How To Build A Garden Pond - Getting Started

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This article will teach you how to build a garden pond.
by Brett · All Zones · Water Gardens · 0 Comments · August 31, 2010 · 37,021 views

Though many of your own smaller creative decisions will be made during the process of building your garden pond, here are some basic guidelines you can follow for construction of a small garden pond:

Tools You Need:

  • Round and flat point shovels
  • Carpenters level
  • 2x4" stick of lumber 8' or more in length
  • Can of orange spray paint
  • Pruners to cut through small roots
  • Wheelbarrow, maybe
  • Leather gloves
  • Measuring Tape

PLEASE NOTE: The instructions provided below assumes you will be using a flexible type liner, such as 45 mil rubber liner.

Step-By-Step Instructions

STEP 1: Outline Shape

Outline Shape. Begin by using marking paint, or lay out a garden hose, to outline the shape of your pond. This outline should be the perimeter shape of the water surface area.

Most pond excavations have flat ledges - called "plant shelves" - at different depths all around the perimeter. These plant shelves allow for the placement of different types of plants that require different depth levels to grow properly. Paint out these lines for shelves as well. Typically, you'll want a deeper area (24-36") for fish to hide and stay warmer during winter. Then a shelf level at 12-24" deep for certain plants, and another shelf level at 6-12' for certain other plants. If you look at the picture to the left, you'll notice I left an area to the far left that is very shallow. When the pond is filled with water, this area might be two or three inches deep. This is for animals and birds to use as drinking and bathing source.

Caution: If you have even the slightest suspiscion that you will be digging near buried cables make sure to call your local utility companies to have the location of these cables marked before digging.

STEP 2: Excavation

Now that you've outlined your pond excavation may begin. Start by first digging out the deepest section of your pond. If you plan to have fish, make sure to dig one section of the pond at least 24" deep by 18" wide to provide a safety zone if predators come around. Dig this hole in a central location within the perimeter of your pond. Post hole diggers may be necessary for digging narrower holes.

If the ground area around your garden pond is flat, you can use the excavated dirt to build a mound(s) for where your waterfall(s) will be located. Build the mound for your waterfall anywhere from 12 to 36" in height. Likewise, additional excavated dirt can be used to create a low raised berm around the entire pond. This helps prevent backflow from entering your pond water when there is heavy rainfall. Note: Before installing your liner. You will need to flatten the tops of the berms so that stones will lay flatly upon them.

If you are building your pond into an emankment, use the excavated dirt around the lower perimeter to build a berm that will be equal in height with the base of your waterfall. This will ensure that when you fill your pond with water, the liner won't show on the side where your waterfall is located.

After digging out the deepest area of the pond (24-36" depth), work outward digging the next level (18" depth), and then the next (12" depth).

TIP: If you plan to use a submersible pump, and would like to make sure that it is hidden from view, excavate an area that will be underneath the base rock of your waterfall. This area should only be wide and deep enough to house your pump and the container or pot that you will enclose it in.

STEP 3 - Remove Debris & Smooth

After excavation is completed, remove any rocks, sticks, and other debris that might poke a hole or cut your liner. Smooth all surfaces with your hand. If you want to be on the safe side, line the bottom of the pond excavation with an inch or two of sand, a 1/4 -inch layer of newspaper or carpet, or a couple layers of landscape fabric.

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