above ground pond with koiuCredit: 123 rf

So you are ready to start putting your pond in, woo hoo you won't regret it!

There are a few thing other, than a strong back, you will need:

1. A strong shovel make sure nose (end) fits the soil, if the dirt is hard it is likely best to use a rounded nose but as long as the shovel will break the dirt go for it!

shovelCredit: canadian tire
2. A wheel barrow it's always easier to bring soil back than to pile it somewhere it gets in the way! Trust me on this one, a major thunderstorm can fill the hole very quickly and starting over is no fun!

wheelbarrowCredit: canadian tire

3. A liner pre-buy the pond liner in the size you want prior to digging anything. This assures you wont end up with a different size liner to hole. Tip: do not forget the drop/depth of the pond when you are figuring out the liner size.

Note: A basic rule of thumb is( length+ side 1= side 2 +1 foot) width+ side 1+side 2+1 foot

If you are adding a side bog garden make sure you allow extra footage for the side it will bevon. For example if the  pond is 8 feet wide with a three-foot sides with a 6 foot bog garden the width of the liner would need to be 8+3+3+6+1= 21 feet.

linerCredit: the pond people

Note: Not all liners are the same density or quality. AVOID liners that need to be pieced! If you can not find the right dimensions go on-line and order one that does fit!

Keep a liner repair kit on hand at all times. It is much easier to fix a leak than to deal with a disaster! The one I have does not need heat to set the poly which is great considering, water and electricity do not mix!

4. Newspapers  to line the bottom about 4 inches thick, it takes a lot of old newspapers to line a pond, bottom and sides. Tip: this is an important step as  rocks, stones and other earthy elements can work their way through the subsoil and easily poke a hole in the liner (newspaper decomposes over time so in about 4 years it will no longer protect the bottom)

5. Some kind of padding to go over the newspaper layer. I used painting pads on my last pond project, strong, cheap and soft. If another source is unavailable or you choose not to use one, layer on another couple of inches of newspaper.

6. An old garden hose to make the outline of outer edge, I find this more durable than chalk or paint.  Tip: dig the peripheral edges, moving in to remove the top layer,  see the full shape before digging too much in the center.

7. Water, not just for  the pond but for you, as well. Digging is hard work and staying hydrated in essential.

8. Have your pump and platform ready to go.

9. Be ready for the unexpected! Have a small saw for tree roots, a  pry bar for rocks, and a  good sense of humor on hand!

Ready, set... start digging!

Once the top layer is off, I generally begin in the center and dig towards the outer edges, this makes moving the wheelbarrow much easier.Keep going until you are about a foot down, then take a step back and evaluate your progress.

The outer interior edge will become a shelf for plants, rocks and lighting (if you choose to install it). It needs to be about 18 inches to accommodate planters and rocks. Mine is 14 but the rocks often roll into the water. Not a big deal, it's just a bit annoying to have bare spots along the ledges.

At this point you should be happy with the shape, the size, site and overall feel of the pond.  This sounds odd, but often our plans  are ambitious or we have overlooked something in the planning stage. And sometimes our ideas are just a lot stronger than our backs. If something seems off, take some time and think it through before continuing but if your happy...

Ready, set ..... dig!

Go another  foot, evaluate, change leave the shelf - take a moment to breathe and start again, dig until you hit the planned center depth.

Well done.

Line the bottom and sides with newspaper, and the other source of padding. If you are alone, place the liner down the center and unfold it towards the outer edges, keep going until all sides are covered, do the same on each corner, pulling the liner until it is smooth in the center.
If you have an assistant take the liner, one person on each side, lay it in, it is much like laying a sheet on the bed.

Note: Do not use stapled papers! Staples poke fine holes into the liner, which are impossible to find and fix!


1. Use a heavy object to anchor the corners.
2.Its easier to  pull the liner from the corners.
3. Laying the liner is much easier on a hot day, as it softens the liner.
4. Rarely, do liners fit to perfection, expect some crevices and folds as it adjusts and conforms to the shape of the pond.
5. Allowing the liner to sit, as is for a few hours lets it conform to the shape of the hole.

You are heading into the home stretch now!

With the liner  in place, flattened , the top edges weighted down,  fill the bottom with about 2 inches of water. adjust the liner if needed, smoothing and lessening the folds as you go.

If you are putting rocks on the ledge/shelf this is the time, add your lighting, and pump.

A word about pump placement, some pumps need to sit on a raised shelf. pumpCredit: the pond people

.At this point, I unusually fill to the pond to the half way mark and then finish the rocks/edging at the top. Less debris and dirt end up in the liner that way.

With the pump located, the edging and platforms  done, the shelfs and rocks in place, its time to fill the pond to the top and let it sit.

Building an in ground pond is an easy, inexpensive way to add beauty, fun and ambiance to your yard.