project loon has come to Puerto Rico and looks like shiny flying saucers up in the sky over El Yunque.
We're nearly finished now. Laurie has moved all the rocks around the edge so that you can't see the pond liner.
This illustration shows how the bottom rock is inset and the water level comes up halfway on that rock. We did it like this except we ran the pond liner up higher behind the second rock so that the level of the water comes up to nearly the same height as the surrounding dirt. In fact on the patio side of the pond we put the liner across a shelf and up high behind the rocks which border the patio. This is now filled with dirt contained with plastic ground cloth so that we can plant bog loving water plants there. The papyrus and the sealing wax palms are two of the bog-loving plants.
I hope everyone isn't completely bored with these updates of our pond project. I took a picture of Laurie right after she finished hiding the liner edge with rocks.
Now the only thing left to do is for me to fix the leak in the bio-filter tank and fill it with stones so we can turn our waterfall on and start the filtration process. I'm also getting a little excited about planting water lilies and lotus flowers. They are really pretty flowers. They open every morning and close at night. I'm not really a gardener. Laurie does all the planting. I usually just build the infra-structure and maybe plant an occasional useful plant like a fruit tree or a papaya. But these water lilies are really fun to watch bloom. You also don't have to do any weeding. Having a lot of lilies and lotus flowers will limit the type of fish that we can put in the pond though. Koi will eat the lilies and root around in your underwater pots damaging them. I think we may just stick with some of the amazing varieties of gold fish. Large orange gold fish and black moor gold fish swimming around will be beautiful and the just eat dog food like our other small fish that we put in to make sure there would be no mosquito larvae.
I took a couple of pictures of Laurie and Joss moving the big rocks away from the pond edge. It illustrates how strong a woman and a boy team can be.
If I was an artist I would also insert a nice drawing showing what we are trying to accomplish here but instead we will make do with words. The pond is lined with black plastic but the pond is supposed to look like a natural jungle pond (ideally a peaceful zen-like pond) which you might stumble upon while hiking in the jungle so the black plastic needs to be hidden. We found out after we had all the rocks in place that one side of the pond was a little high so it was difficult to hide the black plastic on that side with rocks. We also realized that the best way to hide the plastic is to have a shelf of rocks a little way below the top level of the pond. We are achieving this by pulling out one layer of sand bags on the high side. It is also necessary to back fill dirt very close to the edge so that we can root plants that will drape over in places and also look natural. The plastic will loop up a little behind the low level of rocks before we back fill with more rocks and dirt. This will contain the water when we bring the level of the pond up again.
It sounds so easy when I describe it like that. For those of you who are reading this with the intent to build your own pond I suggest that you plan having that small shelf about a foot below the final level all around your pond. Then below that you should have another wider shelf of about 18 inches deep to place low beds of contained soil for your lilies. The shelf we put in was a little deep so we had to raise our soil beds with concrete blocks.
We have started planting lilies in our pond. We have found some purple ones, some white ones, and some bluish ones. We got them from friends and from one of the nearby resort hotels. You can go to any hotel with a pond feature and talk to the gardeners. They have to thin out the ponds all the time and they just throw away the plants they pull out. You can see in the picture at the left that new roots grow out on the stems of the big leaves. Just cut off the big stem to separate it from the larger plant and put those roots down in your pot. Try to find a pot with a pretty big mouth as the tubers reproduce and grow sideways. Line the pot with plastic weed cloth to keep the dirt in and use dirt that has none of those little floaty white things in it (vermiculite?) like you find in potting soil. We used a mixture of sand, clay and composted manure. Wrap the edges of the weed cloth over the top around the plant and put gravel or small stones all over to hold the dirt in. You want the pot to be about 12 to 18 inches (the top of the pot) below the waterline. We used concrete blocks under the pot to bring it up to the right level. The leaves and flowers float up to the surface and the roots (hopefully) stay down in the pot. If your pond is small and shallow you can just put the roots down in the muck at the bottom of the pond. If you look closely at the photo of the purple lily you can just see the top edge of the pot and you can see some pots behind it that have smaller lilies that haven't grown up to the water surface yet. We are madly planting as many water plants as possible to reduce the amount of sun that penetrates the water because we have seen algae blooms before and would rather not have any in this pond.
Our new fish pond is filled and Laurie has started to plant around it. All that remains is finishing the bio-filter and adjusting the liner edges to look natural.
As you can see in the picture we have cleared all around the old pool and finished putting all the sandbags in. The block walls of the bio-filter are also in place. You can't see it but all the underground pipes and conduit for the pump power and lights are in place too. The next thing we have to do is add big stone walls to make it look nice (we hope). What have we learned so far? Lesson #1 when laying a block wall. Even if you don't have much cement left and even if Home Depot is closed early on Sunday it still is not a good idea to try and conserve cement by changing the 1 to 3 ratio of cement (along with 25% calcium carbonate added to the cement) to sand. It turns out that the resulting mortar looks just the same but doesn't stick the concrete blocks together. We had to redo the first course of blocks the next day when we bought some cement.
Kadafi's big truck arrived today with the stone. It is from a local "Cantera" and each load of stone costs $200. I will need one more load of smaller stones to place around the tank. The following quicktime video is of the truck dumping the load. It was more spectacular in person because the ground shook.
Our friends Greg & Linda at the neighboring horse farm Hacienda Siesta Alegre gave us these used carpets to help pad the ground when we put in the pond liner. They bring the carpets in from Florida to use as padding on the floor of the airplanes which they ship thoroughbred race horses in to local horse farms and for the race track here in Puerto Rico. So these carpets will have been recycled twice.
It took me a while to figure out how to plumb this. The majority of the water is going to pump directly to the waterfall but some of it has to go through the bio-filter (not too much as you don't want to upset the balance of organisms living there which do your filtration). So there are two gate valves to regulate those flows. Then there is an over-flow basin for when the pond gets to high and a big ball valve to open the pump directly to the overflow for when you want to drain the pond. Then another basin drain in the bio-filter tank so you can clean it out.