Aquatic plants Installing ponds Water plants Irrigation Water gardens Planning water features Water lillies

Installing a garden pond

This section will guide you through the most cost effective way to install your very own water garden pond.

  • Use a rope or hosepipe to outline the shape of your water garden pond.
  • Make use of a simple design as a shape with too many curves and corners is not suitable as it results in wastage of lining material and might not even look pleasing to the eye. The principle of simplicity in landscape garden design is the best to follow in this instance.
  • Calculate the size of the liner by measuring the maximum width and maximum length and add twice the maximum pond depth to both the length and the width of the garden pond. Say for example you want your garden pond to be 2 m (78 inches) wide, 3 m (118 inches) long and 50 cm (19.5 inches) deep then you will require a liner that measures approximately 3 m x 4 m (118 by 157 inches). Remember to add the overlap for the rim edging to both the length and the width. (Tip: Use a garden pond size that will correspond with the standard garden pond liner width.)
  • Mark the garden pond outline with sand and start to dig the hole. Start the digging in the middle of the garden pond to the required depth. (Tip: A depth of 50 cm if you intend having fish and water lilies.) Make the planting shelf – about 20 cm (7.87 inches) deep and wide from the rim – around the edge if you intend having marginal water plants. Do shape the sides with a slight slope to prevent garden soil from falling in.
  • Ensure that the rim of the garden pond is level on all sides. Make use of a straight edge or plank that is long enough to reach the rim all round. Place a spirit level on the plank or straight edge and adjust till you are sure the rim is level.
  • Prepare the rim for the edging that you want. Remove all protruding stones and roots and fill the hole with soil.
  • Line the surface of the hole with a 5 cm (2 inches) layer of damp sand. (Tip: Line the bottom with undercarpet felt or even an old carpet.)
  • Spread the liner over the hole very carefully and in the center. Allow the plastic liner to touch the bottom of the garden pond. Refrain from standing on the liner. (Tip: Do this part on a hot sunny day because the liner will then be much more flexible and easier to work with.) Do retain a minimum of 20 cm (7.87 inches) all round for the rim edging. Prevent the liner from shifting position by carefully placing smooth stones around the top.
  • Fill the garden pond with water. Smooth the liner and tidy out all pleats as the water level rises. Close off the water supply when the garden pond is approximately 10 cm (4 inches) below the rim.
  • Complete the edging of the rim by laying slabs or smooth stones on the prepared rim. Alternatively you can bury the overlapping liner edge to a depth of at least 10 cm (4 inches) in a shallow trench. Cover the lining or plastic sheeting completely so as to protect it from the harsh ultra-violet rays of the sun.
  • Place the pump and fountain or waterfall in the garden pond and finish it off with water and bog plants. The moving water and the water plants will help to keep the water garden pond clean. In the beginning the garden pond will appear murky, but this will change as the water plants establish themselves in the garden pond.
  • Fill the garden pond with water to the top.
  • Only introduce fish into you water garden pond when you are sure that the aquatic plants are established.

Useful Tips and Tricks

The following are useful tips and trick to consider when planning your garden pond. They are also useful when it comes to maintaining you garden pond as a water garden requires quite a bit of maintenance to keep it looking healthy and inviting.

  • The water garden pond should be in full sun. Nearly all aquatic plants associated with water gardens need some direct sunlight to flower especially water lilies. Your dream of those beautiful water lily plants will come to nothing if you starve them of sun.
  • Ensure your water garden pond or water garden feature (it could be a simple garden fountain or stream or waterfall disappearing below ground) is away from trees especially deciduous trees that lose their leaves in Autumn or prevailing winds that may carry poisonous leaves into the pond.
  • If you do want trees the following trees can be grown close to water gardens - the Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum), and for frost-free areas the Powder-puff tree (Barringtonia racemosa), the old favorite Japanese Maple tree (Acer palmatum) and the Lagoon hibiscus (Hibuscus tilaceus).
  • Smaller water garden ponds can be netted against the worst of the autumn fall and a few leaves don't harm a healthy pond. However particularly avoid Willow, Elder, Poplars, Laburnum, Yew and Oak.
  • Make sure your water garden pond is not over-exposed to the prevailing winds.
  • Try to avoid any boggy waterlogged areas since this could result in your garden pond lifting.
  • Consider accessibility to a water supply. The water garden pond will want regular top-ups in the summer.
  • If there are to be waterfalls, streamed or garden fountains in the garden landscape, consider the distance to plumb in electricity, since this can be a major expense.
  • Consider SAFETY and children. Where there is water and children, at some point the children end up in it. Generally head first.
  • Partly for the reason above, but also because we spend so much of the year looking at our gardens from inside our houses, it is advisable to have a view of the water garden, the garden pond or other water feature or at least part of it from the house.
  • Check for bedrock, pipe-work, electricity or septic tanks where you have chosen to have your water garden.