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Backyard Pond is a
Neighborhood Asset

A Welcoming Garden for Neighbors, School Kids, Turtles and Chickens!

Delories and Henry King
Delories and Henry King beside their 3,500-gallon pond, which was created with "native materials, friends' help, and a little ingenuity."
Although Delories King has been a vegetable and flower gardener her whole life, it wasn't until she created a pond that her gardening passion really began to flourish. It was seven years ago, and Delories was still a school teacher (she recently retired) in Friend, Okla. Her school decided to create an outdoor classroom consisting of various gardens and a pond. As she watched the 7th and 8th grade boys planning, digging, and building the pond garden, Delories was inspired. Her mother, who had just died, loved ponds and Delories thought building one in her own backyard would be a beautiful tribute to her.

On a spring day in May, Delories invited eight of those same school boys over to help dig her pond. Delories' husband, Henry, was pleased since he was usually the one doing the grunt work for Delories' outdoor projects. The boys were excited. "I laid out the pond perimeter with a garden hose and then the boys went to it," say Delories. In one afternoon they dug a 6' wide by 11' long pond 4 feet deep, with shelves for rocks and plants. The soil they removed created a mound at one end of the pond for a waterfall. "The boys were exact with their measurements and took great pride in what they made," she says. "They wouldn't take any payment except for some sodas," she says.

Delories likes to improvise when looking for gardening materials. She asked a friend's husband, a roofer, if he had any extra rubberized plastic she could use as a liner. She then asked a neighbor if she and Henry (he couldn't get out of this one) could take some extra rocks they had in their yard to line the edge of the pond. "By midsummer we had created a beautiful 3,500-gallon pond in our backyard, using native materials, friends' help, and a little ingenuity," says Delories.

Delories did have to purchase the pump, but she created her own water filter. She placed an empty 55-gallon plastic barrel near the waterfall and pumped water from the pond into the barrel. Gravity took it from the barrel, through the waterfall, and back into the pond. She experimented with various filtering materials inside the barrel. After trying pea gravel and mattress padding to screen the water, she decided on plastic screening formed into a bag and stuffed with wheat straw.

Delories now had to decorate her pond. She planted English ivy around the edge and over an arbor. She placed two koi in the pond. All went well for about two years. Then one spring she noticed the water getting cloudy and organic matter accumulating on the bottom. "I asked friends what to do and one of them gave me a Gardener's Supply catalog," she says. "I ordered some of Barley Balls and placed them in the pond," says Delories. "The results were amazing. Within one month the water was clear as can be and I could see the fish even on the pond bottom in the deep end," she says.

To keep organic matter from accumulating in the pond, Delories places Pond Netting over the water in fall. "It really helps keep the leaves out of the pond and that reduces the amount of sludge on the bottom," she says.

Now that the pond is back in shape, Delories is planting more flowers around it. She has geraniums, roses, hibiscus, cannas, and even an elephant ear (Colocasia). Wildlife abounds: from red turtles to snakes and domestic chickens!

Delories likes to share the beauty of her backyard with others. "I have an open gate day every year. The school kids come over and sit around the pond in my fenced in backyard, listen to nature and do their writing and homework," says Delories. "It's a delight to see the look on their faces when they see the pond and all the plants and wildlife here."

A close friend recently commented that walking into Delories backyard is like "walking into paradise." Delories' pond has enriched the lives of many people in her community. Hats off to this enthusiastic Oklahoma gardener!

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