Based on frequency of calls, ponds rank fourth in my office behind trees, turf, and tomatoes. Why we love our ponds is no mystery: when they are properly managed, they provide opportunity for fishing, are aesthetically pleasing, and help control erosion and flooding. Excepting ponds over 200 acre feet, Texans are allowed to dig and maintain their own ponds to capture and store “diffused surface water” or water that has not entered a clearly defined watercourse like a creek or river, and use that water for livestock, wildlife, or domestic purposes.
There is one key phrase you may have caught in the last paragraph that can determine if your pond is a blessing or a curse: “when properly managed.” Just like any other worthwhile endeavor, ponds are work. The equipment necessary is expensive, getting the design just right can be tricky, and keeping the weeds suppressed is a yearly battle. Fortunately, AgriLife Extension has a wealth of knowledge regarding pond construction and upkeep that any agent is willing to connect you to when asked. However, for brevity’s sake, I can sum up the most common practices we advise in relation to ponds.
Before you dig your pond, take a moment to consider the design. I mentioned earlier that weed control can be a nightmare, but you can cut your work in half by making the banks appropriately steep. Try to maintain a 3:1 horizontal to vertical grade. Most weeds grow in water less than 2 ½ feet in depth, so if you can keep that slope you would only have weeds up to 7 ½ feet away from the bank.
After you’ve dug and filled your pond, keep in mind what you are applying uphill. Misapplication of fertilizer or pesticide on ground that drains into the pond can lead to algal bloom, which require more work to fix, or fish kill, which can be expensive to remedy.
For products applied in the pond, dyes are an effective and low risk method to reduce the weed and algae population without hurting fish. The way they work is by limiting the sunlight throughout the water profile, like how most weeds cannot survive in water deeper than 2 ½ feet. When used according to the label, they do not harm fish or compromise the quality for domestic use.
Hopefully this little blurb answered some of your questions. If not, feel free to come by the office on the bottom floor of the courthouse annex. We are wearing masks but are still open.
Marshall Tolleson is a county extension agent for the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. The AgriLife office is located at 100 W. Houston St., Sherman. For more information, visit www.Grayson.AgriLife.org.