|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
Materials: Pond liner, sand, mortar mix, stone or tile of
Garden ponds require pond liners, which come in two
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
Sizing Chart for Flexible
Maximum Pond Size
||Maximum Pond Size
|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
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
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
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
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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