Reclaiming the pond!

The pond in my allotment used to be a pleasant environment – a few goldfish swimming around, frog spawn in the spring followed by tadpoles and frogs, maybe even an occasional newt. However with time, the sides of the pond invited in large amounts of soil, the leaves in autumn managed to find the bottom of the pond as there best place to finish their lives, and slowly the fish disappeared after many years of residence. The whole pond was now home to inches of mud topped by a few more inches of murky water. I have always wanted to clean it all out and start again, but never got down to it.

After the extra meals over the festive period my limbs felt a little heavier and less agile than they used to be, I needed a stimulating project to coax me back to digging on the allotment, so I assigned myself the mission of clearing out the pond once and for all.

On a fresh bright morning, equipped with just a spade, a short hosepipe, a large bin, bucket and a brush, I began this exciting project.

1] The first problem I encountered was that as I moved anything near the pond, more soil kept falling into the pond which would only mean that I would have even more soil to extract. I therefore made a trench about 45cm. away from the pond all around it, and then, with a push of the back of the spade I transferred all the soil that was on the banks of the pond into the trench , instead of letting it fall into the pond water.

The Trench

2] Now I had to empty the water; I dug a large deep hole on the side of the pond and tried the age old method of siphoning out the water. As I wasn’t  keen to suck the water, I lay both sides of the pipe into the pond , waited till it filled with water, I held my finger on one side, lifted it out and placed it at the bottom of the hole that I dug which was obviously lower then the level where the other side was in the pond. As the water began to spurt out of the mouth of the hose I began to think how I easy the job of emptying the pond will be, but my happiness was short lived, since the water was so muddy the hosepipe soon began to slow down to a trickle and then dried up altogether!

Siphoning the pond
Siphoning the pond

3] The next obvious way was to bend down with the large yellow bin and physically empty the murky  water whilst kneeling on the side of the pond, it worked well, but soon the water was too distant for me to be able to reach it from the banks of the pond.

4] I then designed the first ‘long arm water drawer’! It is simply a long piece of wood screwed to the side of a regular bucket and although I was taking less water at a time, at least I could reach the centre of the pond and I could do it standing up without breaking my back whilst kneeling!

long arm water drawer

5] There was now just about 30cm left at the centre of the pond. With  brush in hand I went into the centre of the pond and brushed out the muddy mixture over the sides of the pond. I was pleased to find that my old wellingtons were still totally watertight!

The  problem now was removing  the frogs without damaging them, as I brushed them over the side of the pond they kept jumping back in. I wished someone could explain to them to stay out for just a couple of hours until I put in the fresh water. I felt like a family trying to coax their old grandmother to move out of her tumbled down house to the modern granny flat they had built for her, and she just will not hear of it! [Although maybe frogs actually prefer murky water over fresh water!(like the granny prefers her old house!)]

In my allotment we luckily have fresh tap water, [the council charge an extra £10 a year for it but it is well worth it]. I hosed down the sides brushed them over again and then began refilling with fresh water, the next day I added a thermos of boiling water to higher the temperature and then a few small goldfish, once they acclimatise they can live in freezing water as well, – and the frogs will soon return as well, I am sure. I now covered the  pond with a wire mesh – this will keep the leaves and debris out – and the heron will have to  find fish in the river next door not in my fishpond.

refilling the pond
refilling the pond

I felt I had accomplished a  fresh start to the New Year with a fresh pond – a job well done – with many more in the pipe line – I hope!

Good gardening in the New Year

Boris Legarni .