Jul 14, 2017

How exactly does rain water harvesting work?

So if you read Why Harvest Rain Water?, you're probably wondering, okay but HOW?

The diagram above is a cut out of a pond-free basin. The basin holds water under ground that powers the pond-free. A rain water harvesting system uses this same set up but has a much larger basin to hold more water.

Underneath the stone and the permeable pavers pictured above is our basin. Our gutter also empties into this basin. Any rain that falls on the patio or the roof gets collected in this basin.

This hose and gutter pictured above is attached to the same rain water harvesting system. The hose is attached to a pump in the basin, so we can use rain water to fill ponds and water our gardens whenever we need it!

This rain water harvesting system makes it extremely easy to use the collected rain water, and the system keeps the water oxygenated so you won't have any anaerobic, smelly bacteria collecting in your basin. If you're interested in learning more or want Cool Ponds to install a rain water harvesting system, contact us today!

Why Harvest Rain Water?

When we have a huge downpour of rain, it breaks my heart to watch all that precious water get dumped into the storm drains. And it breaks my heart even more when, on a dry day, we drag out our garden hose and spray our plants with chlorinated water. It just doesn't make sense!

Here are the figures why that doesn't make sense. I even put it in a nice infographic if you don't feel like reading!

A 2,000 square foot space (think your roof or your driveway) will accumulate 1,250 gallons of water during a 1" rainfall. Now let's take an average June in Indianapolis, which has about 4" of rainfall in the month. That's 5,000 gallons of water that's accumulated just in that 2,000 square foot space in one month. That water typically will fall into the street in front of your house, empty into a storm drain, into a storm sewer, and out into a river. That river then empties into the ocean. Essentially, that water is not used!

So what can you do with 5,000 gallons of rain water (in a month)... Hmm...

How about topping off your pond from evaporation? Watering your plants? Even watering your grass lawn!

Not only will it save you money (and the Earth!), but rain water is so much better for your plants and your pond than chlorinated city water. 

Jul 13, 2017

Creating a Backyard Habitat

If you're reading this, I doubt we need to talk about why you should want to turn your backyard into a wildlife habitat. But just in case you need some extra motivation, this article we wrote earlier this year explains a few cost-saving and back-saving reasons!

First of all, you don't have to have a forest in your backyard or a wetland moat around your house to have a backyard habitat. You'd be surprised how little you have to add to your yard to help in huge ways!

I'm going to jump on a soap box for just a moment here: when we say "wildlife," we are not being exclusive. We are not saying, "Okay all the cute birds and butterflies but NO BEES or NO GROUNDHOGS." The truth is, no matter what wild critter it is (even bugs!), they are all necessary parts of our ecosystem, and it is a true compliment when they visit our yards. If you're more inclined to invite wildlife in -- but with exceptions, then habitat creation may not be for you. Okay, off my soap box now!

Let's break down what a viable habitat has and some ways to add them to your yard. We'll break the steps into "Beginner" and "Advanced" versions, so you can tackle what fits your wallet and your ability!


What It Is: 

Shelter is important to hide small critters from predators, to provide shelter from weather, or to provide a place to raise little critters. The brush pile pictured above is great shelter for insects (which birds obviously love to munch on). Thick coniferous trees or shrubs are great for bird perches. Artificial shelters like bird houses or bat houses work well too!

Beginner Plan:

Plant a shrub like Service Berry or a coniferous tree or shrub like Norway Spruce. Placing groups of these plants together will provide a great wind break as well as help birds and insects go from plant to plant.

Advanced Plan:

Mimic the diversity of a natural ecosystem in your plantings-- open sections of wild flowers, tall deciduous trees, groupings of coniferous trees, and smaller trees like red buds with low canopies.

Create brush piles away from view. In the fall, let the leaves in your yard create a nurturing leaf litter.


What It Is:

When we think of nurturing wildlife in our yards, feeding them is often what comes to mind first. Almost everyone and their cousin has at least one bird feeder hanging up! Providing food in habitat goes well beyond throwing out bird seed, however. After all, you don't see cracked corn scattered on the forest floor, do you? 

Providing natural sources of food as well as "supplemental" sources (i.e. bird seed) is important. So what do birds eat naturally? Seeds from flowers such as coneflowers, insects, fruit like that from a mulberry tree. Flowering plants feed a wide variety of critters, and having something blooming in your yard from March to October is ideal (and possible!).

Beginner Plan:

Put up a tray feeder with a bird seed mix (the most accommodating type for the most amount of birds). Keep it near some dense vegetation so that skittish birds can comfortably fly to the new feeder and back to safety quickly.

Plant native perennial plants like coneflower or a native fruit-bearing shrub like service berry. Birds, butterflies, bees, and even more will thank you!

Advanced Plan:

Set up bird feeding "stations" with a wide variety of seed. Throw some seed on the ground like white millet for ground-feeding birds; have tray feeders with whole peanuts; and provide fat-rich suet for clinging birds in the winter.

Plan your plantings so that there are flowers blooming from early spring to late fall. Insects will appreciate the prolific food, and you'll get quite a show with butterflies and hummingbirds too. 


What It Is: 

For most of you reading this, this is probably the easiest part of habitat creation-- because you already have this! Your pond or pond-free waterfall is an ideal source of water for critters. 

The most obvious use of water is for hydration and for birds to keep their feathers clean. But water is so much more important than that even. Water itself is a fantastic breeding ground for a whole host of beneficial insects, including our beloved dragonflies. 

Not all water is created equally. The best water is not stagnant, which can collect harmful bacteria, but instead constantly moving. Having a variety of water depths in your water feature as well as some slower-moving pockets of water is great. Think of a natural creek or river. There are many different parts and functions to those natural water bodies, and yours should have them too. Not to toot our own horn or anything, but we're kind of experts at this! So if you need advice, we've got you covered.

Water is also just as important if not more so in winter. Although there might be snow on the ground, it takes a lot of caloric energy to melt a mouthful of snow into water, and it puts birds and mammals at risk of dehydration. Keeping a small section of your pond or pond-free free of ice will help out so much.

Beginner Plan:

Assuming you don't already have a water feature, add a bird bath with a water wiggler. This will keep the water agitated and fresh-- and free of mosquitoes!

Advanced Plan:

Keep a creek with a variety of depths and some slower moving pockets perfect for insect life and for bird bathing. 

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the ways to make your backyard a great habitat. In addition to asking us specific questions in the store or having us professional install a habitat in  your  yard, we encourage you to check out the Indiana Wildlife Federation website. You can even get your yard officially certified as a wildlife habitat!

Jun 1, 2017

DIY or Professional Installation?

Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part.  We are unique at Cool Ponds in that we are here to help no matter if you want your project installed by us or you want to do it yourself. 

Let us take you step by step through the process. Here are some considerations when deciding whether to have your project professionally installed or tackle it yourself:

Reasons to Hire the Professionals

  1. Our well-trained crew can install your project in only a few days whereas it make take you a few weekends. No offense meant, but we do this everyday and we know what we're doing.
  2. Your budget allows for a professional installation. Why not!!!
  3. You can't figure out what exactly it is that your spouse wants -- let someone else figure it out.
  4. Physical labor is not your cup of tea or you've earned the right to take a break!
  5. You'll enjoy the entertainment of watching our crew work while you sip a cool drink.
  6. The idea of a one-year, all inclusive warranty makes you smile....

Reasons to Do-it-Yourself
  1. You don't care how long it takes... It's about the journey not the destination.
  2. You're looking forward to a good work-out.
  3. You love planning, tinkering with, and designing things.
  4. You and your spouse are used to working together on projects or at least you are used to not understanding each other on projects!
  5. Bragging rights.
  6. Extra money saved on labor means a larger project!

Through the years, we have seem many, many water features installed by homeowners that are absolutely beautiful and fully functional. On the other hand, we've had many people decide to redo their DIY project and this time hire us!

Just remember, do your homework; if you hire, hire experience; and if you DIY buy a complete, quality kit from experts that can help you. You will thank yourself when your project is complete.

If you're trying to decide what your next step should be on your new project, stop in and let us walk you through.  We would love to help! 

Apr 5, 2017

5 Ways to Nurture the Earth (And Save You Effort!)

Imagine turning on the news tonight, and instead of the usually gloomy outcast, the reporter announced that bat populations were returning to normal levels, that monarch butterflies were taken off the endangered species list, that fresh water was in ready supply from coast to coast, and that mosquito control was no longer necessary.

Does that sound like a fantasy? It doesn’t have to be. If every one of us took a small step in the right direction, we’d be so much better off than we are today.

I’m not going to jump on a soap box about global warming or fuel efficiency or renewable resources.  I’m just going to talk about your yard. Yes, this is a gardening article, NOT a political one!

Here are 5 ways your yard can help nurture our beautiful Earth (and save you time, money, and effort!). I’m not suggesting you do this all at once (although if that’s your thing, we can help you with that!). Even doing just one thing at a time will make a huge impact.

1. Get rid of your lawn.

I might offend a few avid lawn-mowers when I say this, but a grass lawn is boring! Not to mention that mowing your lawn requires fuel, creates harmful emissions, and often requires fertilizers that end up in our ground water or natural water bodies. Plus-- grass lawns provide home and food for very, very little wildlife. 

What's the alternative? Try planting clover, expanding your plant beds, or using native ground covers. Or you could go the Wicker style... and just replace your lawn with pond.

2. Plant native plant species.

When we say "plant native species" we mean "versus non-native plants." And we mean both in your water feature and in your yard! Natives are so wonderful, and here's why:

Service berry shrubs are one of our favorite natives.

Low maintenance: Once established, most natives will never need watered again-- many are even drought-tolerant! And forget about fertilizer. You don't need it.

Habitat-friendly: Wildlife needs shelter and food. Many native shrubs, perrenials, and trees will provide this! Foliage provides a great place for critters to hide, nest, and roost. Look for dense grasses, thick shrubs and trees. Native species also attract native insects, which will help your gardens flourish and help feed wildlife. 

Aesthetics: Natives are not boring. You can have a different blossom in your yard every month from March to October.

Water conservation: As I mentioned earlier, you don't need to water these plants! 

Yes, this is a native! This is Butterfly Weed.

And we hear you loud and clear-- natives are hard to find! We have a selection of native perennials available in the month of April only. If there's a particular plant you want to find, let us know, and we may be able to order it from our wholesale grower for you. And of course, we have aquatic natives available whenever we sell our aquatic plants.

3. Make your backyard habitat friendly.

Beautiful wildflowers or perfect habitat? Maybe both!

A habitat has food, water, and shelter. If you have a water feature already, you're a third of the way there! The National Wildlife Federation covers this topic pretty extensively, so head to their website to learn more. Plus you can even certify your backyard as a wildlife habitat! Talk about bragging rights.

4. Capture rain water.

This waterfall is a part of our rainwater harvesting system.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about the water shortages on the west coast. And although we don't feel those shortages too much here in the Midwest, water conservation is something we should all be concerned with. Allowing rainwater to fall into storm drains and dump into the oceans means it's effectively useless. What a waste!

Capturing rain water for use in your backyard (watering plants, topping off your water feature) not only helps the environment, but also your water bill! The best rain water capturing is unobtrusive, aerates the water to prevent anaerobic bacteria build-up, and allows easy use of the rainwater afterwards. 

And imagine that-- we've got the solution for you! A rainwater harvesting system

5. Stop using chemical pesticides. 

This last one is probably the most hot-button topic I'm covering. Pesticides are pretty common these days. I won't cover the impacts on your own health (read this if you want to give yourself the heebie jeebies). And I'm not talking about agricultural uses, either. Let's just talk about your yard.

Here's the general rundown about why pesticides are a bad idea:

"Broad spectrum" pesticides kill a wide range of insects, including many that are very beneficial to your yard, your community, and even your food! Have you heard about colony collapse disorder in honey bees? Yup, that's a pesticide issue. We need bugs! We need them to break down waste in the soil, to fend off foreign insects from our plants, to pollinate our plants, to feed other critters in the food chain... the list goes on.

If pesticides get into your pond, they could kill your fish. If they get into a natural water supply (rivers, streams, even ground water), it could harm local fish populations.

Okay, so the bad news is all well and good, but what do we do instead? Plant native plants to encourage bad-bug fighting native insects or try planting these insect-repelling plants

I'm not saying there aren't occasions when pesticides aren't necessary: just use caution and judge the risks before applying.


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