How to build a natural looking garden fish pond with waterfall
How to Build a Garden Pond
Water brings a new dimension to any garden, allowing you to grow a wider range of plants and to rear some attractive fish - not to mention all the wildlife that will be drawn to your new pond. A well-planned pond can be the visual centre piece of your garden, especially if you create a three-dimensional effect by incorporating a rockery behind it. This would also be the perfect site for your waterfall, which can run down between the stones just like a natural spring.
Decide on the location.Try to choose a position where you can admire the pond from your favourite sitting-out position. The ideal pond site is in a sunny spot, sheltered from cold northerly winds and well away from trees that shed their leaves.
Decide on the shape.Pond liners can be used to create a formal or informal shape. The formal will be a square, rectangle or circle, while the latter can be any shape you like within reason: it's best to avoid curves and inlets that are too 'sharp'. The simplest way of establishing the shape and size you want is to lay garden hose or rope out on the pond site, and to view it from various positions.
Decide on the type.You can create a pond either by sinking a preformed rigid plastic or glass fiber shell in the ground, or by lining the excavation with a flexible liner. The latter is the more popular choice for several reasons: it's easier to transport since it comes folded in a box; it's easier to install, it also allows you complete freedom of choice as far as the pond shape and depth is concerned.
Think about extra features.Decide at this stage whether you want to incorporate extra features such as a waterfall, a fountain, garden lighting, and the like in your pond construction. Apart from the relaxing sound moving water creates, the movement helps to aerate the water too.
Plan a power supply.If you're using a pump to circulate water to a fountain or waterfall, and perhaps using outdoor lights, you'll need a power supply to the vicinity of the pond.
Think about soil disposal.Digging big holes creates a surprisingly large amount of spoil, so unless you can disperse it elsewhere in the garden or you are planning to use it as the base for a rockery or other raised feature, you will have to order a skip and have it taken away.
Decide on the site and mark out the shape.Take your time in deciding what shape of pond you want, adjusting the hose position and viewing the shape from an upstairs window to get a better idea of how its shape and proportions fit in with the garden as a whole. If you are having an informal shape, avoid sharp curves; gentle sweeps look more natural.
Cut and remove turf.When you're happy with the shape and size, cut round the perimeter with a spade or lawn edger. Then cut across the pond area in parallel lines about 300mm apart, and lift the resulting strips of turf.
Excavate to marginal shelf level.Start excavating the pond area down to the marginal shelf level, saving good topsoil for use elsewhere in the garden. For the deluxe pond, dig down to a depth of about 320mm (121/2") below ground level which will give you an eventual water depth of about 230mm (9"). Slope the sides at an angle of about 45°, clearing any roots and sharp stones as you work, then check that the base of the excavation is roughly level using your spirit level set on a timber straightedge.
Excavate the deep end.Next, mark out the area that will form the 'deep end' of the pond. This is normally the central area, but it is not essential to have a marginal shelf all the way round. Excavate the main section to a depth of between 550 and 700mm (21 to 27") below ground (lawn) level; the latter is better, since it guarantees that the pond cannot freeze solid in winter. Your eventual water depth in this area will be about 450 to 600mm (18 to 24").
Line the hole with sand.Double-check that there are no stones left which could puncture the liner, especially on the edges of the marginal shelf or the slopes down into the deep end. Then line the excavation with a maximum 25mm (1") thick layer of damp building sand, patting it into place on the slopes and firming it down on the bottom and the marginal shelves.
Remove the edging turf.With the excavation complete, the next step is to remove turf round the pond to allow for the edging stones. Use an angle grinder to cut slabs to fit if necessary but make sure that you are wearing a nose and mouth mask and goggles for protection. Lay the stones in place so they overlap the pond edge by about 50mm (2"), and mark their outer edges on the grass with your spade. Then lift the slabs aside, cut and lift the turf and remove the topsoil to a depth of about 65mm (21/2") - enough to allow the slabs to be bedded on mortar once the pond is filled. Check that this perimeter strip is perfectly level all round; if it is not, parts of the liner will be exposed above the water level, and will begin to deteriorate due to exposure to sunlight.
Position the liner.Drape the liner over the excavation without disturbing the sand or any underlay, aiming for an even overlap all round. On concave curves, pleat and fold it neatly. Don't make it fit the pond contours precisely at this stage though. It will look better if it is allowed to stretch slightly as it is filled, since this will help to pull out many of the creases. When you're happy with its positioning, anchor its perimeter with bricks or stones.
Position the waterfall liner.If you are having a waterfall, now is the time to install a liner - in an existing rockery, or on a new earth bank. Use an off-cut from the main liner. Form the top pool first with a depth of about 120mm (41/2"), then create a channel for the liner down to the pool. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to lay roof ridge tiles upside down in the channel to form the cascade, and then to position the liner over them and tuck the excess material underneath. Alternatively, lay the liner directly in the channel, anchor its edges with stones, and use pieces of paving slab underneath it to help form steps over which the flow can cascade. Position another slab at the point where the waterfall will discharge into the pond, to ensure that the water does not 'miss' the pond edge. Then bury a length of 25mm (1") hose running from the pump position in the deep end of the pond, over the pond edge and up the slope to the top of the waterfall, covering it with pieces of slate, tile or similar so it is not squashed when buried or pierced by gardening tools.
Start filling the pond.Start filling the liner with water from a garden hose. As it fills, neaten folds as necessary and ease off the perimeter bricks to allow the liner to bed against the contours of the excavation. As the water level nears the top edge of the liner, check to see how level the pond perimeter is and scrape away soil to get rid of any high spots or make up low spots with well compacted sand. Fill the liner to within 25mm (1") of the top.
Trim the liner.Trim off excess liner all the way round the pond with a sharp knife, leaving an overlap of about 230mm (9") which will be concealed by the edging stones. If you are planning to turf-up to the pond edge at any point, cut slits in the overlap so the grass roots can grow through them into the soil below.
Lay paving stones.Tidy up the site, and lay the edging stones round the pond on a 25mm (1") thick mortar bed. It is not safe to bed them on sand, as you would on a patio, since someone standing on the edge might tilt the slab and be thrown into the water. Check that the slabs are level, and point between them. If you are having a pump and waterfall, conceal the hose to the waterfall by positioning it between two slabs, and set a short length of copper pipe or plastic conduit beneath the slabs to allow the pump flex to be passed through safely and unobtrusively.
Run in and connect the water supply.Run in the power supply, using 1.5mm2 toughened twin and earth cable buried at least 500mm (20") underground between the house and the pond site. At the pond end, pass the pump flex through the pipe or conduit under the perimeter paving and connect it to the toughened cable within a weatherproof junction box; then form an above-ground chamber for the box which you can later conceal with rocks or shrubs. The simplest solution is to set the box on a brick or block and cover it with a ridge tile; alternatively, mount it on a low timber post and shield it from the weather by making a small canopy for it from exterior quality plywood or fencing offcuts. Indoors, run 1.0mm2 twin and earth cable to the consumer unit position and connect to either a spare fuse-way or miniature circuit breaker (MCB) in a new consumer unit mounted nearby. You must call a qualified electrician or your local electricity company to connect this unit to your mains supply. Fit a 6-amp fuse in the fuse-way, or use a 6-amp MCB, and label it 'POND SUPPLY'. Now connect the waterfall hose to the pump outlet, and set the pump in the pond on bricks or pieces of paving slab so the fountain jet is just above water level. Switch on the power by turning the residual current device to ON, so you can test the system. Adjust the water flow as necessary using the flow adjuster. Do not restrict the flow too much as this can damage the pump over a period of time.
Stock the pond.Complete the pond installation by adding marginal, deep-water and oxygenating plants. Remember that your pond will only support plant and aquatic life if the surface area is about 3m2 (32sq.ft) or larger. Don't worry if the water goes green initially; it will clear as the plants establish themselves. Wait a few weeks before stocking the pond with fish.
- You can use flexible liners for above ground formal ponds with raised brick or stone walls too.
- If a small amount of algae grows on the sides, leave it as long as it is less than one inch long. It is good for wildlife.
- Power Supply - This must be a permanent supply run underground from the house using toughened cable, not a trailing flex plugged into a socket outlet. For complete safety, the circuit to the pond should be protected by a 30m residual current device. If in any doubt about electrical work, contact a qualified electrician.
- If you have young children at home you should always ensure that they cannot fall in.
Video: DIY MINI BACKYARD POND! ANOTHER POND Part 1
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