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Pond-side Living: The Home-Refuge You Never Knew You Wanted

Just about every one on Long Island has a “can’t wait to do” list for when social distancing is over. Being locked down has been a struggle. Every inch of our properties, inside and out, have been under family microscopes — causing us to make still another list: “must-have improvements” as soon as possible!

This week, Deck and Patio is focusing on a landscape idea for that second list. A landscaping transformation that will be enjoyable for the whole family. 

Imagine for a moment an eco-friendly water garden, steps from your door. A water feature that provides endless hours of entertainment and draws family members outside, together or on their own. An outdoor spot alive with interest and stimulation that is a delight in all seasons.

This home-refuge idea is: Pond-side living.

 

Ponds in Spring

Deck and Patio Pond in Spring

Deck and Patio Pond in Spring

As the weather warms, pond fish come out of winter hibernation. As koi lethargy turns to activity, inactivity in the family is also overcome. Children want to run outside and feed them. Even Fido is thrilled.

With flowers blossoming, trees budding, pond-side in spring is a paradise for families. Not only are pond fish a delight to study but a healthy pond attracts more birds, a few frogs, etc. Backyard strolls are enjoyed with a symphony of birdsongs and croaks — melting any winter-built-up tensions away.

We should add, spring is also a time for pond cleaning and maintenance: the removal of debris, revving up of the filtration system, installing a pump or skimmer, and sometimes changing the water. 

“Having designed and built over 300 ponds on Long Island, Deck and Patio has our share of spring pond maintenance contracts,” says Dave Stockwell. “Spring pond maintenance isn’t all that hard really. Frankly, we specialize in creating low-maintenance ponds. Their ecosystems work naturally with Mother Nature to keep the pond clean and clear. So very often the maintenance is minimal.”

 

Ponds in Summer

Natural Swimming Ponds

Natural Swimming Ponds

If your pond was designed to be a natural swimming pond, summer is a wonderful time for pond-side living. Regular swimming pools are terrific, too, but there’s not much to see when snorkeling in a concrete pool. 

Another pleasure of a natural swimming pond is the lack of chemicals. This means you’ll run across the odd dragonfly flitting across your pond’s surface. You may also spy a salamander at its edge. And frogs (who eat the more undesirable insects around your pond) may parent some tadpoles in any natural pond. That aside, swimming in a well-maintained pristine natural pond is not just possible, it is thrilling. Children and adults alike love it. 

Whether or not it’s a swimming pond, most ponds are designed with waterfalls which add to the peaceful enjoyment while they aerate the water. The sounds of moving water is as good for relaxing as a massage. 

Reading a book next to a water garden or dining al fresco with the family is a wonderful way to spend summer hours.

 

Pond-side Living:

Pond-side Living:

This pond project by Deck and Patio included a new deck with a viewing platform where the family can dine and enjoy the pond and its robust landscaping. After dinner they can walk across a set of large stepping stones to view the pond from another vantage point.

 

Ponds in Fall

Ponds/Water Features

Ponds/Water Features

As long as the weather permits, family pond enjoyment continues well into autumn. The fish continue swimming about and wanting to be fed as long as the water temperature is above 60 degrees. 

The addition of an outdoor fireplace, fire pit or fire table — perhaps at the edge of a patio or deck — makes the whole experience that more relaxing, extending the outdoor season.

And can you imagine a more peaceful spot to watch the trees turn from a bright green to yellow, crimson and orange? 

From spring through fall, your pond will be the hobby of the whole family. It’s perfect for relaxing or dining beside, koi keeping, nature study, and water gardening.

Note: As the weather cools and fall arrives, once again there’s some maintenance to get the pond ready for winter.

 

Ponds in Winter

Ponds in Winter

Ponds in Winter

Some pond lovers say the real magic begins in winter. True, you won’t be sitting or dining pond-side when it’s really cold or wintry. However, ponds can help create a winter wonderland that is delightful during crisp winter walks.

Indeed, many people love to be outdoors in winter. A popular trend these days is creating a winter walk “event” for strolling by lighted trees or bushes, a fully-operating water feature with waterfalls, and even skating on your pond-rink. While it may take some preparation and care to create a safe rink, it is very doable. 

As for your pond’s fish, Dave Stockwell says it is a common myth that you can’t leave your pond fish outside once the cold sets in.

“Actually, fish do just fine during winter. That said, I always caution pond owners to be alert. When ice covers the pond, the fish might not be getting enough oxygen.” To learn more about that, click here.

Pond-side living is a home-refuge gift for all seasons. A gift that, until the recent pandemic, you may never have known you wanted.

Blog photos: With the exception of our feature photo at the top of the page all photos are of Deck and Patio ponds. The feature photo is from a blog post on Aquascape Inc.’s website, titled: “Growing Up Around a Pond.” The writer included this photo of her son encouraging a friend to join him in the pond. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

Benefits of Water Gardens: Raising Independent, Confident Kids

There is much debate today whether ‘helicopter’ parenting, i.e., hovering closely around children as they grow up, is better than the more old-fashioned ‘free range’ way,  or more limited parental supervision.

The goal of both sides, of course, is raising confident, independent and safe kids. 

But it was the free-range side of this discussion that caught our eye this week. A recent NPR article focused on how some parents believe that to raise confident and independent children, they need to “let grow.”

The ‘let grow’ is a terrific play on words — especially since what’s behind it emphases the advantages children experience by exploring, on their own, a beautiful outdoor natural environment. 

This does not surprise us at Deck and Patio. We’ve been hearing for many years how much the children of our clients gain by being able to explore Nature close up in a backyard water feature like a pond.

“Not everyone lives near a large park with streams, or a pond, abundant with flora and fauna,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “And not every parent is comfortable with letting children stray too far away from home in order to experience this.”

But on answer is certainly adding a wildlife refuge (small wildlife that is) in one’s own property.

As this wonderful video (below) from Aquascape Inc.’s Facebook page shows, when done well, these features can attract lots of interesting and friendly creatures that children love:  birds, frogs, salamanders, butterflies.

Not to mention by adding koi and lovely aquatic plants, depending on their age, children can be entertained as well as educated — on their own — for hours at a time.

 

 

Now while there are a few things to consider, like an ideal pond depth for the age of the children, with a little care, koi ponds bring out the child in us all. Even today, when a pond is large enough, many adults can’t resist a swim.

So whether you believe in being a ‘helicopter’ parent, or come down on the side of ‘free range,’ with a backyard koi pond, kids can explore without being far from a watchful eye. They’ll learn independence choosing what to study on any given day: a croaking frog, a bird bathing in the cool water, or jeweled koi eager to be fed.

 

Pond Lessons for Kids

Pond Lessons for Kids

In return for your providing the clean pond water, these little amphibians greatly reduce the amount of pesky insects in your backyard — thereby naturally reducing a need for pesticides.

 

Kids and Backyard Ponds:

Kids and Backyard Ponds:

Any child fortunate enough to grow up with the ability to explore nature never loses love for the outdoors and the beauty of Mother Earth. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

Natural Playscape with Pond:

Natural Playscape with Pond (Long Island/NY):

Deck and Patio designed/built this city oasis with a temporary 8” shallow pond for younger children, which can be easily turned into a full-size koi pond when the children get older.

Stepping stones lead from the playhouse across the pond to a patio at the back of the house — where parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends can sit and watch the children play and explore (ahem). 

 

Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY): Another blog post on Aquascape’s website, titled: “Growing Up Around a Pond,” included this photo of her son encouraging a friend to join him in their pond. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

Ponds Offer Multi-Seasonal Enjoyment:

Ponds Offer Multi-Seasonal Enjoyment:

Even when the weather is chilly, kids enjoy studying what’s happening in a pond. And when winter comes, and the koi hibernate, they might be able to skate on it. This is one time, no one argues that helicopter parenting isn’t a good thing. Parents will definitely be the ones checking to know if the pond is truly frozen.

 

 

 

 

Aquascape Water Gardens: The Appeal of Koi Ponds

Pond lovers are familiar with Aquascape as the leading water garden innovator in North America, so we were more than flattered when, in early May, our own Bill Renter was invited to do a guest blog on koi ponds for their web site. In case you missed it, we’re sharing it today.

Koi Ponds – For the Child in Us All  

By Bill Renter, Outdoor Living Expert

“Growing up, I was what they call today a ‘free-range’ kid. Like most children back then, I was free to explore the outdoors on my own and interact with nature.

Things are different today. Parents and child caretakers are far more cautious about letting children wander on their own. This is one reason, I believe, why koi ponds have skyrocketed in appeal. Through them, Mother Nature’s best experiences are brought right to our own backyards.

For sure, kids love watching and feeding colorful pond fish. Koi are gentle creatures that will swim right up to be fed, accepting food directly from the hand. And since it’s better to feed them in small amounts throughout the day, pretty much any time the kids are free, it’s a good time for the koi, too.

Backyard ponds attract other wildlife that children love: frogs, salamanders — basically any amphibian that lay their eggs in or near water. Plus birds will flock there, including song birds.

However, predatory birds like heron may be attracted to the koi. There are steps you can take to dissuade them, like netting, decoys, and electronic scarecrows with sensors that spray water when they catch movement. Also, thoughtful landscaping can provide protection as herons prefer an unobstructed path to wade into the water. And from the outset, having the right depth of water in the pond (no less than 24″) is key to keeping heron at bay.

My favorite koi ponds are the larger ‘swimming ponds.’ Children can snorkel in these and get up face to face with the fish. For swimming, you want clean water, so I’d recommend not overstocking your pond. You don’t want more fish waste than can be reasonably absorbed by aquatic plants and the pond’s bog filtration system.

Now while there are a few things to consider, with a little care, koi ponds are ideal to bring out the child in us all. Even today, when a pond is large enough, I can’t resist a swim.

So I say … go ahead … be a ‘helicopter’ parent or grandparent, and hover over the kids. With a backyard koi pond, kids aren’t missing out on much at all.”

 

Pond Fish:

Pond Fish:

Koi are gentle creatures that will swim right up to be fed, accepting food directly from the hand.

 

Good Pond Design:

Good Pond Design:

Well designed landscaping can provide protection as herons prefer an unobstructed path to wade into the water.

 

Swimming Ponds:

Swimming Ponds:

Another blog post on Aquascape’s website, titled: “Growing Up Around a Pond,” included this photo of her son encouraging a friend to join him in the pond. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

Useful Pond Koi:

Useful Pond Koi:

Koi is a healthy part of this pond’s natural ecosystem; in this Deck and Patio-designed pond, the koi have lots of room to hide as well as swim. There are also plenty of rock overhangs to discourage predators.