By Dayleen Van Ryswyk aka “The Koi Lady”
It’s that time of the year where it’s getting hot and you long for that place in your yard to lounge around and escape the heat. A few years ago we put in a swimming pool and I must say it’s very nice to be able to jump in and cool off after a long day in the garden. I have been doing a lot of reading in the past year or so about chlorine, more so in our drinking water but then I started to read about chlorine in our pools and even the water we shower in.
I know that I don’t like the way it smells and it can even turn a blonde person’s hair green…you hear a lot about “going green” these days but I don’t think that’s what people mean. I never really thought about how much our skin absorbs but if you think about it, we are actually pretty porous and do absorb a lot of the pollution from our environment through our skin. We have since converted our pool to salt water and that is a lot better but did you know that there is an even more natural, chemical free way to have a pool?
Swim ponds, also known as “natural swimming ponds” have been taking Europe by storm over the last 20 years. Swim ponds being called “natural” is actually a misnomer, since there is nothing natural about them. They are in fact carefully designed and constructed. Now, you may be wondering what swimming pools have to do with gardening but keep reading and you’ll see where they fit in perfectly. Swim ponds are geared towards the swimmer but in my opinion, they are also geared towards the water gardener. The way swim ponds work, is by having the pond separated into two areas. You have the deeper swim area that is walled off in the center. Then you have the outer perimeter, the regeneration area, which is heavily planted with hardy and tropical perennial water plants. The water is drawn from the bottom of the pool and through the top (via a hidden skimmer) and returned back to the pond/pool through all the water plants. Though it’s man-made, the concept of flowing through the plants to remove pollutants is very similar to wetlands in nature.
There are no harsh chemicals used in these swim ponds because the plants and specially designed filters clean the water to such a degree, that the water can actually pass some of the toughest municipal drinking water standards. Waterfalls and other sources of aeration are an important part of the eco-system. Not only do the waterfalls and plantings make the entire swim pond look very natural but it’s a very important part to the entire system. Pretty much the only thing you’ll add to your swim pond that comes from a bottle, is a natural enzyme to help balance the water and break down any debris. It’s perfectly safe for people and fish; in fact I use it in my Koi ponds.
Another nice thing about a natural swim pond is the fact that it is a four season feature. Unlike a swimming pool that really only looks good for a few months because the rest of the time is covered in a tarp. A swim pond is a natural living pond with plants that look great and when it freezes over in the winter, you can use it for ice skating. Try doing that with your pool!
A swim pond can be built by the home owner and the Oase Company makes a kit that you can buy and build yourself (if you have a strong back and a strong will to save money by doing it yourself.) If you’re like a lot of us, it would be a lot easier to hire one of the professionals that are specializing in this technique. I’m sure there are standard pool builders that could do the project but with something as specialized as this, you may want to consider a specialist or at least a builder with pond building expertise. They should have a good understanding of the natural cycle of a pond, filtration and water plants. Some people have fish in their swim ponds; it’s entirely up to you. Some of the kits are not designed for fish so if that’s an element you would like to incorporate, then you should take the time to look around and do some research.
From what my research tells me, the cost of building a standard basic pool and a swim pond are pretty similar, the other differences are obvious. The pool we had originally put in for our children usually sits empty. They seem to favor swimming with the Koi in our 23 thousand gallon swim pond/Koi pond…who knew one could combine the beauty of a pond with the fun of a pool.