Water is important on many levels. At the most fundamental, it is an essential ingredient for all life on earth. In a permaculture garden, the effective use and re-use of water is an essential part of any design. As a general rule, permaculturists seek to slow the flow of water off their property. By slowing and storing water within the boundaries of their site, the gardener not only makes the use of water more efficient, but provides a constant supply of water to the garden, even in times of adverse weather conditions.
One of the ways you can keep water on your property is by establishing a pond. There are several benefits to doing so.
A simple function of having a pond in your permaculture site is that it is an easy, convenient way to store water. Having freshwater available on your property in case of emergency can bring peace of mind, and is a simple way of developing the mindset of self-reliance, rather than depending on large-scale systems that are outside of your control, such as the municipal water system.
A pond can also be beneficial for storing rain runoff. If you don’t have a water tank and directing runoff directly onto your garden could create problems, such as waterlogging, diverting to a pond can be a good compromise, meaning the water stays on site, but ion a benign way until you are ready to use it.
When you do need water, a pond can provide a source for use in small-scale garden projects, such as watering garden beds. While you don’t want to deplete the pond too much, taking some for small-scale irrigation is usually sustainable, particularly during wet weather periods.
In hot weather, the presence of a pond can help to improve conditions in microclimates around the pond. As water
A pond will attract species of animal to your property different to those drawn to the plants or trees. There are many types of insect that require a water body as a habitat, while amphibians such as frogs and toads live in close proximity to water. In turn, these species will attract birds and animals that prey on them. Therefore, having a pond on our property greatly increases the biodiversity of the site.
The key thing is not to try and force wildlife to come. You don’t need to do anything special to attract animals, and you certainly don’t want to add feed to do so (creating a false dependence). Water is becoming a scarcer and scarcer resource, so any new bodies of water will naturally attract animals, and they have a remarkable ability to find it on their own. If you establish a new pond, you are likely to see dragonflies and water beetles within just a day or two. Amphibians will arrive as the pond gets more established and can provide enough food for them. Besides, seeing your pond develop, grow and change naturally over time is one of the pleasures of having a pond on your site.
There are few things that are more pleasurable than sitting beside a pond in the early evening as the sun is just starting to set, and watching the flitting of insects as they jostle in the air above the water, hear the croak of frogs that are nestled in the plants at the edges, listen to the birdsong as the local species come to roost in the nearby trees, and watch the play of light as it falls on the plants and flowers floating on the pond’s surface.
Or consider taking an early morning stroll in the garden, as the sunlight stats to illuminate the dew on the plants, the birds are singing the first calls of the day, and the pond is calm and peaceful.
A pond brings a different dimension of pleasure to a permaculture garden. Despite being full of natural processes and interlinked species all going about their business, a pond creates a place of calm. Water can have a very meditative effect on a garden − and on the gardener.
Of course, as permaculturists, we are always looking for ways to make the garden productive, and ponds provide an opportunity for aquaculture. You can grow plants within the pond, either rooted to the bottom around the edge or floating on the surface. There are many species you can grow in a pond, depending on your particular conditions, including water lettuce, aquatic mint, watercress and water chestnuts. Other species can be grown for use as food for livestock, such as Wapato, wild rice ad pond lily. A note of caution, however, it is not recommended that you grow edible plants you intend to harvest in a pond that receives greywater.
Aquaculture can also mean breeding fish for food. This could mean stocking with catfish or carp, depending on the size of your pond and the available food (ideally you would like the fish to get enough food naturally from the insects or other marine life living in the pond, rather than adding purchased fish food, which is often produced in an unsustainable way). Alternatively, you could use the pond to raise baitfish, such as minnows, that you could then use for fishing for larger species on nearby rivers, lakes or at the coast. If you want to raise fish but also have wildlife in your pond, make sure there are areas that have dense plant cover, and lots of grasses overhanging the edge of the pond. These areas provide shelter for smaller fish, amphibians and tadpoles to escape the attention of the fish. Alternatively, you could construct a pen within the pond that holds your fish, allowing other species to thrive outside.
Don’t forget as well that many plants that grow in ponds will require pruning to ensure that they don’t become too overgrown and deprive other plants of space and oxygen. These prunings can be used as compost to add organic material top the soil in your garden.