As the scorching summer sun beats down, there's no better way to beat the heat than by taking a refreshing dip in a pool. But traditional swimming pools often come with a laundry list of chemicals and manufactured materials, not to mention hefty price tags. However, a new trend is emerging that brings the beauty of nature to your backyard – natural swimming pools.
Natural swimming pools, though more common in Europe, are gaining popularity in the United States. These pools eschew harmful chemicals and energy-consuming filtration systems, opting for a more eco-friendly approach that blends harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. Using gravel, stone, and clay instead of concrete or fiberglass, and aquatic plants as natural filters, these pools are not only stunning but also affordable to build and maintain.
What Makes a Natural Swimming Pool Different? Unlike traditional pools that require steel frameworks to maintain their shape, natural swimming pools have sloping sides that eliminate the need for steel reinforcement. About 50% of the pool's surface area is reserved for shallow plants, which act as natural filters, eliminating the need for chemical additives and expensive filtration systems.
The pool is divided into two zones: the swimming area and the plant zone. A rim at the water's surface allows water from the swimming area to flow into the plant zone for filtration. Aquatic plants in the plant zone, such as rushes, sedges, and water lilies, act as biological filters by absorbing contaminants and excess nutrients in the water, while beneficial bacteria consume debris and harmful organisms. This creates a beautiful, ecologically diverse system that is relatively easy to manage.
Building Your Natural Pool: By Hand or Concrete? To create a natural swimming pool, the simplest and most ecologically sound method is to dig a hole in the ground. The depth and shape of the pool can be customized according to your preferences, but it's crucial to ensure that the sides slope to prevent soil collapse. The ratio of vertical drop to horizontal feet should be 1:3.
The other option is to construct the pool with cement or Rastra blocks – a material made from recycled foam plastic and cement. While less eco-friendly than gravel and stone, these systems still allow for natural filtration systems instead of relying on mechanical filters and chlorine.
Planting and Maintenance After creating the pool, it's time to prepare the plant zone with soil. Careful selection of soil free from contaminants is essential to maintain a healthy pool ecosystem. Once the pool is filled, introduce a variety of aquatic plants suited to your climate. Sedges, rushes, water lilies, and other submergent, emergent, and floating plants provide both natural filtration and a stunning visual display.
Maintaining a natural pool involves regular plant litter removal in spring and fall. Monitoring water levels and nutrient levels using test kits will help you stay on top of any potential issues. Mechanical systems should be checked annually for proper functioning.
Say Goodbye to Algae One common concern with any pool is algae growth. However, in natural swimming pools, algae can be controlled effectively by adding more aquatic plants to out-compete it for nutrients. Reducing phosphorous levels by avoiding nutrient-rich runoff and urination in the pool also helps deter algae growth. Avoid using synthetic chemicals, as they can upset the balance of the pool's living ecosystem.
Enjoy Your Personal Oasis With a natural swimming pool, you can enjoy a chemical-free, eco-friendly, and budget-friendly personal oasis right in your backyard. The symbiotic relationship between aquatic plants and beneficial bacteria creates a harmonious and beautiful space that connects you with nature while providing relief from the summer's sweltering heat.
So, whether you want to practice your dolphin dives or lounge on a raft, a natural swimming pool is the perfect addition to your summer plans. Embrace the idyllic water oasis that nature provides and create your own refreshing paradise at home. Happy swimming!