Another winter has come and gone, which means it's time for homeowners to venture outside and get the yard in shape. Even folks who live in warm climates see spring as the time to spruce up their outdoor decor. Having a home surrounded by a landscape full of thriving plants seems to breathe life into the entire property -- inside and out.
To give your yard a new look, you can try adding a new tree, planting different flowers for a new color scheme or even adding a stone walkway. If you really want to make a splash this spring -- and for many years to come -- think big and build a pond that will add a whole new dimension to your yard. It's a concept that has long been associated with Japan but has caught on in the United States and continues to grow in popularity.
As it is with any other large project, it's essential to consider the options carefully before shovel meets dirt. The most important decision will be where to put the pond. Once it's in, moving it will be next to impossible, so it's worth taking the time to get the location right. While scanning the yard for a potential place to put your pond, you may be tempted to settle for a little-used plot that could use some action.
"Oftentimes they'll pick a corner in the back of the yard that they really want to improve upon," says Eric Triplett, owner of The Pond Diggers, a pond construction company in Redlands, Calif. "But putting such a major piece in that corner is really not the best place. You want to get the most impact from that feature, because it can really change your lifestyle."
In fact, when helping a client determine the pond's placement, Triplett starts from inside the house. That way, he can get a feel for the entire property to make sure the pond can be seen and heard from as many vantage points as possible. Right next to a patio or right off the family room can work well because that's where families tend to spend a lot of their time, allowing them to enjoy the sights and sounds that a pond provides.
Once the perfect place has been found, the pond's shape and size will be determined by how much room is available. How you intend to use the pond will help you decide how deep to dig. A water garden without any fish can be 18 to 24 inches deep. Forgoing fish makes sense for people who are away for long periods of time, have limited budgets or want low-maintenance ponds. But people who want to stock their ponds with koi -- and most people do -- need depths of at least 36 inches. The extra depth not only gives the fish extra living space but also makes it harder for birds to come along and help themselves to a nice lunch.
"If you have an 18-inch pond, your fish will be prime pickings for these birds," Triplett says.
Features you add to the pond can also help prevent your fish from disappearing. Building caves and underwater rock outcroppings will look good while giving the fish a place to hide from birds, raccoons and other predators.
A properly built dedicated koi pond does not need to have the water changed, but it does require a filtration system to run day and night. Each pond is different, and there are many options, so it's a good idea to consult an expert before deciding on a filtration system. Many filter pumps come with a waterfall, adding a nice touch that can be seen and heard.
"If you have a waterfall filter, now it's a part of the landscape," Triplett says. "You don't see it because it's all disguised."
Do-it-yourself kits are easy to find at pond supply stores or garden centers, and pond construction companies are springing up across the country. Triplett says a base price to have a koi pond professionally built is about $10,000. He considers it money well spent.
"It can really change your lifestyle," he says.