The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Choosing the location for an earth pond

Pond test pitThe most important factors to consider when building a pond without a liner are location and soil quality.  You can get an idea for both by digging test pits in an area where you want a large pond to go.  Each pit should be about eight to ten feet deep and should be excavated during your driest season.  You're looking for rock ledges (bad), clay (good), and high groundwater (good).

In different parts of his book, Matson writes that pond soil should be either 10% to 20% clay, or at least 20% clay.  As far as I can tell, more clay is almost always better, unless you're building a dam (more on that in a later post), in which case pure clay won't be as stable.  And, while we're talking about the earth, hitting rock bottom in your test pit is a sign that you should put your pond someplace else --- ledges, especially, allow water to flow right out the bottom of your pond and disappear.

Equally as important as the soil, you're looking for high groundwater in your test pits.  In a pond without a dam, the level of the groundwater will tell you the eventual low-water level of your pond, so not hitting water in your test pits is another sign you should look for a different pond location.  Of course, groundwater moves slowly, and in my experiment I found that it took several hours for my excavation to fill up with water, so give your test pits a day or two to fill before calling them failures.

If digging a pond is too hard, check out my paperback, which is full of fun and easy projects you can complete in a weekend afternoon.

This post is part of our Earth Ponds lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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