A natural pond in a residential backyard

(Photo credit: white78/Adobe Stock)

With a history dating back to ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, public and residential swimming pools began to enjoy immense popularity post-World War II. One of the milestones in this water worship occurred in 1940 when the first gunite pool was built. This building process allowed concrete to be sprayed through a nozzle, or “gun,” and it held up on walls without the use of form boards or hand-packing. This new method was less expensive, was easier to shape, and is still used today. When World War II ended, millions of men came home trained to swim, and because of the “GI Bill,” many were able to buy homes. More than a few decided to install one of those fancy gunite pools in their backyards.
While people still love hanging out in the backyard by the water’s edge, the water is changing for many upscale families. In some cases, chlorine pools are OUT, and natural ponds are IN. The vibe associated with these natural ponds is decidedly different from Grandma’s pool.
What This Means for You — While the number of backyard natural ponds has a long way to go before overtaking those of traditional swimming pools, this trend has caught the attention of homeowners who want a more natural, chemical-free experience with a water feature. The benefits may surprise you.

Acme Brick is more than just brick. The company’s outdoor entertainment products are not found at big-box retailers. They are carefully curated to deliver outstanding durability, innovative technology, and, most of all, more fun while spending time with friends and families in the great outdoors. Take a look at the possibilities.

Natural pond in residential backyard
Photo credit: Daniel Vincek/Adobe Stock

Trendspotting in the Backyard

Leave it to the sustainable living influencers on social media, such as TikTok, to catch this wave of natural pools in the backyard. As an article in The New York Times pointed out, “Unlike traditional swimming pools, which contain chlorine, natural pools rely on plants and rocks for filtration instead. An underwater retaining wall separates the swimming area (where humans — and sometimes fish — swim) from the regenerative zone, which closely resembles wetlands filled with aquatic plants like water lilies or water lotus. Pumps, and sometimes waterfalls, keep the water moving, and the rocks and skimmers filter sediment and large debris.
“This alternative might appeal to the environmentally minded. ‘Backyard ponds that don’t have chemicals in them can foster biodiversity and be important habitats for a variety of wildlife,’ said Meredith Holgerson, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University who studies natural and human-made ponds.”
“When Dr. Holgerson surveyed landowners in upstate New York about their ponds, whether they were for swimming or not, many reported feeling relaxed just looking at them. ‘I don’t know to what extent that’s true for a rectangle concrete pool in your backyard,’ she said.”

The Advantages of Natural Pools

The cost of building is pretty much a draw between traditional and natural pools. As the Times story notes, “The cost of building a natural pool is comparable to that of a chlorine pool. In Southern California, Sara Bendrick, the founder of Sarita Landscapes, says it can range from $50,000 to $200,000 depending on the size, but natural pools are quicker to compose. ‘The materials are a lot simpler,’ Ms. Bendrick said.”
There is a big difference in other areas, like maintenance. Traditional pools require a lot of maintenance, from weekly chemicals to pumps and filters that need repair or replacement. Natural pools are like homes built with brick. There is little or no maintenance because nature is taken into consideration in the construction. This also reduces the expenses related to the pool. With no chemicals involved, biodiversity increases. This is a powerful advantage for many urban denizens.
The ROI on natural pools is greater because they can be enjoyed year-round, not just during warm weather. As the Times notes, “When winter comes, no closure is necessary. With the water movement, ponds tend to not fully freeze over. And they still bring joy.”
From the standpoint of kids in the family, natural pools excel in an important category: “the critter quotient.” One of the fun considerations involves pondering a critical question: Will it be koi or goldfish? According to the Times article, “Then there are the critters the ponds attract — which can be a selling point for some. The plants surrounding a pond, and the pond itself play host to all manner of fauna.” 
Finally, for homeowners with very little backyard space (“hello, zero lot line!”), the small size of most natural ponds can be a powerful advantage. With water plants, fish, and subtle lighting, these pools can be a focal point for the entire yard, no matter how small they are. 

outdoor chairs overlooking pond and flowers
Photo Credit: Nadezda Verbenko/Adobe Stock

Other Considerations for a Natural Pool 

There are a few other things to consider before building a natural pool in the backyard. The most obvious is, well, how to build it? 

Contractor or DIY?

For those with little landscape design and DIY skills and even fewer tools necessary to pull this off, hiring a professional contractor is the best option to consider. More and more traditional swimming pool companies have recognized this trend toward natural pools and have developed plans and personnel to build them for homeowners. One way to “help” the professionals come up with unique natural pools is to use Pinterest for design ideas. This social media site has thousands of design ideas, and using this free service will allow the homeowner to “crowdsource” some terrific layouts. 
There are a limited number (and you know who you are) of ardent do-it-yourselfers with the tools and strong backs required to build a natural pool. As people in the Southern US are fond of saying, “Bless your heart!” For a simple DIY plan for building a natural pool, click here

12 Brick Patterns for the Floor of the Patio

Nothing complements the appearance of a natural pool like the natural beauty of brick for the “floor” of the patio. Since brick requires little or no maintenance and will last for generations without needing to be replaced as wooden decks might due to rot and weather damage, most homeowners choose brick. 

As patios gain more popularity, homeowners are considering a wide range of brick patterns to complement other features of the outdoor entertainment space. Click here to see 12 glorious brick patterns, all perfect for the natural pool.

brick patterns

Flora and Fauna for the Natural Pool

A beautiful natural pool is greatly enhanced with water-friendly plants and smaller, pond-friendly fish. Choosing correctly for these two categories will also help the homeowner reduce the incidence of algae in the pond and improve water quality. 
Here are six plants that will make every natural pool perfect!  

  • Pickerelweed
  • Blue Flag Iris
  • Cardinal Flower 
  • Native sedges and rushes
  • Arrowhead or Duck Potato
  • Swamp Milkweed

Here is an extensive overview of each of these water plants
Choosing the best fish for the natural pool involves choosing the correct-sized fish that is most tolerant of climate variations. The species of fish will vary, depending on the size of the pool. 

Warming Up the Space

Fire features for outdoor entertainment spaces have become an important consideration, and this is especially true when a natural pool can be enjoyed in any type of weather, year-round. From outdoor kitchens, built-in fireplaces, fire pits, entertainment nooks, and outdoor heaters, Acme has an array of outdoor fire features

The Possibilities Are Endless

The growing popularity of residential natural pools is just a small part of a larger, overall trend that homeowners have discovered: entertaining at home is great for everyone involved. The sustainability, lower maintenance, and biodiversity of these natural water features are just three of the many benefits they bring to the backyard. Move over swimming pools. The pond has arrived!
Here are some great ideas for your outdoor entertainment space.