Making a Garden Pond

Although many families with small children understandably don’t want a pond in their garden, they are regaining popularity. A lot of this comes from ecological awareness, driving people toward bog gardens and ponds as havens for smaller reptiles and aquatic insects.

Basic DIY Ponds

As this site is about basic DIY skills and projects we’ll be steering clear of anything esoteric and concentrating on how to make an ordinary garden pond that will take fish and semi-aquatic plants.

There are two basic methods of making a DIY pond, using a solid plastic moulded pond liner or flexible plastic sheet liner, which obviously allows you to make your own pond shape. Pick a sunny spot for the pond as too much shade will encourage algal bloom. Also if it is too close to a tree the leaves will be a pain and the roots might damage the liner in time.

Check For Suitability

If you live in a damp or marshy area check for excess ground water by digging a hole a couple of feet down and waiting to see if it fills with water. If it does you may not be able to put a lined pond in as the ground water pressure can displace the liner. You’d be better off going down the un-lined bog garden route.

Mark out the pool shape with a thick rope, garden hose or a spray can of line marking paint (the sort used for football and tennis pitches). If you’re using flexible liner don’t make too many acute curves, keep it gentle.

Digging That Hole

Both methods obviously start with digging a hole and there’s no substitute for elbow grease. Try to re-use the soil you remove somewhere else in the garden; often people build it up around the northern edge of the pond to give it a backdrop and offer shelter from cold winds.

If you’re going for a big pond you can hire a mini-digger, there are some very narrow ones available now which will go through most garden gates. Most ponds have a shallow shelf, where plants can be partly submerged, and a deeper section for fish.

Dig out the whole pool shape to the shallow level, sloping the sides at around forty-five degrees, then mark up the deeper section and start digging again. Stick to that forty-five degree side angle there too.

Preparation and Liner Placement

Once the hole is dug, scour it for sharp stones and other objects which could puncture the liner and flatten the soil. Then add a thick layer of soft building sand and an underlay, either commercially purchased or some old carpet. With a solid moulded pond liner the underlay isn’t necessary.

If you’re laying a flexible sheet liner place it over the hole and allow it to settle, feeding it in so that it doesn’t drag the underlay or sand around too much. Fold it where necessary to allow it to follow the contours of the hole. Once it’s in weigh down the outer edges of the sheet with hefty timber or some other (smooth!) weights. With a solid moulded liner simply drop it in and backfill with soil where necessary to make sure it is supported evenly.

Fill and Finish

Then fill the pool and leave it for a day or so, so that the weight of the water fully pushes the liner down. With a sheet liner trim it off about ten inches back from the edge all the way around. You now need to finish off the edge of the pond which will cover the remaining lip of the sheet liner or the edge of the plastic mould.

That’s pretty much it. There are many details to finish it off such as selecting fish ad plants, installing water features and finishing off the edge of the pond. There’s a huge variety of options for all of these but your basic pond is now in place.