How Fish & Duck Ponds Improve Soil Fertility in the Edible Landscape

Fish and ducks benefits include: reducing labor and increasing food harvests by eating pests and providing organic fertilizer to your edible landscape.

For the plants growing around my duck and fish pond, there is never a lack of water or nutrients

The pond helps keep the hard clay around it softer and more moist. This allows plant roots to more easily penetrate the clay throughout the year. The ducks tend to hangout and nap right around the pond beneath the apple and Fuyu Persimmon trees that are nearby, and since, they cannot control when they poop, these areas have been heavily fertilized with every pond-side nap. The apple tree is growing with extreme vigor. The asparagus patch beneath it is spreading and shooting up.

The Lion’s Head Japanese Maple has grown a foot with its own asparagus patch. The strawberry plants are bouncing back quickly despite the trauma of having had clay tossed on them while the pond was being dug.

In order to "fertigate" your edible landscape using quackponics and aquaponics...or the duck pond/fish pond water, you simply need to flood the pond

One of the best things about having a duck/fish pond right in the center of the edible landscape has been the ability to add this rich source of nutrition that is fairly easy to spread around to the food forest. For one, if you’re looking for a good workout, you can dip a bucket into the pond and pour it on plants that are in need of some nutrition. If you’re more of a somewhat lazy gardener, like I am sometimes, or in a hurry but still want to fertigate your plants, you can toss the bucket water.

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This has allowed me to fertigate the entire wetland area in under 5 minutes, organically, and without any pesticides or horrid chemicals. Which, in short, is a total vibe. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

But, if you’re looking for a good soak for your plants and need to flush out the pond due to your ducks and fish adding way too much manure to the system, you can adjust your system in a way that it is flooded during heavy rains, or put a water hose in it to flood it yourself. Either way, once the pond begins flooding, it sweeps out that heavily fertilized water into your system where all of the plants that have access to that water can soak up that good manure.

This also won’t burn or overfertilize your plants due to the manure being watered down and with the addition of berms and temporary streams, you can guide the water in a way that it sweeps to the ends of your edible landscape or garden.

This either requires additional physical labor on your part, or you can stand aside and let your ducks play in the mud as the system gets soaked as their little bills will loosen hard clay in a way that allows water to continue sweeping through the system. Their manure will be added to these areas as they look for bugs and grubs in the mud, adding even more nutrition as the water rises, and turning these areas into temporary streams and ponds to slow down the absorption of water into the soil.

This gives your plants more time and access to this heavily fertilized water and builds soil fertility.

While The Ducks Forage In The Edible Landscape, Turning Weeds and Grasses Into High Nitrogen Fertilizer, The Mulch Composts More Quickly

Yes, they are super ducks. Running around the food forest, turning those unwanted weeds and grasses into fertilizer everyday. It’s really hard to ask for more, but the food forest ducks rise to the challenge by helping to turn the mulch far more quickly into compost by providing the nitrogen needed to help break down the heavy carbon.

That means more fertility, a lot more quickly than would be possible without a lot of manual labor chopping and dropping, collecting coffee grounds, pouring urine, hauling in compost, or composting in your edible landscape. Plus, the ducks do it all day, everyday and enjoy themselves. Of course, the more ducks and fish you have, the faster your mulch will break down, but it is certainly up to you to decide how many ducks and fish you–and your edible landscape– can handle, especially if you are not yet growing enough food to feed your ducks and fish.

Ducks Are Now Your Pest Control, Preventing Sinister Bugs From Destroying Your Crops

If it wasn’t enough that the ducks are already turning weeds and other vile plants into high nitrogen fertilizer, they are also making snacks of slugs and snails and whatever other pests they can get their greedy little beaks around. Having more plants survive slug and snail season means that they can dig their roots down deeper, pump more carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil, and leave more plant debris behind to become humus in the soil for future plants.

This also means greater food harvests for you as fewer plants will be destroyed by pests. Of course, if your plants aren’t fenced in or surrounded by chicken wire, your ducks will help themselves to whatever they have a taste for. If you don’t want to use chicken wire or other protective fencing for your plants, another thing to do is to just grow your plants tall enough to where they can withstand being grazed by the ducks while also leaving enough for your own food harvest. Like with the tree collards, they grow tall enough that the ducks cannot reach past about 3 feet up. Since some tree collards can grow to 10 feet tall, that leaves a lot of leaves up top for humans to eat while also giving the ducks plenty of greens to enjoy year round (in some grow zones).

Learn how to grow tree collards from cuttings!

Being in the “Hot Zone” Around The Duck/Fish Pond, Explosive Growth From The Duck Droppings and Fish Water Can Be Seen In Your Fruit Trees and Plants

After adding your duck/fish pond, your plants will seem to take on a life of their own. Plants with direct access to the pond water–your bog rhubarbs, your elephant ears, your banana plants– will grow so quickly that the area around your pond will truly become a luscious jungle to be fought back with pruners.

This area closest to the pond makes a great place for water-loving trees that are not particularly drought tolerant like Japanese Maples and Fuyu Persimmons. These trees will also provide shade to your edible landscape ducks during hot summer months. This is not only good for the ducks, but good for the trees, as the ducks will fertilize as they nap in these areas.

One of the best things about the fish is…they can’t go anywhere. They’ll be in your pond night and day adding nitrogen via fish waste to the pond water and feeding the plants that have constant access to that water. This constant fertilization means faster growing, stronger plants for you with far less labor. This is one of the driving principles of permaculture and one you can put to use in your food forest, garden, or edible landscape with the beautiful addition of a pond.

The Muddy Nature of Duck Poop Means Holding More Water In More Of Your Edible Landscape

Ducks are not only for clogging leaking ponds. Imagine applying that muddy waste all over your edible landscape. Every place your ducks have access to, they will poop as they go. The pond will not only provide a constant source of food to feed this process, but the water ducks need to help swallow and process their food, to prevent choking, and to keep their little digestive systems working well for you and your plants.

You can combat the ick factor of having ducks leave their waste all over your edible landscape by mulching with wood chips or lots of leaves. This will absorb the duck poop relatively quickly, helping them to break down into wonderful, organic compost, and also keep your food garden from becoming muddy and unfortunate smelling.

Growing ground covers also helps to absorb duck waste as quickly as possible and will give the ducks some protective coverage from any horrid flying predators lurking overhead.

I have also found that these muddy areas can be used to their best extent by adding in more wetland-esque, water-loving plants. The banana plants have been loving these little duck butt sauce areas, as they are heavy feeders and need a lot of water in order to grow swiftly. Areas that ducks frequent become perfect places for banana plants, elephant ears, including the edible variety, taro, asparagus, bamboo, rush plants, tomatoes, and ginger. These are just a few examples of the plants I’ve plugged into the muddy areas created by my waterfowl.

These boggy spots are also good places to grow edible grasses for your ducks and chickens, which you want to regenerate as quickly as possible to provide a constant source of fresh greenery for your flock.

Ducks are also pretty useful for on-the-ground composting

One of the reasons I decided to forego the chickens, which are known for digging up small plants and constantly scratching up the ground, and get ducks, was to reduce the amount of digging in my food forest and keep my plants from being uprooted by vigorous, hungry birds. What I was not aware of is just how much mess can be made by ducks during a heavy rain.

The complaints about the muddy mess ducks make of things can be used to the benefit of your edible landscape. During my observation of my Indian Runner Ducks during heavy rains and also during pond refilling (there is still a leak in the pond, so once it fills to a certain point, the land around it begins to flood instead), the vigorous nature of their drilling for bugs to eat also mixes the mulch into the clay or soil, depending on how much of either is in the flooded location.

While they do all that drilling and mixing, they thoroughly aerate the top few inches of whatever area they are foraging in and they also poop while doing so which adds more nitrogen to the area. The areas that flood in my edible landscape have mulch that has broken down a lot more quickly than areas that stay comparatively dry. So as the soil improves in those muddy areas, it holds more moisture for a longer period of time allowing it to soak more slowly into the ground and be absorbed by the fruit trees and plants.

Those muddy areas are great places to add tons of mulch and leaves, as they too will soak up water during rainy times and the ducks will come along and mix things up for you while looking for bugs. Ducks are the best birds! ๐Ÿฅฐ

Quackaponics at work! My asparagus is bigger than ever!

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