Natural pools offer year-round outdoor enjoyment with surprisingly little upkeep. After its third, and very tough, winter, I recently opened a large natural pool and its associated constructed wetland for one of my clients. Here is a glimpse at the process.
In the autumn we cut back all the plant material so that it doesn’t end up in the pool. Any material that ends up in the water will decompose and fuel algae blooms the next season. We then pull a net over the pool to catch the numerous leaves that fall on this wooded lot. We disconnect the pumps and allow the plumbing to drain. The smaller skimmer pumps are then stored in a frost free location.
To open the pool back up in the spring the first step is to remove the leaf net. You can see that the net has done its job, collecting leaves and other debris.
We then pump out the pool. Because the water is not treated with chemicals, we can direct the water onto another part of the landscape.
As we pump, we fill several tubs with pool water. If we come across any fish or wildlife as we work on the pool, they can be relocated to the tubs while we take care of maintenance.
We continue to pump out water until the water is level with the first shelf. This allows us access to the marginal plants, and we can retrieve debris that worked its way under the net.
We remove as many leaves from the shore as we can, first with a rake and then using our hands. Any debris left behind could contribute to algae blooms.
The skimmer holds the filter mats and debris net.
We remove the skimmer filter mats and clean them with a power washer.
We remove the debris net, empty it out, and then reassemble the skimmer.
We’re careful to remove any small animals that may have overwintered in the skimmer before we close it back up. Those tubs filled with water earlier in the process come in handy now.
By time we start spring maintenance, we can see the beginnings of Mother Nature reawakening. Here we have iris beginning to emerge.
Hardy Water Lily leaf out and begin to make their way to the surface.
After the pool and all of the equipment are clean, we hook up the waterfall, skimmer pumps, and aerator. Here is the main pump, which takes the water through the bottom drains and pumps it up to the bog to be filtered. The water then makes its way back to the pool via the stream. To the right of the pump is the aerator, which pumps air through hoses to the bottom of the pool to prevent anaerobic conditions (i.e. dead zones) and help turn the water over. The key to a clean healthy pool is aeration. Between the stream and falls and the aerator this pool is well aerated.
With everything working, we top of the pool with water from the well and add liquid beneficial bacteria and sediment-digesting enzymes to the water. One of the many benefits to having a holistic pool is that if it wasn’t so cold we could jump in right now unlike a chemical pool where you would have to wait.
While the pool is filling we head up to the bog to clean that out. This consists of cutting back the grasses and removing the dead lily, iris, and other foliage.
Once the falls have been restarted and all the pumps are running, we walk the perimeter looking for “low edges” – areas that may have settled over the winter where water might now drain out.
The hardest part about the pond start up is pulling yourself away once it’s going. It’s amazing the way the birds seem to appear out of nowhere once the stream and falls are running again.
About the Author
Trevor Smith MCH, LEED Green Associate, AOLCP is the owner of Land Escapes, a landscape design company specializing in native plant design, living walls, green roofs, rain harvesting, permeable pavements, and urban farming. Trevor is the current president of the Ecological Landscape Alliance and is a certified Green Living Technologies Living Roof and Wall Installer.