At Dig This Design, there is an unofficial motto that often comes up: “mother nature always gets it right”. This post is all about natural swimming pools and what you need to know if you’re considering installing one as well as a trove of beautiful examples of natural swimming pools that will leave you wanting your own piece of aquatic paradise.
Why Natural Swimming Pools Are Better Than Conventional Chlorine
The most obvious reason is the lack of chemicals used to keep up with the sanitation of your pool. With natural swimming pools, the filtration is done by the plants, and organisms dwelling in your pool. If you feel hesitant about sharing your backyard pool with small critters, realize that nature has its own system for breaking things down and cleaning itself. It’s how Earth has been doing it for millions of years, and humans are part of that process too. Ditching all the of chemicals it takes to keep your pool nice and blue will be better for your wallet, the ecosystem you live in, and your skin and hair.
Did I mention better for your wallet? The cost of constructing a natural swimming pool, depending on the design, is often lower. Even the cost of maintenance is lower. Last but not least, there is design flexibility to gain with natural pools because of the extra components that don’t typically exist in conventional pools. When you have the chance to incorporate things like plants, stones, docks, or even fish into the design, the pool truly becomes part of its environment from a design standpoint.
How Natural Swimming Pools Work?
The shape of a natural swimming pool needs to be more like a wide soup bowl rather than the vertical sides of a conventional pool. This gradual slope prevents the earth from collapsing. A waterproof membrane, such as bentonite or a propylene liner, is installed and then stones are layed down to hold it in place. Depending on your specific site conditions, sometimes retaining walls are used; so you should enlist the help of a landscape design professional.
A space within the pool needs to be designated as the plant bed. This area is much more shallow than the rest of the pool (approximately 10″ – 18″ deep), it will hold all the plant roots in a safe spot so they can capture excess nutrients and thrive. The plant bed needs to be filled with non-organic matter soil before aquatic plants suited for your area can move in.
Sedges (Carex) and rushes (Scirpus), both aquatic plants, make great emergent vegetation for your pool’s perimeter. You can also consider lesser cattails (Typha angustifolia) and aquatic irises, though be sure to ask which varieties won’t overcrowd other plants. Pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata), arrowhead (Sagittaria) and water primroses (Ludwigia) are all contenders for the shallowest areas of your pool. Be sure to include submergent plants such as common waterweed (Elodea) and hornwort (Ceratophyllum) for their high oxygen output. – Selecting Plants For Your Pool Area via. Mother Earth News
Natural pools are like a freshwater fish tank, in order to keep things oxygenated and moving so the plants can filter out waste, you will need pumps. Water from the main pool area needs to be fed to the plant bed(s), that water will then overflow into the main pool cleaner than it was before. An aerator will ensure that even the deepest part of the pool receives oxygen.
UK landscape and garden design professional, Amanda Patton, designed this natural swimming pool in a contemporary style but retained the classical proportions.
Safety Concerns With Natural Pools
The key to a healthy natural swimming pool is maintaining balance. This is also true with mother nature; when there is a lack of balance, oftentimes, one organism gets the upper hand and is allowed to thrive. Mosquitos are sometimes a concern with individuals interested in getting a natural pool. To keep mosquito populations from out of your pool, make sure your pumps are running throughout the day. It’s also vital that the pumps and aerators in your system are strong enough for the volume of your pool. Control algae by adding more plants to consume the excess nutrients that algae thrives from and try to keep the pH at around 5.5 – 6.5. Too much phosphorus is a common unbalance that leads to algae growing wild.
the probability for contracting a serious disease from your natural swimming pool is low. Dr. Michael Beach of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says even chlorine-treated swimming pools can fall prey to fecal coliform contamination, which is responsible for problems such as cryptosporidiosis, a parasite that can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps. Keep babies and pets out of the waters to avoid contaminating your pool with fecal coliform. If you’re uncertain about your natural pool’s water quality, have it tested. – Natural Pool Protection via. Mother Earth News
If there is any concern with pathogens, have your water tested. In hotter parts of the US, there is always a small but dangerous risk of flesh-eating bacteria, even in sea water. Some pond and landscape professionals feel confident in the natural balance to control pathogens.
“Rock, plants, bacteria, bottom aeration, circulation with filtration and fish,” Campbell said. “These are the necessary ingredients for an eco-balanced pond, when used properly. Anyone who has mastered the eco-balanced pond can build a swimming pond.