Q & A for Robert Pavlis, author of “Building Natural Ponds”

By Shelley Pierce | December 31, 2017
by Shelley Pierce
December 31, 2017

Robert Pavlis, a Master Gardener with 40 years of gardening experience, is owner and developer of Aspen Grove Gardens, a six-acre botanical garden featuring over 2,500 varieties of plants. A popular and well-respected speaker and teacher, Robert has published articles in Mother Earth News, Ontario Gardening magazine, a monthly Plant of the Month column for the Ontario Rock Garden Society website, and local newspapers. He is also the author of the widely read blog GardenMyths.com, which explodes common gardening myths, and GardenFundamentals.com, which provides gardening and garden design information.

In his latest book, “Building Natural Ponds“, Pavlis provides a step-by-step guide to designing and building natural ponds that use no pumps, filters, chemicals, or electricity and mimic native ponds in both aesthetics and functionality.  Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of three copies from New Society Publishing.

1. Why should we consider adding a water feature to our landscape?

Water features provide a way to grow new plants and have fish. It attracts wildlife like frogs and dragon flies. Many smaller mammals and birds use it for a drink and to bath in. When moving water is added the sounds helps drown out other noises in the neighborhood.

2. What is the key to creating a clean, algae-free pond without pumps, filters or chemicals?

Plants use the nutrients that would normally produce algae. In a natural pond it is important to keep a balance between the nutrients being produced by plants, animals, fish and insects and those being used for plant growth.

3. How does this book help us construct a new pond from start to finish?

The book approaches building ponds from two directions. The first is from a design perspective. How do you design a pond to look natural and function without equipment and chemicals. It looks at both man-made ponds and native ponds to clearly understand the criteria that make a natural pond function and look great. Then the book goes through a very detailed process of making all of the right decisions to make the design a reality, covering topics such as site selection, construction issues, and finally plant and fish selection.

4. What basic skills does one need to build a natural pond?

The process is fairly simple. The only real skill is a willingness to work hard. Digging and moving stones becomes a labor of love, but it is still work. The design process can be challenging, but anyone who is willing to put some effort into the project can do that.

5. Once a natural pond is built, how much maintenance does it require?

Almost none. If you don’t get enough rain you need to top up the water level a couple of times a year. It is a good idea to remove dead plant material and fallen leaves in fall by scooping them out with a net. Other than that the pond requires no other work.

Win one of three copies of “Building Natural Ponds“!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, January 1, 2018 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

Why do you want to build a natural pond?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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  • LynneG
    Comment added January 1, 2018Reply

    Hi Robert -
    I have maintained a goldfish pond for many years, but have not had consistent luck with it. I keep live plants in it, but also use a biofilter, and I must confess, there have been a few years that I have resorted to a UV light to control algae. Although I have had the same 20 fish for over 15 years now (they are really tough little guys in my zone 6 garden), I would love some expert advice with it, as I wish it was a natural ecosystem for my beloved fish. Your book sounds like it could be just what I need. Thank you for considering my entry. Happy New Year to you!

  • Mike Miller
    Comment added January 1, 2018Reply

    Natural ponds go hand in hand with permaculture principles, which I hope to utilize one day. This book would be a great resource in that future effort.

  • Maria Hrushka
    Comment added January 1, 2018Reply

    I would love to get a natural pond. We just bought a house with two ponds, but they are out natural. I wonder what it takes to make them natural ponds.

    Comment added December 31, 2017Reply

    The importance of a garden goes far beyond its beauty. Purposefully choosing flowers, trees and shrubs to attract and sustain wildlife greatly benefits the environment and all the creatures in it. A "natural pond" would take this a step further, benefiting many creatures & the environment as well!!!

  • Gail Arnn
    Comment added December 31, 2017Reply

    I would like to have a natural algae-free pond in my backyard without the use of chemicals because I have pets. I also want to encourage more birds to my backyard.

  • Jill Hanson
    Comment added December 31, 2017Reply

    I would love a natural swimming pond. I also like that it attracts birds and butterflies too!

  • Deena Partridge
    Comment added December 31, 2017Reply

    I have a pond my son built for me when he was young. Every year it gets a stringy algie in it. I Love all the birds who visit it every year. And the bees and dragoflys. At one time I had wild bullrush growing in my upper stream. It needs a ton of work though. It leaks now. Water won't stay in it.

  • Krista Hofius
    Comment added December 31, 2017Reply

    I love the sound of water in our backyard. Having a natural pond would be amazing

  • Greg V
    Comment added December 31, 2017Reply

    Natural ponds are beautiful

  • Greg V
    Comment added December 31, 2017Reply

    Natural ponds are just beautiful.

  • Jane Havran
    Comment added December 31, 2017Reply

    Ever since I first heard about natural ponds I have been in awe of there beauty. I would love to have an all natural swimming pond !

  • Matt Suwak
    Comment added December 31, 2017Reply

    I grew up in a rural area full of natural springs. People would dig, dig, dig and wait for the water to fill up. It worked pretty well, all things considered. Looking forward to checking out this book!

  • Stephanie Kennedy
    Comment added December 31, 2017Reply

    I have always wanted a pond. To hear the frogs along with the birds we feed would be amazing. It's something I have always wanted to do without hiring someone.

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