Natural Pool Alternative

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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


Nonnative El Paso Creatures

This past year El Paso had a lot of rain. Some¬†parts of the city flooded. I got to see some interesting critters in my garden that I did not know I had because they normally do not live in the desert. I probably brought them home from Lowe’s and instead of dying in the arid sand they thrived a reproduced. I now have earthworms and snails! I felt pretty good when I saw them because I must be doing something right. I still have mushrooms too. ūüôā

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Now you may think those are little flecks of dirt, but they are tiny round snails! El Paso does have some snails and they usually have coned shaped houses, so these are not native to the area.


The Mystery Plant from Lowes

I went to Lowes a¬†few weeks ago and near the register was an amazing plant marked for clearance. The tag had “annual” printed on it. It certainly did not look like an annual though. It had leaves shaped like maple leaves and the color was a very deep red purple. I brought it home and then posted the picture on Dave’s Garden forum. I was hoping that maybe through some great miracle it was a redblood Japanese maple sapling. As it turns out this mystery plant is actually a red leaf hibiscus, hibiscus acetosella. Very interesting plant with some very pretty flowers. The top picture is mine, the one below are what I have to look forward to.

Pet Peeve About Plant Nurseries


This is my number ¬†1 pet peeve. Why don’t nurseries ESPECIALLY the BIG chains like Lowes and Home Depot, Wal-Mart have their plants properly labeled? I know they have signs but not everything always has a sign. In fact about 60% – 75% of these stores have no proper labels for telling the consumer the price of the plants. This bothers me because I do not like having to hunt down a worker and then follow them to the register to get the price. The workers are very busy running around placing plants out, watering and cleaning. It has to be annoying for them as well to stop and get a price. Now some stores have price check centers now. This is a brilliant idea, sadly those price checking centers are not in the gardening center. So if you want to know the price of that gorgeous knock-out rose or half dead crepe myrtle your trying to get a deal on, you have to walk way out of the gardening area. And IF one of you BIG chains is reading this, I usually lose my desire to shop at that location at that point.

Another aspect of the pricing is that Stores such as Lowes and Wal-Mart sometimes do have the price on the plant tag, but not all the time. Why isn’t there consistency? I am aware that there are different suppliers etc. but once the plant arrives at the store it needs to be properly labeled with the right price. I can bet that sales would go way up. How about taking out the old pricing guns from the early nineties and eighties? Who cares if all the plants have neon orange and yellow tags on them? I don‚Äôt mind. It makes it easy for me to find the price.

As for locally owned nurseries, it is the same problem. The prices are not clearly marked or there is absolutely no price at all. In fact some in some plant nurseries the workers have different ideas as to what the plant’s price should be! You see by simple adding a price tag not only do you lessen confusion for the customer but for the workers as well. I had a man tell me a few weeks ago he had no idea why the owner would tell me the Chitalpa cost $500 when it was in fact only $350. Hmmm that is a difference of $150!!! Thankfully Lowe’s had a Chitalpa for $68 and it was clearly labeled on the plant tag. At some of the local nurseries you have to get a worker to walk around with you and tell you how much everything costs. I will not lie to you I do ask for the prices on EVERYTHING. I want to know what the market is for specific plants. I want to know how much some of the exotics are and their name¬† etc, none of which is labeled on the plant mind you. ¬†I also tell the worker before leaving that they really should have the prices on the plants because then I do not have to ask and they do not have to give me a guided tour of plant prices when they have so many other things they need to be doing.

Hmmm, this blog entry has given me an idea to start writing up some reviews on the local nurseries around town. . . . .


Snake Plant in Bloom!!!

My Sansevieria trifasciata is in bloom! It had two stalks and they dripped with nectar before opening to reveal silk like flowers which had a jasmine like aroma! The scent was strong, it filled my sunroom. I was walking around the sunroom wondering where the heavenly smell was coming from when I noticed the odd skinny stalk protruding from the snake plant’s pot. ¬†

The nectar is a little sticky so I did have to mop the floor, but the flowers were a great surprise, I did not know they produced flowers. Here is a picture of it. . . . .

I purchased this snake plant from Home Depot about two years ago in the clearance bin. Always check the clearance racks!!

A Desert Anomaly!!! Mushrooms????


I have mushrooms!!! Yes, in my courtyard which has its own unique microclimate, there are mushrooms. These are not puney either! They are big white mushrooms! God has graced us with some cooler days and rain this past week, but even before the rain I had two of these growing, well now I have five! (I think are a few smaller ones coming as well.) My children automatically assumed they are poison!! I explained that they may not be but we should be safer than sorry.

These mushrooms are growing at the base of my trumpet vine in the courtyard. This is my trumpet vine’s second season. I didnt have any mushrooms last year so these fungus spores either came in with the wind or the pesky pigeons I have nesting on my roof.’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!




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