May 01

Facebook Group Reaches Milestone

The Building Natural Ponds Facebook Group has reached 500 members, and is growing at about 5 new members a day. Thanks to everyone for making this such a success.

Building Natural Ponds

Apr 20

Book Review by Return of the Native

The website called Return of the Native published a review of book.


Pavlis / Building Natural Ponds

Building Natural Ponds: Create a Clean, Algae-free Pond without Pumps, Filters, or Chemicals, by Robert Pavlis (2017 – paperback, 161 pp, New Society Publishers, $24.99)I’ve been waiting for this book since we first dug my pond in 2005. I knew I wanted a pond that would function naturally, without requiring electricity, and without using chemicals. Fourteen years later, I’ve worked out for myself many of the common sense solutions Robert Pavlis provides. But he explains the underlying science that supports the laid-back, leave-it-to nature approach and has much more in the way of helpful hints arising from long years of experience in pond construction and management.

In many respects, I have to live with the mistakes I made in the construction. Had I had this book back then, I would have avoided them. My primary fault was a poorly planned edge with no spillway and no natural intake. Another error was choosing a location with insufficient visibility from the house and a lack of seating. I have subsequently removed a flowerbed and taken other measures to make the pond a place of contemplation for humans as well as a home for amphibians and dragonflies and other creatures. It would have been better to plot it out at the start.

I wish I had thought of the idea of establishing a rain garden, fed from the house’s eavestroughing, that could be incorporated into the pond’s design and provide a natural input of water. I did, last year, put in a bog garden next to the pond to make a space for the plants that should grow by the water but can’t, if you have a rubber liner, because it’s as dry as a bone on the other side of the liner. Through the years, I figured out that much of the advice we get from pond professionals is make-work for us and make-money for them. But it’s so great to see Pavlis come out authoritatively on the just-don’t-bother side of the debate. For instance, no, you don’t need to control the pH, measure ammonium, add bacteria, install devices to keep the water moving, or clean out the pond every year.

So how does one keep a pond clear of algae and mosquitoes and undesirable odours? Pavlis explains the chemistry of keeping down the nutrient load and raising the oxygen level in the water. It’s simple: Grow pond plants. Not in soil – lowering pots of soil into the water  introduces nutrients and you don’t want those. Instead, weigh your plant roots down with stones. Let frogs and other creatures take care of the mosquito larvae, add fish if you want, but not too many and don’t feed them. My advice, from a climate zone north of Pavlis, is that keeping fish alive in a small lined pond is a winter headache, so don’t bother if your goal is to make the pond interesting. Watch the frogs instead. If you want to raise fish, Pavlis touches on how to make that work.

This book is workmanlike in the best sense of the word, covering just about everything a large or small pond-owner needs to know – from digging to design to plant selection. While Pavlis lists the invasive plants you should not choose because they have escaped garden ponds and become a problem in our waterways, he does not emphasize native plants, as I would, although many of the plants he suggests are native. I would for instance add our Northern Blue Flag Iris to his list of irises, I find them as lovely as any exotic.

To complement this practical volume with a keenly observed and beautifully crafted guide to the life you will become privileged to witness as you lounge by the pond, I recommend a book I picked up second-hand last year: Watchers at the Pond, by Franklin Russell. First published in 1961, with the most recent edition dating back to 2000, this should be a Canadian classic – along with many other works by this mostly forgotten but once-prolific nature writer.

Review by Return of the Native

Apr 10

Hot off the Presses

Just got my copies of Building Natural Ponds and I am very happy with the way it looks. The cover came out great.

Pre-orders from the publisher New Society Publishers, have been steady. Thanks to everyone who ordered early.

Building Natural Ponds , by Robert Pavlis

Building Natural Ponds, by Robert Pavlis

Apr 10

What is a Natural Pond?

The term natural pond can be defined on several levels. On a very basic level, a natural pond is one that exists in nature – one that is not man-made. That is certainly a very good description, but natural ponds can also be man-made, in which case they exist without the use of pumps, filters or chemicals. The pond may or may not have a liner to hold in water, but other than this everything else about the pond is controlled and managed by nature.

The goal of a man-made natural pond is to look just as natural as this one. Is it man-made?

The goal of a man-made natural pond is to look just as natural as this one. Is it man-made?

Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 20

Water Lilies: Hardy and Tropical Water Lilies for Ponds

Water lilies (Nymphaea species) are extremely valuable to the pond. They not only look great and flower well, but the floating leaves provide shade, eliminating the light needed by algae. They also provide a hiding place for fish and other water creatures. Water lilies should cover half of the open water space to help maintain a balanced ecosystem. They do best in quiet water, so keep them away from fountains and waterfalls.

Water lily, tropical blue, by Robert Pavlis

Water lily, tropical blue, by Robert Pavlis

View the full article about waterlilies

Oct 14

Building Natural Ponds – The Launch

It has been a busy week. The cover of my new book, Building Natural Ponds has been finalized and Amazon is now listing the book for sale.

This website was also launched this week. Please book mark it for future updates on the book and more articles on building ponds.