“Pond building may be one of the best uses of fossil fuel we can make today.”
Landscaping Earth Ponds:
The Complete Guide
& The Earth Ponds DVD
Review by Peter Bane
The Permaculture Activist
This is Tim Matson’s fourth book on ponds and perhaps the most beautiful yet. Showcasing a range of natural features that might enhance the aesthetic of a country pond, he nonetheless manages to include a lot of useful information for pond builders. Handsome color photos throughout illustrate stone embankments, edge vegetation, specimen trees, benches, and mountain backdrops, while including a few buildings, docks, and other bits of built infrastructure. A handful of nicely executed line drawings show design features, plans, bridge variations, underground connections, and other elements not easily photographed.
The style is understated but very informative. The author has made so many ponds he knows the full range of vagaries, opportunities, and problems you may encounter in the process, and shares much of that insight. He explains excavated versus embankment ponds, and how to site the pond. There is a review of pond structure so that the reader understands safe and functional construction, plus discussion of water quality and sources.
As his earlier books dealt at greater length with the basic elements of pond construction, this one emphasizes the planting, though this section of the book also addresses environmental conditions, water flows, etc. An extensive list of suppliers, and a catalog of potential pond plants illustrated with color photos rounds out the offering.
One caveat – the ponds shown are all from New England, and while the information is broadly applicable, special conditions not discussed may apply in other areas. As the title implies, only earth-sealed, not lined ponds are covered.
An optional DVD is available with the book, and I found it to be an unexpected gem. Visual quality was only so-so, but Matson narrates an excellent script and he does it well. The editing is crisp and the film shows great attention to detail. Pond building can be a messy business, but we get to see the machines and the builders at work unadorned. Pond building may be one of the best uses of fossil fuel we can make today.
The number of ponds shown is fantastic – representing a lifetime of learning. The DVD covers biology, construction, design, aquaculture, wildlife use, and virtually every aspect of a pond in an intelligent, matter-of-fact manner. Plus, the virtual tour of Vermont summer (plus a little ice skating…) is heady and enticing, the sound of peepers virtually erotic for a viewer cooped up at mid-winter.
Altogether, book and DVD represent a very attractive package, taking the reader and viewer from basics to sophisticated design concepts in short order. Highly recommended.
The Permaculture Activist
P.O. Box 5516
Bloomington, IN 47407
Illustrated Encyclopedia a Winner
In the past 25 years, Tim Matson has built and maintained ponds and wetlands near his home in Strafford, VT. But through his writing, Matson’s aquaculture work transcends the bounds of New England to embrace ponds and pondmeisters coast-to-coast.
Earth Ponds A to Z: An Illustrated Encyclopedia provides a ready reference that belongs on the shelf of any pond owner or builders. From A, for acid rain, through Z for zooplankton, the author has defined and explained more than 200 terms associated with ponds.
The reader will find numerous pond elements, including landscaping, government support, environmental issues, construction materials and structural features.
We applaud the author’s emphasis on treading lightly, on using what Mother Nature has to offer. “The key to pond landscaping, “Matson writes, “is to mimic nature.” Hear, hear.
Better yet, more than 200 pond concepts have been capably illustrated by Frank Fretz. His art is especially informative when applied to cut-away views of what the eye can not normally see - how a dam is constructed, the anatomy of a swimming beach, and the guts of a spillway pipe.
Indeed, Fretz’ elegantly simple illustration of an aeration system is the best we’ve seen in depicting how a bottom diffuser functions and sends water bubbles upward thorough the water column. Manufacturers and distributors of aeration equipment would do well to contract Fretz for their marketing and advertising campaigns.
The cut –away “ant farm” depiction of how the diffuser lies on the pond basin is crucial to the public understanding aeration, and it’s a concept best explained with illustrations. Sadly, these casuals are all too often missing from promotional literature and brochures.
This is not to say Earth Ponds encyclopedia is the definitive scientific word on ponds and their construction. That would be painfully boring to read and impossible to lift. Rather, it is a thorough once-over in which the pond owner and wannabe can equip him or herself to ask better questions of the dirt contractor and pond consultant when conducting due diligence. While Matson’s Earth Ponds A to Z may not be the end all book for pond owners, it’s a smart place to start.
Pond Boss, March-April 2003
Earth Ponds A to Z: An Illustrated Encyclopedia
Tim Matson has a passion for ponds. The writer and aquaculture consultant has been offering advice to pondkeeprs for more than 25 year. His first book, Earth Ponds: The Country Pond Maker’s Guide to Building, Maintenance and Restoration offers readers an in-depth look at earth pond construction. Matson’s Earth Pond Sourcebook provides comprehensive lists of resources and a broader range of aquaculture topics. Now comes the third companion book, Earth Ponds A to Z. In this illustrated encyclopedia he has compiled brief descriptions of terms and techniques used in pond building and maintenance.
Matson is dedicated to water and habitat conservation, and his book offers innovative concepts and suggestions. You’ll find entries for geothermal ponds, which can hear and cool a house by capturing warmth from the ground, and hydro ponds, which can be used as an alternative energy source. There are also suggestions for dealing with a variety of unwanted critters such as muskrats, herons, and leeches.
Ponds, according to Matson, can be the solution to a wide variety of problems in addition to providing natural beauty and pleasure. In his introduction to the second Earth Ponds book he writes:
What could be more primitive than digging a hole in the earth and filling it with water? That something so crude should yield so many rewards seem down right magical, and indeed pond building is a kind of alchemy, transforming the basic elements of earth and groundwater into liquid gold-that is, a reservoir of open water to treasure as drought and fire protection, wildlife habitat, recreation areas, fishpond, skating rink, lily pond and more.
This fascination with the benefits of water as well as years of experience make Earth Ponds A to Z an essential handbook for anyone interested in large earth bottom ponds, water retention and aquaculture. While this book does not focus on small water gardens and plants, there is some valuable information about water quality that nay pond keeper will find useful. The entries offer expert scientific knowledge, yet are clear and understandable, and many are further explained with useful illustrations.
Earth Ponds A to Z is unlike many water gardening publications, in that it has a clear message of water and wildlife conservation and explores a more scientific and innovative side to pondkeeping. Matson is truly an expert in aquaculture, and this reference book is a must for anyone who is serious simply curious about the benefits of earth ponds.
Water Gardening Magazine March-April 2003
by Joanna Miller