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Article 25: Pond Gear – Other Helpful Tools, by Jeff Richardson

Posted by Jeff Richardson on

These are a number of non-pond specific tools that you may already have but are very helpful in building, maintaining or operating a pond.  I mentioned them here as an FYI as you may have overlooked them.

Survey Tools: I have a survey tape.  This is nothing more than a 100’ long flexible tape measure (not metal) with a hand crank for quickly rolling up.  When designing large features, digging long lines or draping over a hole to figure liner sizes, it makes the job easier.  I have a 360° self-leveling laser which fits on a tripod.  Placed in my empty pond, I was able to mark the water surface perfectly all the way around with a silver sharpie.  It showed me exactly where the ground was too low or high all in one shot.  Lastly, I use diagramming software (originally used for making flowcharts – like “Visio” or “draw.io”).  Both have a scale drawing option.  So, I drew a rough shape of my main pool bottom, drew in various PVC pipes until I had optimum coverage for my gravel filter, and then went to the store and built it from my picture!

Excavating Tools: You just need a shovel, right?  Wrong!  I have worked years digging for the gas company, replacing water lines, adding sewer lines and my own pond.  I can tell you that for trenching long lines, 2 to 3 feet deep, nothing beats a post-hole digger.  It is easy to use; pulls up lots of dirt in one go, and makes a trench that you can easily fit a 4” pipe in.  You can tape marks on the handles too to get a precise depth if need be.  Have a spade on hand (flat, not scoop shape like a shovel) and sharpen the end with a file.  This will make quick work of roots (where boots of course).  As mentioned in a previous article, make a sifter from 1x2’s stapling on ¼” metal screen (two feet by one foot is a good size). I backfill around plumbing lines or replace the soil around liner with clean fill separating out rocks and debris.  Other helpful tools for excavation are a three-finger fork, hoe, hand trowel or rake, a pry bar, pales, buckets, or barrow.

Vegetation Tools: Many times when working in or around your pond, you may only need a hand pruner.  I live in a temperate rain forest and vegetation grows year round (even in winter)!  I have aquatic grasses that grow roots out into the pond over time, ferns that grow root mats over the liner, and other nasty vines that I must keep at bay.  It may seem extreme, but I own a machete.  I can trim off the roots and cut back ferns in short order which would take much longer (and harder on my hands) than a pruner.  There a specialized cutter rakes for removing pond weeds from the bottom of a pond.  Of course a bow saw or loppers are handy for large branches of bushes and trees around your feature.  Remember, you don’t want landscaping to overtake and block views.  I even trained a tree over my pond to grow out and over by selectively cutting new growth shooting upwards, but leaving branches extending outwards. 

Oddities: I have found some random tools over time that has helped me immensely with my pond.  A gutter scoop is a long, narrow flexible scoop made to conform to your roof gutters and remove leaves and debris.  When cleaning out my sludge pit, I found it to be an excellent device and narrow enough to dump in a 5-gallon bucket without making a mess.  A PVC cable saw is nothing more than a thin steel cable with two loops for your fingers.  If you find yourself in a position where you are adding a fitting to existing pipes in tight places or underground, this is the tool for you.  You need only dig a small hole to uncover the pipe, slip the cable beneath, and then saw back and forth with your fingers.  The cable will cut through the pipe saving you from digging a giant hole so you can use a saw.  Note: this tool will not work underwater as the heat from friction is what helps it cut through the pipe.  Lastly, markers!  Write on every pipe and fitting (even ones you bury - mark every 3’); write component gallon capacities; draw direction of flow arrows; and function.  You (and others) will appreciate it when looking at or digging something up 10 years from now.

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