A lot of homeowners have always wanted a backyard pond for their garden, and perhaps you are one of them, too. You may be daydreaming about a relaxing pond where your family and visitors can hang out or have a spot to meditate and relax. Or perhaps you simply want to add a peaceful view to your home where fish and plants would thrive.
Not all of those daydreamers pursue their ideas, but you should know that building your own pond should not be an impossible dream. It is completely doable even without hiring pond builders. All you need is a careful plan, proper materials, and a determined spirit to do the project.
Before we tell you how to build a pond for your garden, first here are some things to consider:
1. Know what type of pond you want to build
The type of pond you want to build depends on the type of aquatic life you want to put in the pond. You might want a koi pond if you want to have koi fishes in your garden, or you can have a water garden if you want aquatic plants.
If you want koi fishes, you must build a larger pond with no less than 1,000 gallons in volume since koi get quite large. They also eat plants, so don’t expect to grow beautiful aquatic plants in your koi pond. Your koi pond must also be at least 3 feet deep, and it’s better if you make it 4 to 5 feet.
Meanwhile, if you want to grow a variety of aquatic plants, you need an area of at least two feet deep – that is if you’re living in an area with a moderate climate. Cold climate areas need to provide at least 1 to 1 ¼ feet of water below the freeze zone. Typically, garden ponds like these can serve as home to goldfishes. Fishes help fertilize plants, eat algae and mosquitoes.
But if you want the pond for the sound of trickling water, then you should build a slightly more complicated fixture like a pond with a fountain or waterfall.
2. Choose the perfect location
You want a pond to be close enough to the home so you can see it as you glance through your windows. Besides that, here are other important considerations when choosing a location for a pond:
- Consider the space. Make sure you have enough area to have a pond built while still leaving some room for walkways, plants and other garden stuff.
- Build it on a level, well-drained ground.
- Make sure the spot you’ll be choosing doesn’t have any existing cables, underground pipes, sewer lines or septic fields. However, a nearby outdoor faucet is needed so you can easily add water to the pond using a garden hose.
- It must not be located where runoff from rain flows, or in a spot too close to trees since you will be dealing a lot with falling leaves and debris.
- Choose a spot with partial shade if you want to adopt fishes. If you’re going for water plants and fishes, you need to balance the sun with some shade. It would be great if you would add water lilies or lotus pads to bring shade to the fishes, but avoid overdoing it.
- Pick a place that receives at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight if you want to grow plants. However, avoid placing it to a spot where it will receive a lot of sunlight since it will be at risk for drying out due to faster evaporation, cause harm to fish and plants and excessive algae growth.
3. Determine the size of your pond
The most common mistake most homeowners make is building the pond too small. A bigger pond is easier to maintain, so it’s best to build the largest pond your budget can afford and your landscaping can allow. Don’t go stingy on space – remember that a finished pond can be about 30% smaller than you have originally planned due to considerations in construction. Measure the maximum length and width. As stated earlier, a pond for water lilies and goldfish must only be about 2 feet deep, but colder areas may need a deeper pond. Koi ponds should be at least 3 feet deep or more. A small pond can have a measurement of 6 x 8 feet, while the average pond measures about 11 x 16 feet.
4. Prepare the required tools and materials for the project
Before you start, make sure you have the necessary tools and materials and have them ready ahead of time.
For the tools, gather:
- Carpenter’s level
- Tape measure
- Utility knife
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
For the materials, you need:
- Threaded tee and fittings
- Band clamps
- Corrugated tubing
- Pond pump
- Pond filter
- Pond foam
- EPDM liner
After you have planned and prepared, you are now ready to build your own simple pond. Be guided by the following steps:
1. Prepare the ground
Using a flat shovel, remove patches of grass within the chosen pond area. Also, remove grass on 6 to 12 inches beyond the perimeter for a flat surface. Mark the outline of the pond with ground limestone.
2. Dig the hole
Excavate to a trench to a depth of 9 to 12 inches and a width of 1 foot, starting on the edge of the pond. This will serve as your shallow shelf for marginal plants. Then, dig a ledge of at least two feet or more on the rest of the pond area. The depth depends on the type of pond you are going to build. Remember to allow space of 2 inches in depth if you will use sand as an underlayment.
Then, dig a ledge for the edging as deep as the edging material. As you dig, angle the sides slightly to about 20 degrees. Make sure that the edges are level with the other side by placing a carpenter’s level on a long, straight board placed over the dug hole. Also, the top of the edging must be at least an inch above the surrounding terrain to prevent runoff from entering the pond.
In the center of the pond, dig down another ten inches to form a pit for the pump. Inspect the hole if there are roots and sharp stones and remove them.
3. Install filters or pond skimmers
If you plan on having fish for your garden pond, you need to install a filter or skimmer. These must be buried to proper levels beside the pond. Dig a ditch for plumbing from the pond to the external filter. If you will use a submersible pump for the filter, then dig the ditch from the skimmer to the external filter.
4. Line the hole with underlayment
Spread two inches deep of screened mason sand to the hole and rake it smooth. You may also use fiberglass insulation material, newspaper or an underlayment material specially designed for use with pond liners. If you will use a sand underlayment, place a geotextile fabric big enough to cover the bottom surface of the pond, the pit, and the walls. These materials will cushion the rubber liner to protect it from punctures.
5. Place the liner
With a helper, position the liner evenly and loosely into the hole, with even overlap on all sides. Using your hands and feet, press the liner into the hole. Try to minimize wrinkles and creases, but leave some because as it will be filled with water, the folds should flatten out. Then, weigh down the edges with smooth, flat stones or bricks to keep the liner in place.
6. Set up the pump
A pump is not necessary unless you are planning to have fish. But assuming you will make sure you have access to an outdoor power source installed by a professional electrician. Before attaching the pump to the pond, attach the feet to the bottom of it to secure it to the pit and stop it from moving around. Using a screwdriver, screw the connector for the fountain kit to the top of the pump.
Then, put the pump inside the pit. Make it reachable so you can take it out whenever it’s time to clean the filter. Test the water-flow rate after you have filled the pond with water (which is the next step). If the water flow is too high, adjust it on the pump. Otherwise, attach a nozzle from the fountain kit to get the flow rate you prefer.
7. Fill the pond with water
Fill the pond with water from your garden hose. As the pond fills, smooth out as many creases and wrinkles as possible. Gradually, ease off the stone weights to prevent the liner from overstretching. After the pond is full, cut off the excess liner using a utility knife, but leave enough liner to extend underneath and a few inches behind the edging stones.
8. Place stones around the edge of the pond
Place large, flat rocks – also known as coping stone – around the edges of the pond, and fold the liner up behind the stone slightly above water level. You don’t need to mortar the stones into place if they are stable and heavy enough. If you would use small stones, then you need to mortar the stone for stability.
Stack stones on the pond floor and lay them in a foot-wide layer along the wall. Also, use them to cover the power cord from connected to the pump.
9. Add aquatic plants and/or fish
Place your aquatic plants as soon as possible after constructing your pond, because they can use up the nutrients that would otherwise feed the algae – thus, helping to feed the algae. Start using packaged bacteria to seed the pond filter and help keep a clean pond. Fishes, on the other hand, must be added few at a time over several weeks, because the bacteria need to be established first in the pond.
One important tip for using plants: It’s always best to get your water garden plants from a nursery. Using native plants can be risky since they can serve as hosts to a plethora of parasites. It would be deadly for the fishes if you would also have fishes with the plants in your pond. If you would gather water plants from a natural water source, quarantine them first overnight in a solution of potassium permanganate to kill any parasites before you place them into your homemade pond.