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I'd like to create a pond in a wet spot in my yard so that I can plant some beneficial water plants and possibly attract frogs and toads to help control pests. Is it possible to seal the pond so that it consistently and naturally holds water with out using a plastic pond liner or something like conrete? Ideally I'd like shore plants to be able to get their roots into the water.

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    Not sure permaculture's really the right tag for this... gardening? Not really... water management? – Daniel Bingham Jan 30 '13 at 23:56
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    I agree. If this is permaculture, then everything on this site probably is... – Earthliŋ Jan 31 '13 at 0:15
  • Do you have any flowing water flowing through your property? – Earthliŋ Jan 31 '13 at 0:30
  • Only when it rains. I'm one the side of a pretty steep hill with about a half acre. When it rains, the whole thing more or less turns into a slow flowing stream. – Daniel Bingham Jan 31 '13 at 16:53
  • In that case you'll have enough water to keep your pond from drying out, I'd say. Also look up "swales" as a way to keep the water on your property and put it to good use. – Earthliŋ Feb 1 '13 at 11:20
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Sepp Holzer seals ponds without using liners. Check out this video [which has pretty bad audio].

Summary of the technique (I haven't tried this, but I would expect that the devil is in the details...):

  • dig out the pond
  • while water is in the pond, compact the bottom -- he talks about using an excavator or backhoe with a vibrating attachment
  • if the soil is rocky/gravelly, you need to remove extra soil to get rid of the rocks, then replace it with finer soil that will compact better
  • it may require multiple compactions
  • Pure compacting will only work in non-freezing climates in my opinion. Frozen water will un-compact any porous material (soil). – Peter Ivan Jan 31 '13 at 13:57
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    FWIW, Holzer is at +1000m elevation in Austria -- he is definitely getting freezing temperatures. I saw 39°F mentioned as his average annual temperature... – bstpierre Jan 31 '13 at 14:19
  • Funny thing about this site, it's going to take me a while to try that out so I can accept the answer. :/ – Daniel Bingham Feb 4 '13 at 21:23
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    I'd love to hear about how it goes! – bstpierre Feb 5 '13 at 2:26
  • @bstpierre I'll definitely let you know! Also, thanks for the great answer :) – Daniel Bingham Feb 6 '13 at 20:48
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Clay. Cheap, simple, abundant. Any soil with a clay content in excess of 40% makes a darn good water retention layer. One dump truck load of locally sourced high clay should be all you need.

See "Water Content‐Density Criteria for Compacted Soil Liners.” in the Journal of Geotechnical Engineering, Volume 116, Issue 12 (December 1990) by D. Daniel, ASCE. and C. Benson, ASCE.

  • corrected the omition. Thanks, bstpiere. I looked up that document to find the number, then forgot to put it in. – OCDtech Feb 20 '13 at 22:36
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You can seal a pond by putting pigs in it. They'll compact the bottom so much that it stops leaking. It may take a few years though. See http://www.makeitmissoula.com/2012/07/paul-wheaton-can-pigs-build-ponds/

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    Welcome to Sustainable Living! Very interesting article you link to, but why would it 'take a few years'? The article suggest that you can just let a few pigs loose in the pond and it will be sealed very quickly (perhaps in one or two days?). – THelper Feb 12 '14 at 7:52
  • I didn't get the sense that the article was talking about the process only taking two days. The author didn't mention a timeframe, but the two anecdotes quoted in the article mentioned 2 year and 3 year time frames. in any case, summarizing pertinent information from the article here would make this a better answer, links tend to disappear over time. – Johnny May 6 '15 at 18:48
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Geoff Lawson "The Prince of Permaculture" uses ducks and plants to feed the ducks-- the glee settles where the cracks are and builds up--- kind of like radiator stop leak..

  • I am confused; can you explain more? – andy256 May 4 '15 at 11:29

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