Which is better: natural edge, or riprap? Let’s break down the good and bad of both!
Natural edge ponds are wonderful for the ecosystem and are less work and maintenance than a rock-edged (riprap) pond. All you need to do to create a good natural edge is to let the grass grow a little longer around the edge of the pond. Always mow your grass clippings AWAY from the water! Native plants will eventually grow in along with the grass and create a perimeter around your shoreline, which serve as homes for insects and small animals that like to hide near the water. The tall grasses act as a filter to keep the water clean, and there is very little maintenance required other than to periodically tidy your edges for any undesirable weeds, if you’d like to. The downside of a natural edge pond is that it can look a little “wilder” than the ponds with the clean white-rock or river rock edges do.
Riprap (a rock edge) around a pond offers a clean, tidy, resort-like look to your pond. Most people love the aesthetics of beautiful rocks surrounding their pond, and while the rock does a superb job of protecting your banks from erosion, there will be more maintenance required. Weeds will eventually work their way through the rocks and will need to be eliminated if the goal is to keep things looking clean and tidy. If the riprap is poorly installed, the rocks will shift as the water comes in, causing the structure to move around and weaken quickly. Your success with riprap depends on how it was installed. A well set riprap border with both large and small stones will last many years before needing true reconstruction and keep the weeds down to a minimum.
Remember also that while riprap looks gorgeous, it’s not a suitable habitat for insects or small creatures that would normally like to be near grass and vegetation. With no plants left to shade and shelter fish around the edges, it makes your pond less than ideal as a habitat for them. If the ecosystem is highly important to you, a natural edge is better suited to your pond – but if you adore the beautiful rocks – a riprap edge will be the choice for you.