Decisions and Supplies are the first step

You have decided that your garden needs a pond. This project is perfect for the cooler Fall or Spring, giving the pleasant weather, as well as providing time for the fish to acclimate. 

Perhaps you have had the quiet trickle of a water feature all summer and now you want more. This page will show you how to add a garden pond that can actually sustain fish.  Having fish splashing about in the garden takes it to a new level.  Having a pond will also encourage more birds to visit your yard, as well as entice rabbits and turtles. When you plan this build, you will want to have at least a weekend to complete it without leaving it half-finished.  Before the labor begins there are several decisions to make.

Size is important for several reasons.  On consideration on size is the security of the fish. In order to protect the fish in a mild winter climate, you need to go at least 18 inches deep.   Your local fish store will be able to tell you the depth needed to keep the fish alive in your growing zone. Before you dig you must check with the power and Gas companies so that you do not run into any dangerous electrical or gas-line problems. 

One simple method for deciding on the shape and the size of the pond is to take your own regular garden hose and lay it on the ground where you are locating the pond. Once it is on the ground you can easily move it into various shapes to find the one that most appeals to you.  Once you have the hose laid out in the desired shape you need to measure the width and the length and remember to include the depth to have the correct size of material.  


Now is the time to purchase the liner and the water pump, as well as sand, a pointed nose shovel, aquatic plants, flat finishing rocks or cobblestones and a level. 


Digging at Least Two Tiers for the Fish and Plantlife


Now that you have a basic plan and design in mind, it is time to begin the digging process.  You will be using a pointed nose shovel to dig down about 10-12 inches.  This top layer will form the plant tier after the pond has water added.  This underwater lip will allow you to place potted plants that thrive in the water, which will give the fish a place to rest and feed.
Keeping in mind that as long as the center drops to a safe 18 inches, the fish will be able to stay safe from ice and visiting animals.  Ask at your local pet store if the center needs to go deeper due to the weather.  To maintain healthy fish 18 inches is a typical safe depth for milder winter areas. 


While digging the pond, remove all rocks and roots that you come across. Rocks and roots can puncture the liner after installation due to the pressure of the water, rendering your pond useless.
By lying the level across the top of the dig site, you are able to make sure that the top of the pond is even for paving.  As you dig using the shovel, you can pack the dirt down on the lip of the pond.  Packing the dirt will give you a chance to keep all sides level.  Using the plant tier to stand on, you can begin removing all dirt from the next level.  You are now creating the 18 inch center section.  
Once all the digging is complete, the next step will prepare the hole for the liner. 


Protecting the Liner and Filling the Pond

Now that the basic shape in place and the top is level, pouring sand into the bottom is essential. The sand forms a barrier that protects the liner from shifting rocks, roots and other sharp objects, that are still in the ground.  Pour a smooth layer of sand on both the center section and the ledge. One inch is plenty and will form that protective barrier. 

When placing the liner, it is easiest to fold it into a manageable size.  Placing it over the exposed hole and pushing the center into the deepest section.  Inching the liner into the center before laying it against the sides and plant tier.  Once it is over the center, using a flat hand, the liner can slide into place.  Walking in the center section will press down the liner and secure the shape. 

Do not cut the liner until the water is completely added. The water will pull on the liner as it settles. Allowing for extra lining material to drape beyond the top of the pond provides play while the water pulls the liner into  all of the crevices and nooks. 

Placing the Water Pump and Plant Life

Once the water has filled the pond, the water needs to sit for twenty-four hours before adding any fish life.  Most areas of the country add chlorine in the water and this will suffocate the new fish.  While you wait for the water to become safe, the pump easily sits on the ledge with the cord hidden by the rocks that decorate the top lip. It is also a good time to place the water plants on the top ledge. 

Aquatic plants are perfect for the garden pond.  The containers that hold these plants are best suited for water areas and will not seep dirt like using basic houseplants and home potted plant life. 

Reeds, lilies and other aquatic plants like water cress  will thrive here.  When placing potted reeds and plants, place rocks on top of the soil to keep them from floating to the top.  Holding them in place while the water permeates the soil will keep the water clean.  Floating plants like watercress will not cause debris to clutter the pond. 

The beauty of using potted plants on the ledge, is that no dirt and sediment will clog the pump. Sharing the ledge with the plants provides the opportunity to use one of the variety of fountain heads that come with the pump to have the water churn as much or as little as you want. 

Pump for the Garden

Adding the Marine Life and Final Touches

Koi are not goldfish. They are part of the Carp family and these fish are known for living in Japanese ponds.  They are colorful, hardy and thrive in cold water.  Goldfish are also colorful, hardy and they can also thrive in cold water.  The cost of the fish is something to consider when deciding on which fish to add to your garden.  One option is, when you first build your pond, place goldfish in the water.  Adding in Koi at a later date is an easy option.

Always wait the twenty-four hours for the chlorine to leave the tap water.  Pond fish food is available at pet stores and in discount stores in the pet department. The food comes in pellets and will sit on the top of the water until the fish swim up for it.  

Fish will learn the shape of your shadow and will usually meet you at the top of the pond at feeding time.  If you place your fingers in the water and wiggle them, the fish will come to your hands once they become familiar with that sound.  Fish will serve several functions in the pond.  Sure fish are  alive as well as ornamental, they will live there for a long time keeping mosquitoes from thriving in your pond.  The fish will inspire conversations when noticed for the first time.  Fish will intrigue neighbor cats and will dart about making funny sounds on a quiet still day. 

Bringing in river rocks, flat landscaping rocks or ornamental rocks are another option that is available to you.  Using different types and styles of rocks are also an option.  Placing the last personal touches to cover the cords for the pump and using decorative items will give the pond a unique look.  Never be afraid to try a look for a few days.  The pond will take a while to start to look natural and during that time, adding potted plants, benches, and other decorations will create the feeling that the pond has always been there.  

Little tufts of plants growing between large rocks implies that the pond has always been there. Lighting is one touch that will allow you to enjoy the pond at night as well as during the daylight hours. Chosing solar lighting will keep you from worrying about cords and outlets. Enjoy the decision-making process for these little details.   These small last important touches are what will keep your pond looking as unique as the rest of the garden.