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A Complete Guide to Building a Garden Pond

Posted on Dec 15, 2013

Incorporating a pond into your garden makes for a lovely feature or focal point in the garden. The sound of trickling water coming from a small fountain, the beauty of water lilies, the calming sight of light reflected by ripples in the water and the large variety of wildlife a pond will attract are all great reasons to install one.

Whilst winter is no time to be outside digging a pond for prolonged periods, nor is it conducive to a vibrant pond which is full of life, now is certainly the time to start planning if you would like a fully installed, beautiful pond come spring time.  Deciding on shape, size and position early on means that you can think about how to incorporate a filter system and other water features.


(Image credit: Wonderlane)

There are plenty of aspects of pond installation which you should be thinking about now. Here are some things to consider when preparing to build a garden pond.

The Practicalities of Positioning Your Pond

There are a few simple requirements to bear in mind when deciding where your pond should go in the garden. Lights, fountains and pumps which aren’t solar powered will need access to electricity, and so can’t be too far from an outlet. An open space is best as overhanging tree branches will drop leaves into the pond, contaminating the water.

For a simple pond, you will need somewhere relatively flat. If you’d like to incorporate a waterfall, you will need a slight slope, although avoid the very bottom of a sloping garden as this area may be prone to flooding.

So that water plants are able to grow, your pond needs to be placed in area which gets plenty of direct sunlight, preferably at least six hours per day but ideally more.

The Aesthetics of Positioning Your Pond

When positioning your pond, think about how it will fit in with pre-existing areas within the garden. Placing it close to an outdoor seating area means that you will be able to enjoy it come summer whilst erecting a bridge to span the width of the pond can make it into a transition between different parts of the garden.

Positioning it within sight of the house means you will be able to get the pleasure of watching the birds and other animals which visit from the comfort of the indoors. A heron visit is always a spectacular sight!

Be aware of the hazards a pond can pose to small children and aim to position it far away from play areas, and cover with wire mesh.

What Size and Shape to Choose

This all depends on the size of your garden and how much space you have to work with. If you have limited space, consider an L-shape which will fit in a corner.

For a more natural looking pond, which almost looks as though it could be part of the landscape, choose a kidney bean outline rather than a square, rectangular or circular shape. Although your pond is clearly man made, as the years go on, the plants develop and lichen begins to cover the stonework, the aim is for it to look at one with the rest of the garden.

When to Use Flexible Lining

If you are creating the shape of your pond yourself, either so that it works best in the space available in your garden or simply so that it is unique to you, then you will need to use a flexible lining.

Once you have dug your hole and checked the bottom is level, simply:

  • Cover with a two inch layer of underlayment (either sand, carpet, several layers of newspaper or a piece of fabric specially designed for use in ponds) to prevent punctures and damage
  • Position the liner neatly over the top, taking care not to stretch it
  • Pleat around the edges and hold in place with heavy stones, then trim bulky edges with scissors
  • Use a waterproof sealant to seal the seams and leave to dry for 24 hours. Take care that the material you choose to do this with will not be toxic to any fish or other wildlife you intend to introduce to your pond.

Remember to save leftover trimmings from the liner to use for repairs and patching leaks at a later date!

When to Use Rigid Lining

If you would prefer to use a pre-moulded, rigid lining, which is rather like a giant bathtub which you lower into the ground, then you simply have to dig a hole into which it will fit.

Preformed liners are generally thought to be the easier option, as they are typically made of plastic or fibreglass, making leaks much less of a problem. Repair work is also much easier to complete on a rigid liner, where faults and flaws in the plastic are much easier to distinguish.

Installing one is simple:

  • Before placing your liner in its hole, cover the ground with a layer of sand, packed down to around 2-3 inches thick to provide a flat surface
  • Once the liner is half full of water, take a dustpan and use it to fill the space around the edges with sand
  • Finally, cover the exposed plastic edges with brick or stone.

Creating the Perfect Eco-System

Proper aeration, filtration and water circulation is vital to the health of a pond. A lack of oxygen makes for poor water quality, the potential for cloudy, impure water and an unhealthy environment for plants and fish. Investing in a decent pond pump and filter is therefore vital.

The general rule is that pond water should be circulated once every two hours, so that a 200 gallon pond will require a pump capable of generating a flow of 100 gallons per hour.

A pond is a fantastic way to enjoy nature and the calming influence of water within your garden. If you plan ahead and prepare properly, you will be able to install your pond come spring and enjoy it for many years to come.

About The Author

Hi there. Thanks for reading my post. My name is Ricky Peterson, I work at Swallow Aquatics, we specialise in aquatic and garden supplies. I love my garden and I love to spend time outside and enjoying nature too. Even during the winter months you will find me out walking and maybe taking some photos!

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