I'm going to answer your questions in bold print to make it easier and to avoid missing anything.
Originally Posted by bluefin
So, I'm starting a small pond in the backyard. I was wondering if anyone could help me with a few things:
1) I can't decide between a small pond in a large pot or vase or one in the ground. Which is better? I have limited money and space.
Limited money and space can be a problem. My first suggestion is to take a measuring tape and get dimensions of avialable spaces in your yard for a pond.
As for better, if you're wanting to keep animals in a pond, then bigger is always better. Also remember that depth is important to avoid predators from feeding on your pond animals.
2) How to keep misquitoes out? Anyone who lives in NorCal have advice?
The only way that I am yet aware of for mosquito control for an outdoor pond with plants and animals, is in stocking it with fish/animals that eat the larvae for food. I would not suggest the use of chemicals if you wish to keep plants and animals in the pond. If plants and animals are not desired, then adding bleach or chlorine to the water can help to avoid mosquitos from using it as a breeding ground.
3) What about fish and turtles? How big of a pond for a turtle or two, and what kinds do you think? And fish?
The first thing to consider in selecting a turtle is to know what is legal to keep in your area. You can call the DNR for that information. Keep in mind that turtles will eat fish if they think they can, and if they can catch them. Large fish such as koi and comets are good for ponds due to their ability to acclimate to weather/temp fluctuations, but they get large. Comets top out around 14 inches, and koi can grow 3 - 4 ft. (yes, that is each fish). For keeping fish in the pond, some type of filtration is going to be needed, as is shelter from predators and direct sunlight. If you make the pond large enough with some kind of waterfall, you can then work with natural filtration. Plants help to shelter fish, but also to filter the water, but both fish and plants should have some kind of circulation at very least and unless there are enough plants to cover most of the water's surface, they alone should not be considered enough filtration to handle wasteloads of fish. Also remember, the more and larger fish you get (taking into account the adult size of the fish) the more filtration will be needed.
Also, where turtles are concerned, they don't make good pond pets because it's near impossible to keep them in the pond. They tend to climb out and wander away, never to return... and yes, turtles can climb a wall of a couple of ft, regardless of their species. They are wonderful escape artists!
Sorry for all the questions, and if anyone has any other tips for a suburban Nor.Cal. pond, they're welcome!
Ask all of the questions you want or need to, that's why we're here. Some other things to consider before you get started:
What kind of liner will you be using for your pond? What liners are available? If using a container, will it require anything to seal it, or will it require a liner to make it water tight?
Breakables don't fare well for outdoor ponds and water gardens.
What is it about having a pond that appeals to you most? Use that to outline your plans for what will be needed.
Figure a budget... what can you afford to invest into building/creating a pond? How much can you invest in maintenance and time, products, and fish food? Writing a budget up front is very helpful, and will show you where your limits are.
If I think of anything more I'll come back and post it for you. This is just what is coming to me without 2nd thought at the moment. Hope it helps!