow we bought at the garden center today.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Wish I could build in a bog garden. When they redo the pond next year I will ask. The only problem is that the liner would no accommodate extending the area and I don't want to give up any of the pond area that the fish use.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Crazy, I have a pond with straight sides, but it is built with a framework to hold the liner up so the sides do not collapse. If you kept big pots of iris and other tall vertical plants on the shelf, the 'coons and herons wouldn't be able to use it to fish from.

To be honest, I wish I did have at least one shelf. I have to use cinder blocks standing on end to support my plant pots. Have only once had a raccoon knock over a pot in the water. I haven't lost any fish to the raccoons or birds, as they have lots of place to hide under the water lilies and lotus plants. I also don't feed my fish any floating food so they don't come to the surface, or sides of the pond when they see people or birds.

I wouldn't have a pond without plants, as they keep the water so much healthier for the fish. They filter out fish waste, and oxygenate the water as well. They also reduce evaporation in the summer, and keep the water temp from getting to high by shading. (of course, I'm in Florida so my water gets a lot warmer than yours)

Thumbnail by dyzzypyxxy
(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

What a nice pond. those are iris in the water? I also used cinder blocks in the middle to put some of my water lilies on to get them closer to the surface and the warmth of the sun. Suspect I should put them on the bottom as they grow. the pads have long stems as do the flowers.

Amherst, NY(Zone 6a)

dyzzypyxxy: Beautiful pond.

Oberon46: From what I understand, hardy water lilies like to be as deep as possible. They will send their leaves and flowers to the surface. Ours are on the bottom of our 3 feet plus deep pond, and they love it. Tropical water lilies may like it in more shallow water, but I am not sure about that. I know all types of water lilies prefer very calm water.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Hmmm. That poses a problem as the deeper end of my pond also contains a fairly vigorous waterfall. Not a long drop, just pretty strong. I used to keep the lilies at the mid point about 7 feet from the falls, but the fish seem to like to go to the shallows as long as they have lily pads to hide under.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Thanks Dave & Oberon. Yes, the iris are growing in the water. They are great filter plants and just live off the fish waste in the water. I fertilize the water lilies and lotus, but don't to anything to the iris except yank out about half of them in the spring. I'd be glad to send you some if you want them. Just reimburse me the postage. They are iris pseudacorus with yellow flowers in late spring. They are an invasive species in some states, but as long as they are confined in a pot in a contained water garden, they are just a nice plant. My pond water stays very clear and I hardly ever even need to rinse the filter. I'm sure it's because the iris clean the water so well.

All my water lilies are small tropicals as you might imagine since my pond is only 4ft. x 12ft. So the sooner they warm up in spring, the sooner they start blooming. Tops of the pots are about 4 to 6in. below the surface. Sometimes I do lower them down a few inches in mid-summer if the stems get too long. It 'gathers' the leaves closer together. But my pond stays between 85 and 90deg. all summer pretty much. When the nights start to cool about mid-October I keep the water as warm as I can by adding rainwater from a dark-colored rain barrel that sits in the sun. This way the water lilies bloom through November sometimes.

But it would make sense to me that the hardy ones would be better off in deeper water to keep them from freezing in winter. Although, in Alaska? Wow, that's a real challenging place for any type of garden let alone a water garden! Do you store fish and plants indoors or in a heated garage over winter, Oberon?

Here's a shot of my dwarf lotus 'Baby Doll' with the water lily foliage behind. Unfortunately it doesn't get quite enough sun in the confines of my pond to bloom very well. Otherwise, it's a terrific plant with beautiful leaves.

Thumbnail by dyzzypyxxy
(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

My waterlilies can go anywhere in the summer, and they are hardy. I trim them back to the soil in fall and put them in the bottom of the deep end. The ice can't get to them there. Then in spring I pull them out. the fish stay in the pond all winter. It ices over with 1-2' of ice and I keep several holes open all winter. We also try to circulate the bottom level of water to make sure the oxygen gets around and into the caves in the big rock where they 'sleep' all winter. Once in a great while I will see one sort of lazing there through a hole in the ice, but not often. the sleep around six months a year. Then grow like crazy all summer, such as our summer are in length. One winter I found two in the bottom of my skimmer in which we also put a deicer. Very little gold fish. Then they were gone so assume the swam back under the ice to the deeper end. The water runs ~33F all winter.

I will have to look up your iris to see if they would survive in my winter.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

I checked them out and as long as they aren't hybrids with the X after their name then they are good to -20. Might be worth a try. I would love to have some and would reimburse packaging and postage. I will dmail you my mailing address.

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