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Garden Pond

Garden ponds have become increasingly popular to homeowners wanting to add a sense of beauty and serenity to their yard. Ponds also expand your planting options and attract diverse wildlife. Pond kits have made it easy and affordable to make this an attractive addition to your garden. Expensive pumps and filtration systems usually are not necessary in small ponds, although you will want to use a filtration system to support fish or various plants.

Before adding a pond to your garden, make sure it harmonizes with the mood or theme of your yard. Do you want a formal or informal water feature in your yard? A formal garden pool has straight lines and is symmetrical with repetitive elements. A rectangular or circular or oval pool will enhance this design. If you like neatness and symmetry, this is the pool for you.

An informal pool has lots of curves and is freeform in its design with a relaxed, casual feel. When creating an informal pool, make sure the visible materials are natural and look like they fit into the surroundings. Arrange stones so that they appear to meander in a haphazard way around the edge of the pond instead of a rigid circle.

Selecting Your Site
Select the site for your pond. Sloping ground may require a lot more digging than you imagine and does not necessarily provide a natural setting for a pond unless you want to add a small waterfall. Do not build a pond directly under a tree, since fallen leaves contaminate the water and root systems are very difficult to dig under and may harm the tree. You do not want your pond to receive a lot of direct sunlight, though; so choose a site that will provide shade for the pond for at least half the day.

Building Your Pond
Tools: Hose, spade, shovel, carpenter’s level, hand spade or masonry trowel.
Materials: Pond liner, sand, mortar mix, stone or tile of your choice.

Garden ponds require pond liners, which come in two different types.
Liner shells are made of fiberglass in the exact shape of the pond. They come in various shapes and sizes, and you merely need to dig a hole to accommodate the shell and set it in the ground. The downside of shells is they may crack in cold weather. Flexible liners are simply soft sheets of fabric that will conform to any shape or size. The fabric can be made of PVC or rubber. We recommend rubber liners. Although rubber is more expensive than PVC, it is more durable and will not become brittle in a short time like PVC will.

Sizing Chart for Flexible Liners

Liner Size Maximum Pond Size Maximum Pond Size
  18” deep 24” deep
8x10 ft 4x6 ft 3x5 ft
10x10 ft 6x6 ft 5x5 ft
10x15 ft 6x11 ft 5x10 ft
15x15 ft 11x11 ft 10x10 ft
Building a Pond With a Rubber Liner
1. Select a site for your pond and outline the shape of the pond with a hose or heavy rope. Ponds should have at least 15 square feet ( 3x5 feet) of surface area, while the minimum depth for plants is 18”. If you want fish in your pond, you must have a 24” depth to accommodate them.

2. Dig out the entire pond area to a depth of 1 foot, then leave a 12 inch shelf at the 1 foot depth around the perimeter of the pond. This shelf will hold aquatic planters. Dig the remainder of the pond at it’s maximum depth plus 2 to 3” to allow for a layer of sand at the bottom of the pool. The pond will look like it has a step down around the perimeter. The pond bed should be flat, with walls sloping down from the 12 inch shelf.

3. Lay a long board across the top of the pond, then place a level on the board to make sure it is level at all the edges. You may have to compensate by digging at the ground level or packing in soil to make it level. Dig out the sod or soil along the edge of the pond for the stone or tile you have chosen.

4. You are now ready for the liner, but be sure that all roots and sharp stones are removed and the soil base is smooth. Next spread a 2” layer of wet sand on the level areas of the pond bed. Pack the sand and smooth it out with a small 2x4.

5. Place the liner into the pool bed. Fold and tuck the liner so that it conforms to the shape of the hole, then smooth out the liner as much as possible, avoiding any sharp creases.

6. Set a few stones on the outside edge of the liner to keep it in place. Do not use too many stones, as they will cause the liner to stretch and not allow the water to fill the crevasses of the pond. Fill the pond to the top with water, smoothing out any large creases that develop. Remove the stones on the outer edge of the liner and allow the pond liner to settle for one day.

7. Trim the liner with scissors so it overhangs the top of the pond by the size of the stone you will be using to trim the pond.

8. Spread a mixture of 20 parts sand to one part dry mortar in a shallow layer on top of the overhang and level with the rest of you yard. Spray with a light mist of water and set the stones into the sand mixture so they overhang into the edge of the pond by about 2 inches. Set one of the stones about ˝” lower than the others, to serve as an overflow point for excess water.

Building a Pond With a Liner Shell
1. Set the liner shell in place as it would be as if it were recessed into the ground. Use a rope to outline the inside and outside edges of the pond so you will know where to dig the deeper and shallow parts of the pond. Use a level to make sure the outline of the outer edge is directly below the outside edge of the pond. Don’t make the mistake of simply placing your shell upside down and digging that shape. The pond will not fit when the shell is transposed to the upright position.

2. Dig out the center rope outline to the maximum depth of your shell, then excavate the sides so they slope inward to the flat bottom. Test fit the shell, digging and filling until the shape of the hole matches the shell.

3. Remove all stones and roots, then set the shell into the hole. Check with a carpenter’s level to make sure the shell is level. The top of the shell should be slightly above the ground.

4. Slowly fill the shell with water. As the water level rises, pack wet sand into any gaps between the shell and the sides of the hole. Do not omit this step, as it is important to have sufficient support for the shell to avoid cracking in the future.

5. Dig out your sod or dirt around the perimeter of the shell, leaving a shallow bed to hold decorative stones. Place the stones near the pond liner, but do not set them on the liner edges, as it will cause cracking of the liner shell in the future.

Plants for Your Garden Pond
Whatever style of water garden you chose, you will need to pick plants that complement it. For either a formal or informal pond, water lilies, lotus, iris, grasses, arrowhead work well in a small pond.

Build containers for aquatic plants by drilling 1” holes in plastic planters and lining them with landscape fabric. Holes allow water to circulate past the roots of the plant, while the planters protect pond liners and simplify maintenance. Put the containers filled with lilies, lotus, or any other aquatic plant on the outer shelf of your pond. This is the shelf that you dug out about one foot down from the outer edge of the pond perimeter. The plants will spread over the pond water. Do not have more than one submerged container for every 2 square feet of water or they will choke the pond. Floating plants should not cover more than 2/3 of your water surface. If they become overgrown, thin them out yearly.

Caring and Maintenance for Your Garden Pond
Use chemicals sparingly. Little maintenance other than a yearly cleaning is needed for balanced ponds. Water quality problems, like algae buildup, can be treated with diluted chemical products for aquariums sold in pet stores.

Replenish the water of your pond regularly, especially during hot, dry weather. If you only have hardy aquatic plants in you pond, you may use water directly from your hose. If you have fish in your pond, pour water into a large pail and let it sit for a few days to release any chlorine or other chemicals that may be in you tap water before you add it to the pond. Collecting rainwater for your pond is a great way to recycle natural water into your pond and will protect your fish or delicate plants from harsh chemicals.

Bring your plants and fish indoors if your pond freezes for more than a week or two during the winter. Cut away the plant stems, then store the plants in a dry dark location. Keep fish in an aerated aquarium if you live a cold climate with long periods of freezing weather.

Adding Fish to Your Garden Pond
Fish not only add interest to your pond, they also release carbon dioxide for your plants. If you wish to have fish in your garden pond, you will need a filtration and aeration system. You can stock your pond with fish without these systems, but you should have no more than one 3” fish per 2 square feet of surface. If you have a filtration system, you may have two 3” fish per 2 square feet of water area. We recommend filtration systems along with aerators if you want to maintain a healthy environment for your fish. Your pond should be at least 24” deep and in a shaded area to avoid any problems with algae.


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