Natural Pool Alternative

IMAG0625 IMAG0635

This is my temporary solution to a pool in my backyard. It is an above ground pool sunk into the ground about half way. I know some of you are going to tell me the walls will collapse from the weight of the sand but its not possible due to the weight of the water. I have had it like this two years so far. I bought a sand filter and a salt water system. I even got pool lights. Its about 4 feet deep and 18 foot diameter. It has kept my children super happy. They swim two to three times a day and it cost only the fraction of an inground pool. This year I plan on hiding the grey sides with bamboo fencing. Lowe’s sells 6 foot fencing which I can cut in half and put around the pool. I will also do some landscaping with cypress grass and Birds of Barbados plants. I have not given up on a natural pool though. However I will probably need a larger piece of land. ūüôā

IMAG0641’s 20 pond myth’s exposed!!!

I found this really good article which has a list of pond myths from

Here is a direct link to the article

1.¬†¬† Like any other culture in the world, the pondering culture has its own mythology, which has grown and matured over the years. ¬†However, just because our ancestors always thought it was true, doesn’t necessarily make it true. ¬†Here, 20 “old-wives tales” are examined and the facts set straight … once and for all.
1 Predators will eat all of the fish! ¬†There is a constant fear in the water gardening community that raccoons and other four-legged predators will go swimming in your pond, and while they’re in there, they’ll help themselves to some of your prize Koi, Shubunkin, or goldfish. ¬†When you go out to your pond in the morning and discover you’re missing a fish or two, it’s very tempting to blame in on such critters, especially if you didn’t see it happen. ¬†There has to be a reasonable explanation, and predators are as good as any, right? However, take the following facts into consideration before you jump to any conclusions. ¬†Raccoons generally won’t
swim. ¬†That’s not to say they never swim, or couldn’t stand on the side of your pond and take a paw swipe or two at your fish. ¬†Fortunately, most fish will swim to a deeper, more protected part of the pond when a predator is threatening them.

The one predator with legitimate credentials is the Blue Heron. ¬†These tall, long-legged, big-beaked birds can easily wade into your pond, help themselves to any fish they think look tasty, and fly away with their bellies full. ¬†They are a protected species, so they are off-limits if you’re thinking about taking revenge on them. ¬†However, a scarecrow, a motion-sensing sprinkler that can be set up alongside your pond, ready to fire a steady stream of water at a heron, has
had some degree of success in warding off these curious critters. ¬†It’s a good idea to move the sprinkler often, though, to keep them guessing.

Giving your fish a place to hide dramatically helps their odds of survival. ¬†Plenty of lily pads given them some protection and will work to minimize attracting a heron in the first place. ¬†Other protection measures include a cave-like structure that can be built in during the pond’s excavation, or if you already have a pond, they can be added with a little pond remodeling.

Rocks are essential in creating these hiding places in your pond.  Crevices, or miniature caves, can be created within the rock walls of your pond.

The possibility of pond predators seeking out your pond is, indeed, a valid concern in terms of the safety of your pond’s inhabitants, but the possibility shouldn’t be a reason to avoid building a pond.

2. The presence of rocks and gravel make it difficult to clean a pond. ¬†You are susceptible to buying into this myth if, and only if, you’ve never experienced pondering with rocks and gravel in your pond. ¬†if you have a smooth-bottom pond, and each season you’re amazed at the amount of muck and grime that collects on the bottom, you automatically rule out rocks as a¬† solution. ¬†You keep visualizing that same amount of muck on top of the rocks and gravel and say,
“NO!” to even considering them. ; It’s understandable. ¬†it seems logical . . . until you learn the rest of the story. Rocks and gravel offer a natural place for aerobic bacteria to colonize and set up housekeeping. ¬†this bacteria breaks down the fish waste and debris that would otherwise accumulate in the pond and turn into sludge. ¬†Regardless of your pond’s location (i.e., close to trees and loads of leaves), or how many fish you have in it, you’ll find that having rocks
and gravel in your pond not only makes it look better, but it makes it healthier, as well.

So, contrary to the myth, having rocks and gravel on the bottom of your pond actually allows Mother Nature to clean up after herself, saving you headaches and hours of work trying to keep the bottom of your pond muck-free.

3. UV lights such as those in the UltraKlear‚ĄĘ UVC are the best way to keep pond water clear. ¬†UV clarifies are one of the ways to keep your pond water clear, but certainly not the only way, and arguably not the natural way. ¬†The fact of the matter is that if you have a pond that’s naturally balanced, in which the aquatic circle of life is rotating the way that Mother Nature intended, you don’t need UVC at all. ¬†In this naturalistic setting, the fish eat the plants, then
produce waste that gets broken down (along with other pond debris) by aerobic bacteria that’s colonized on the rocks and gravel below, and then it’s taken back up as nutrition by the plants, continuing the cycle. ¬†A naturally balance pond is a low maintenance pond because Mother Nature is doing the maintenance work for you. ¬†Pretty good deal, don’t you think?
There are several drawbacks to the UV solution, though. ¬†First, no matter how intense, UV clarifiers don’t affect string algae at all, and so this problem is not addressed. ¬†Secondly, after the regular algae is killed, it generally falls to the bottom of the pond, biodegrades, and provides another wave of nutrition for another (often larger) algae bloom. ¬†If you’re not careful, it’s easy to encourage larger cycles of algae blooms by using a UVC. ¬†If your pond is unbalanced,
the choices are minimal. ¬†The third, and most obvious drawback is that a UVC isn’t cheap, and the bulbs usually require replacement every season.

4. A pond must be at least three feet deep in order to keep Koi.  There are thousands of two-foot deep ponds around the country, full of happy and healthy Koi.  A common myth is that ponds must be built at least 3 feet deep, especially if they contain Koi and are located in colder climates.  You see, the water in a two-foot deep pond will only freeze eight inches down, even in the coldest of climates, because of the insulating qualities of the earth that surrounds the pond.
On the flip side, those of us living in sunny, hot states are concerned about boiling our fish in the summer.  Not an issue in a well-built water garden.  Between the lily pads and plants, the pond is kept somewhat shaded.  If you add a 24/7 circulation system with a waterfall, it cools things even more.  No sushi here!

A pond that is too deep could be considered a swimming pool by your local government and, therefore, fall under strict guidelines and codes.  Also, more digging means more work, more water to fill the pond, and more additives to treat algae and fish illnesses.

5. Koi can’t be kept in a pond that also contains plants. ¬†In a naturally balance ecosystem, Koi and plants complement and need one another. ¬†In nature, fish feed on plants. ¬†As a result, they fish produce waste, which is broken down by aerobic bacteria on the bottom of your pond, which, in turn, is used as fertilizer by the plants to grow and produce more natural fish food. ¬†it’s known as the circle of life, and to imply that Koi and plants shouldn’t co-exist is to ignore nature.
On the contrary, fish naturally love to eat plants, and most of the time they’ll (the fish) survive nicely without you feeding them at all due to the plants and algae. ¬†On the other hand, you have to have a sufficient volume of plants to accommodate the Koi, too. ¬†In the naturally balanced pond, proportionality is always a key ingredient to success.

6. Fish have to be brought inside for the winter.  Fish do fine during the coldest of winters as long as you give them two feet of water to swim in, oxygenate the water, and keep a hole in the ice with a bubbler, allowing the naturally produced gasses to escape from under the ice.  Otherwise, you let Mother Nature do the rest.  The fish will spend the entire winter hibernating at the bottom of the pond and then they will slowly wake up as the water warms in the spring.  

In areas of the country where freezing is not an issue, fish owners simply stop feeding their fish commercial fish food (which is high in protein) while their little digestive systems are dormant during the “winter” months. ¬†They can still give them treats like watermelon, zucchini, lettuce, etc., though.

7. Pond water must be tested on a daily basis.  This myth comes from the aquarium industry and it has a lot to do with the fact that an aquarium is a much smaller body of water and the small size makes it more difficult to balance.  Mother Nature never tests her water, and her ecosystem does just fine.  A well-conceived, naturally balanced water garden normally requires no testing either.

8. A pond in my yard means that I will have a lot of mosquitoes. ¬†Mosquitoes will generally only lay their eggs in still, stagnant water. ¬†If the mosquitoes happen to lay eggs in your pond and the mosquito larvae hatch, the fish in your pond will consider them a treat and will pick them off the water’s surface with great enthusiasm. ¬†Your skimmer will sweep up whatever the fish miss. ¬†In fact, a pond full of hungry fish makes a great defense against the West Nile Virus problems in your neighborhood!

9. A pond cannot be in an area where there are a lot of trees.  In nature, ponds and trees go together like ham and eggs on a breakfast table.  Yes, you will have more leaves in your pond in the fall, but, by the same token, the shade provided by the tree(s) will help minimize the algae bloom in the summer.  Furthermore, if you have a skimmer sucking the top quarter inch of water off the top of your pond, it will pull most of the leaves and related debris into an awaiting
net. ¬†This takes about 30 seconds to empty, and it can be a daily task in the fall if your pond is close to trees. ¬†Add it all up and it’s a trade-off that most full-sun water gardeners would love to have! ¬†So, don’t worry about trees and ponds. ¬†They’re fine.

10. Koi can’t be in a pond that also has rocks and gravel. ¬†Koi are actually just a fancy variety of carp, and all carp are bottom feeders. ¬†They love to swim along the bottom and scavenge everything that is available on and in-between the rocks. ¬†In nature, it’s not uncommon to find ponds, lakes, or rivers with rocks on the bottom. ¬†it’s more like their natural environment than an exposed rubber liner, so why even think about doing battle with Mother Nature?

11. It’s okay to use chemicals in a pond. ¬†This one comes from the swimming pool industry. ¬†If chlorine is good for humans in the local swimming pool, then chemicals must be okay for fish and the plants in the pond. ¬†Products like algaecide (copper sulfate), dechlorinator (sodium thiosulfate), and fish antibiotics are commonly used as quick-fix solutions to balance related problems. ¬†In the end, your best bet is to attack the root cause of the problem and make
sure that you have a naturally balanced pond that allows Mother Nature to take care of all the maintenance issues.

12. Having a pond may decrease the value of a home!  Everyone knows when it comes to the resale value of your home, a swimming pool can be deadly in some areas of the country.  On the other hand, especially in the Southwest, pools can add as much as $7-10,000.00 to the value of the home.  A well-built water feature will add about $3-4,000.00 to the appraisal.  However, with water features becoming more and more popular, you can bet that the
demand for them will get even bigger!

13. There are liability or safety concerns associated with a pond! ¬†it’s natural to have these thoughts and concerns, but it is important to remember that a professionally-installed water garden has steps leading into the pond. ¬†The first shelf is only ankle high once the gravel is laid down. ¬†The next shelf is up to your knee, while the smallest area in the bottom is just above your knee, so it is not constructed like a swimming pool. ¬†We do recommend that you make your
neighbors aware of the water garden and educate your own children and friends about the safety of any body of water. Or, if you prefer, you can have a “pondless” organic water feature that is only inches deep and “disappears.” ¬†This is especially terrific for front yard features.

14. A pond should be located in the lowest part of a yard. ¬†It makes sense to have your water garden in this area because it already collects water; however, this is probably the worst location for your investment because of the run-off that can creep its way into your pond. ¬†Ask yourself this: “Do I really want my pond located on the opposite end of my property? ¬†Do I really want to miss the sights, sounds, and interactive nature my pond presents every day?” ¬†When
it’s positioned near your house, you can take in the beauty and tranquility of your pond when entertaining friends or lounging on your patio or deck.

15. A timer can be used on a pond.  Not true!  Your pond is a living, breathing ecosystem that needs constant oxygen, just like the human race.  If you shut your system down at night, then you can never have sufficient growth of beneficial bacteria to fight algae blooms, and your finned friends will have a hard time breathing.

16. It’s necessary to drain and clean a pond regularly. ¬†The reality is, if you fail to set your system up using the five-part recipe so that it’s working in harmony with Mother Nature, then you’ll be asking for a lot of related problems that may require you to drain and clean your pond out on a regular basis. ¬†On the other hand, if you decide to work in harmony with Mother Nature instead of doing battle with her, then draining and cleaning your pond should take place only once a year (at most). ¬†Clean-outs should occur in the spring, before the weather gets warm and the bacteria has an opportunity to set up.

17. Bottom drains work best if you have Koi.  The claim by many Koi keepers is that the water will lack sufficient oxygen at the lower levels, and this insufficiency can be detrimental to your Koi.  The real fact is that if you avoid making your pond any deeper than two feet, there is very little difference in the oxygen levels at the surface and at the bottom of the pond.  The problem with bottom drains is that they have a tendency to promote leaks, possibly leaving
your fish land-locked. ¬†now, that’s a problem to avoid at all costs!

18. The more filtration, the better the pond. ¬†Believe it or not, you can over-filter a pond. ¬†That’s right. ¬†Tight filter pads in your skimmer pick up the smallest particles of debris, causing you to be cleaning the filtering mechanism out constantly. ¬†Now remember, we’re not talking about drinking water here. ¬†What we are talking about is water clarity and water that’s healthy for your fish. ¬†Fish in the wild certainly don’t swim around in bottled water. ¬†If you can see a dime on the bottom of the pond, then the water clarity is just right for your fish, and filtering past that is overkill and will create headaches, not eliminate them.

19. A person can’t be a Koi hobbyist and a water gardener. ¬†Not true! ¬†You can raise Koi and have a beautiful water garden. ¬†There are Koi hobbyists who have perfectly balanced pond ecosystems with no chemicals, no sterilization, and a nice assortment of plants. ¬†The Koi can grow up to be just as beautiful and just as healthy as they are in traditional Koi ponds — and you’ll love them just as much!

20. High tech is the solution to controlling Mother Nature. ¬†More than anything else, being observant and learning from Mother Nature is what it takes to be a water gardener. ¬†Whatever she does naturally is what you should be doing in your pond. ¬†Whatever she doesn’t do is what you should be avoiding in your pond. ¬†If there is a golden rule of pondering, it is not to mess with Mother Nature because you’ll lose.

Natural Pool Inspiration from Europe

Today I was looking at pictures of “schwimmtiechs.”

“Schwimmteich” is the German word for swimming pond or natural pool. Since this is a trend coming over from Europe, I looked at pictures and designs from people who have been building these water features in their own backyards.


Inspiration for My Natural Pool

One of my goals for my garden is to have a natural pool, I do not want it black though, I want it to look like a regular tropical lagoon but have a natural filtration system. This blog entry is to collect inspiring pictures for my project. Not everything has a tropical theme but they all contain a lush landscape.

The Natural Swimming Pool

So I have mentioned “the Natural Pool” earlier today. I was surveying the area in my garden where I want a pond. I had someone come start digging it out. During my research over the past few years for a pond I have consistently come across the natural swimming pool or swimming pond. The idea is that you use plants to clean the water and therefore need NO harsh chemicals. That is correct, no CHLORINE!

Chlorine has recently been linked to colon cancer, for obvious reasons, plus it dries out your skin and hair and those noxious fumes fill your backyard paradise. The natural swimming pool has none of these problems. In fact if you have you system set up just right it is super clean and the water NEVER needs to be dumped. You do need to have a plant area which is equal to 50% of your pool’s surface area. The area of your pool where your plants grow and filter the water are called plant bogs. Plants take care of waste and bacteria through their roots. You can add some fish for any water born insects. The fish waste feeds the plants. As long as you keep the water moving there is no need to worry about mosquitoes since they only breed in stagnate water.

Chlorine pools tend to start breeding harmful bacteria which begin to tolerate the pool’s chlorine levels.¬†Due to chlorine resistant bacteria or “accidents” the pool needs to be “shocked” by adding more chlorine to an already toxic system. Over time the water itself loses its quality, I assume that it becomes filled with remnants of chlorine and other chemicals breaking down over time, which is why people have to dump the pool water about every ten years and start fresh. Can you see why the natural pool concept is so alluring!

There are of course other new innovative ways to clean pool but most of them still require some amount of chlorine. The natural pool just requires some healthy plants and a means to oxygenate the water. Growing up in Germany we often swam in all sorts of lakes, and “natural swimming pools.” Even in Southewest U.S.A. I have been to Elephant Butte, Balmorhea, and the 1990’s attraction Mountain Shadow Lake. I am hoping to make it to Sitting Bull Falls this summer. I love swimming in nature. My hair stays good and I do not smell like a chemical after. Balmorhea is actually my favorite because in 28 feet deep you can see crystal clear to the bottom with all the fish and amazing rocks. Balmorhea has to visited to appreciated.

Apparently natural pools and swimming ponds are popular in Europe and are starting to pop up all over the U.S. So here is the million dollar question!




Patio Peach Tree

I have a patio peach tree that is designed to stay small and can be grown in a container. My patio peach has many peaches on it this year. However, it is not doing too well. The leaves have lost some color and hang more limp than they should on a peach tree. In comparison to the peach I rescued from Walmart, the leaves and vibrance are not matched. I decided that maybe something is wrong with the container.

Two nights ago, I removed my patio peach from its container and flipped it over to inspect the drainage hole. Although there are holes, it does not appear that the water has been adequately draining. To remedy the situation I pulled out my drill and made larger holes at the bottom. I also removed the soil front the container and replaced it will potting soil from all my old plant hanging baskets. Next I used a hand rake to poke holes all around the root ball of the patio peach. Some areas were very hard and compact. I hope that it will recover with the improvements.

The leaves were not falling off yet and it has lost very minimum amount fruit. Most of the peaches are still hanging on and seem to be receiving enough water since none of them have shriveled up. I am also going to take some time tonight to give the tree some Peter’s plant food. I will use this post to track its progress.

Here is an update on my peach tree. This is about ten days later. I know , I know, I am not sure whether to laugh, cry or just sigh. I am hoping that once the ripe fruit is gone along with the damaged leaves, the tree will grow new leaves. The stems are still green and it is still taking in water. Since the peaches are not withered the tree is still sending water to them. I am planning on setting the tree out in direct sunlight as well.

My Chitalpa

I finally purchased a Chitalpa. I nearly bought a very expensive one. I am so glad I wander through the Lowe’s nursery on a regular basis. I found a tall multi-trunked Chitalpa tree for only $68.00. The trunks are quite thick and it is about 6 feet tall. This particular Chitalpa also has larger leaves than most I have seen. I hope they stay large as the tree matures. Behind the Chitalpa near the rock wall I have a small peach tree I rescued from the Wal-mart gardening center for only $3.00 about two years ago. It has nearly been dug out by one of my dogs, however it is doing great. It has some large sized peaches. I will have to make a blog post about it as well. Once I planted the Chitalpa tree in the left side of my backyard yard, I felt a sense of completion, as far has plants go. Now I only have to wait for these trees and plants to mature. As for the rest of the yard well . . . .  I will discuss it my natural pool posts.

Chitalpa May 2015 


My Mimosa

I have a Mimosa tree that I purchased last year. I bought it because I love how the Mimosa flower smells. It has more of a perfume aroma than a flower scent. From research about them they are supposed to grow pretty fast. They have compound leaves which close in the evening. The flowers look like pink puff balls. My mimosa had an injury due to the winds, it did not die however some of the branches did not leaf out this spring. I am not sure if I should go ahead and cut those branches off or not. Here is a picture. If you have any advice it is welcome.

In fall of 2014 I decided to go ahead and copice my mimosa. Now we are in March 2015 and I would like to share with you the results. As you can see it worked out great my mimosa is coming back it already has about the same amount of growth that it had when I first cut it all off. I am confident that over the course of the 2015 growing season my Mimosa will probably be bigger than if I had not copied my tree. I did not copice it down to the ground. Only below the scar from wind damage. 



Paulownia Growth Diary: Royal Empress Tress or Princess Tree

I have finally purchased a Paulownia tree from Since I ordered in the springtime I had to wait about two weeks for my federal express shipment. I actually received two Paulownias. One already had bark development and one was a seedling with many leaves.

The tree I purchased was actually the one that already had bark. It had no leaves but I could tell it did some growing during its journey. There were some very new white root tips and I could see that the leaves were trying to bud as well. It had long roots but not too many of them. Overall it appeared to be the “stick,‚ÄĚ that many people have described online after ordering their Princess trees.

I have looked at countless websites and information regarding the Paulownia. In some parts of the United States they are invasive due to an ample water supply with mild winters. El Paso on the other hand does not have a lot of rain although we have mild winters I believe that although the Paulownia does not need a lot of water, it probably needs more than the El Paso climate will supply out in the desert. As a result I decided to give the Paulownia a try. I was purposely looking for a tree to replace the Mesquite I lost in the February 2011 freeze. I wanted something to grow quickly for my children to enjoy. I also wanted flowers so I could enjoy it. I thought it would be a lot of fun for them to watch. So far it has been very entertaining for them. They love to run outside and see how it is doing.

I will be keeping a photo diary online for the tree. I have seen a few photo diaries online but they have only a few pictures and no one has really posted a chronological picture diary of when you first get the tree and its immediate growth.

May 3, 2012 ¬† ” The Paulownia arrived. . . .”

 1.1 Planted Paulownia May 3, 2012

May 8, 2012 . . . .


May 15, 2012


UPDATE: June 21, 2012

Well, I have a new garden obsession or rather my obsession in ponds has blossomed into . . . . natural pools!!! So what that means is that the Paulownia tree needs to be moved. I have placed it into a pot while I figure out where I am going to put it. For now it lives in my sunroom with its sibling that is also still potted. I am thinking of planting them in the front of my house. I have a patch of earth that seems to kill everything, well the two fragile trees I have already placed there died. I read that Paulownia can handle contaminated soil. So I guess we shall see if it is true. I also lost an Italian cypress this winter. It was always much smaller than the others lining my front yard. ¬†I may place the second Paulownia there. I know that it won’t make much geometric sense since it will be a different tree in a row of Italian cypress but I am not exactly the most square gardener either. I like things wild and crazy.

Here are the two babies waiting for their new positions in the garden.

Paulownia June 23, 2012 

Tree Spacing

When I go to Lowes nearly every tree has a tag (unless it fell off) that tells me how far I should space the tree. I suppose this is valuable information so you know how much room your tree needs in order to establish a good root system. I have many questions though about this spacing.

Before buying a tree I also go online to do some research I end up finding out that not everyone has the same idea of how much spacing a particular tree needs, nor the size it can eventually get. Living in the desert southwest I know that many trees will not reach their extreme maximum as they would in a milder climate, however the tree tag can give me some sort of idea of what to expect.

My first question about tree spacing is, why do we have to follow all these rules when trees in nature just grow without following restrictions?

This is an important question for me. I want a lush backyard. I want areas where trees are close together but further apart in others. I want my garden to have a natural and only slightly constructed feel simultaneously. Plus I would like a variety of trees to look at so I can see different sized foliage in a variety of colors. Tree spacing sort of cramps my ideas up.

Another question I have is whether or not trees need to have all that space for a root system? I came to this question because of container gardening. Many people throughout the ages have grown fantastic tree specimens in containers. (I am also experimenting with trees in containers to help add more trees into the yard.) If you can grow a good size tree in a container then why do they have to have so much room in the ground? Nature doesn’t seem to need it either judging by how closely spaced trees can be.

So my final question is, what will happen if I push things a little? We will find out. I am planting what I want where I want, and although there is a little nagging voice of fear in my mind, I will ignore it for now and see how things fall into place.

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