Tag Archives: backyard water features

Ponds, Birds & Butterflies


Queen butterfly enjoying aquatic butterfly bush
Queen butterfly enjoying aquatic butterfly bush.  Monarchs also visit frequently.

Backyard living is at an all-time high in popularity. It seems that, in our high-tech society, everyone wants to get ‘outside’ and enjoy the simpler low-tech pleasures. Nothing is better than sitting in a backyard by a water garden and watching the birds and butterflies at play. Many different types of birds visit our water garden and stream on any given day, and in the summertime the butterflies abound! They eat, play, nest and bathe… and in the process we (and all of our neighbors who walk by our front-yard stream) get to enjoy the gifts of nature.

Living and Working with Mother Nature

Oriole stopping by for a drink during his migration season
Oriole stopping by for a drink during his migration season

Like ALL living things, these beneficial creatures need certain basic things to live and prosper: food, organic healthy water, shelter, and places to raise young. If you provide these things, you will see your new friends moving in almost overnight.

Want to increase the number of birds and butterflies in your landscape? Here are some brief hints:

Plant some native trees, shrubs and flowers. Using the right plants will provide places for shelter, nesting and food & will add beauty to your landscape. The great thing is, many of the plants that shelter and feed the birds and butterflies are native plants. Most of these natives are long-lived, drought hardy, and insect and disease resistant. For more information on exactly what plants to choose, contact the Arizona Master Gardners if you’re planning to do it yourself, or Harper’s Nursery for a professional design.

Children are enthralled with a living water feature!
Children are enthralled with a living water feature!

Put in a water garden. We must ALL have water to live. Your water feature can be as simple as a bird bath (which needs to be cleaned daily for health reasons) or as large as a custom re-circulating waterfall, water garden or rainwater harvesting feature. The main thing to remember is that birds like shallow water for bathing and drinking (2″ to 4″) butterflies like a “seep” (wet rock or ground). Think about your overall landscape design and get some water in the mix! As a bonus, your kids/grandkids will really engage with a water garden. For more information on water gardens, START HERE.

Put up some feeders. Putting up a few feeders will almost immediately draw in some new visitors. Platform feeders are great for black oil sunflower seeds, fruit, bread, nuts, and more — remember to clean and replenish them often. Tube feeders and socks are perfect for black thistle (a Finch favorite). A large hopper-type feeder is great for general feeding and can be filled every few days with an inexpensive song bird mix. Suet feeders can be hung or mounted almost anywhere. AND don’t forget the Hummingbirds! There are even Butterfly feeders that you can put nectar and fresh fruit in to attract and feed butterflies. Spread your feeders out a bit around your outdoor living/viewing area. It will give you multiple viewing opportunities and it will give the birds a bit of room to move around.

Put up some bird and butterfly houses. Some birds require housing to get their attention! Some birds are particular on the placement, color, and construction of these houses, so do some research on the birds in your area and what they like/need. If you get it right, you will be blessed with some AWESOME birds that will eat their weight in insects and thrill you daily with their beauty and grace. And don’t forget the Butterflies! A butterfly house makes for a fun  conversation piece and is a really unique addition to your garden.

Think Green!

Want to help the environment and make your little critters healthier and happier? Think organic! Pesticides and other garden chemicals are VERY harmful to birds and beneficial Insects! It’s not easy being green, BUT it’s not that hard either. Try to use organic alternatives like neem oil, insecticidal soap, dormant oil and non-chemical fertilizers (or, better yet, compost). You will notice a difference in the quality of your garden AND in the quality of your life!  An organic, living water garden will naturally attract beneficial creatures to your yard for integrated pest management.

You Can Do It!

Enjoying the abundance of nature is awesome and it’s not all that difficult. In fact, if you do some of these things, you will see an immediate increase in the number of birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects (like dragonflies and damselflies) in your landscape. These beneficial creatures will make your flowers more beautiful, your vegetables more productive, and your life more abundant!

Gravel & the Arizona Backyard Pond

Quack09Over the years, Arizona backyard ponds have been constructed with a variety of materials. Many are made out of concrete, while others use preformed plastic tubs or various types of flexible liner. One of the main reasons we advocate the use of gravel is that it plays a vital role by providing a natural habitat for beneficial microorganisms. It’s also a cost-effective way to cover the liner and enhance the ecosystem, making your Arizona backyard pond a lot lower maintenance!

Arizona_-_MG_-_34The rocky bottom of an Arizona backyard pond is alive and brimming with activity, covered in algae, microscopic invertebrates, and bacteria. This section of the pond is basically a compost pile. When organic debris falls to the pond’s bottom, it’s broken down by the benthic (bottom) inhabitants. These organic recyclers live off of uneaten fish food, decaying plant matter, and nitrogenous fish wastes. If this substrate wasn’t present, the pond would quickly die, effectively being suffocated by toxic fish waste and organic build-up. If you don’t have this substrate, draining & cleanings must be done often to eliminate that build-up.

Fortunately, nature has given us a way to solve this problem with your Arizona backyard pond. And it’s SO much easier to work with Mother Nature, than against her! Organisms have evolved to use practically every bit of available food. Fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects will feed on these minute organisms, including bacteria and algae that live on the rocky pond floor.

BarnhartIn addition, gravel lends structural stability to the Arizona backyard pond. To achieve this, gravel is placed in between and behind the boulders. This eliminates spaces between them, which keeps them from shifting around, giving you a stable substrate. The gravel becomes a free-floating mortar, naturally locking the boulders into place. Again, Mother Nature does this as a matter of course in the naturally-occurring ponds and streams.

When adding gravel to your Arizona backyard pond and waterfall projects, be sure to vary the size of the gravel in order to provide a more natural appearance, as well as stability. You can have your gravel mixed at the stone yard, incorporating a blend of 3/8” to 3” gravel. The larger pieces give mass to the gravel bed, and act as a nice transition to the larger boulders. The smaller sizes provide lots of surface area, which is key for the pond’s biological activity.

For more information about how we build Arizona backyard ponds, visit our Profile.

Mosquitoes and the Backyard Pond

Most biologists agree that a well-built backyard pond, stocked with fish, is the cure for the West Nile Virus. As a matter of fact, a common lawn uses more water and requires much more maintenance effort than an average backyard pond, and generally adds chemical compounds to the ground water and pollution to the air – not to mention the noise pollution to the neighbors from mowing & blowing. For a landscape feature which provides nothing beneficial to native wildlife (unless you consider pigeons and grackles to be desirable wildlife), many, if not most, lawns regularly hold enough standing water to breed thousands of mosquitoes.  Well, that’s not good!

New MosquitoWe live next to a modern water garden (backyard pond) full of hungry fish, and any mosquito who would dare to visit is immediately eaten in a piranha-like feeding frenzy. The same holds true for midge flies and most other small flying insects. In fact, just to reach the water, an insect must dodge a gauntlet of dragon flies, damsel flies, and fly-eating birds, frogs, toads, and lizards!

Mosquitoes will generally only lay their eggs in still, stagnant water, such as an empty bucket or an upside down Frisbee left out after a recent rain, or even a pond with no circulation or hungry fish. If the mosquitoes lay their eggs in your well-built backyard pond and the mosquito larvae hatch, the fish in your backyard pond will consider them a treat and pick them off the water’s surface with great gusto.

Dragonfly3In addition to being terrific integrated pest management, time spent in our garden is time spent being entertained by Mother Nature’s army of bug-eating creatures, who are all here for the same reason: a healthy, organic water source! Sustainability of a clean, healthy, backyard pond is a function of construction material, technology, and proper installation techniques.

If you already have a pond and need some mosquito-hungry fish, Maricopa County Vector Control will give them to you for FREE.

If you’re interested in what else you can do protect your property from mosquitos, see tips given by Maricopa County Vector Control.

If you need a well-built backyard pond, call us today!  623-572-5607.  You can check out our work in person any time you’d like.

Rodents and the Arizona Pond

RodentsEven the cutest of wild critters can be detrimental to your Arizona pond!  During your normal Arizona pond maintenance, be sure to check around the waterfall and skimmer areas for rodent activity.  Damage can happen over time right under your nose!  They dig in and start tunneling around under the rocks and dirt, and can undermine equipment and plumbing, wreaking all kinds of havoc along the way.

The result of rodent activity in an Arizona pond can be anything from the mild annoyance of having to re-stack the rock or add some larger rocks to keep them at bay (in the early stages), to having to completely tear apart and rebuild your water feature (if left unchecked). We’ve had two incidents of the latter fairly recently because folks weren’t checking around the whole feature; hence, the warning.  Because we use a flexible system to build Arizona ponds, this is a fixable issue; however, it can be time-consuming, and thus, somewhat costly.

058We know it’s more fun to view your Arizona pond from your patio or sitting area, but once in a while take a little stroll around the whole thing to check the back end, too.  Just like you walk around your house occasionally to check for termite trails, right?  If you don’t do that either, it’s another thing you should consider doing on a regular basis, because prevention is a lot easier (and cheaper) than infestation!

If you need any help with any of this, let us know!  Contact Us.



A Backyard Pond Can Be Creatively Done

When building a backyard pond, a professional water garden or landscape architect will take several elements into consideration. Factored into the design of all backyard water features is the size of the yard space, the type of terrain to be built on, how much maintenance input a homeowner is willing to take on and the homeowner’s budget. But whatever type of water enhancement is to be built, one that is well thought out and professionally installed will become the most alluring focal point of your outdoor living area. Some think that only huge backyards can accommodate backyard ponds; however, if they’re done creatively, even the smallest of yards can be transformed into one-of-a-kind, beautiful and inviting settings for homeowners and their guests to enjoy. When it comes to ponds, bigger isn’t even necessarily better. Very large ponds require more maintenance and in reality, building a backyard pond doesn’t require it to be oversized to add life and peaceful energy to your outdoor space.

You can get as creative as you want when building a backyard pond, limited only by your imagination and the skills of your landscape designer. Ponds can be designed in any shape or size, but the ones that flow most fluidly are those with rounded edges like kidney bean shaped, for example. Ponds with lots of angles can trap more debris and limit water flow. In addition to the shape and size, placement is also something to consider when building a backyard pond. For example, in a dry desert such as Phoenix, it’s a good idea to have your pond situated in the shade. Flora and fauna around backyard ponds do need sunshine, but high exposure to the sun can cause an increase in algae and also raise the water temperature too high.

An experienced water garden designer will be creative enough to find the perfect spot for your pond and come up with natural and artificial ways to create shade to keep your pond healthy and welcoming. Call 623.572.5607 today for information about the wide selection of backyard ponds available at The Pond Gnome in Phoenix.

Backyard Water Features Make Relaxing at Home More Enjoyable

Coffee Table Book-013How many times have you gone on vacation and come home saying, “there’s no place like home”? Sometimes by the time you’ve endured airport delays, long lines, traffic and the expensive credit card bill that awaits you in the mailbox, you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. So what’s the alternative? Believe it or not, there is an easy solution for creating an at-home, relaxing stay-cation environment. There’s nothing like being able to genuinely relax without leaving the comfort of your own home. By fashioning the perfect oasis with backyard water features, at-home serenity is not only possible, but it is a breeze to create.

So what exactly are water features? Water features for the backyard can be one or a medley of installations ranging from a basic birdbath or fountain to larger scale elements such as pools, ponds, waterfalls, fountains and streams. Water, by nature, adds movement, life, and natural sounds and scents to any environment, automatically generating more soothing surroundings. A professional architect, specializing in landscape and water gardening can design a backyard water feature to suit your own needs, desires, budget and available space. With proper design planning, water features for the backyard can transform your outdoor space from patio to paradise. It’s all in the details. A private backyard pond, for example, enhanced with natural embellishments like aromatic floral gardens, lush green plants or herbs, a bubbling waterfall, some quiet mood lighting and even some colorful fish, can take your mind and body to a peaceful place; a full sensory experience. It’s all the natural sights, sounds and touch that create ambiance and the comfort of a tranquil retreat.

Adding backyard water features to your home gives the vibe of a comfortable gathering place for friends and family, a sanctuary for privacy or a romantic sanctum to get away from it all. Call 623.572.5607 now to learn how backyard water features from The Pond Gnome can make your outdoor space more relaxing and inviting.