Landscaping

How To Build A Garden Pond

pond in garden with water lilies and surrounding stones
Written by Chris Lee

Garden ponds don’t just benefit your garden aesthetically – they are also an excellent way of attracting wildlife.

A pond is a magnet for frogs and toads as well as many other creatures like newts, hedgehogs and birds.

Ponds are also a brilliant way to teach children about the world around them; pond dipping is a fun and educational way of getting kids to interact and learn about nature.

pond with bright blue water, conifers and plants
Attract wildlife to your garden with a beautiful pond

A garden pond can also really add to the atmosphere of your garden. Water features are incredibly calming, and you also get the opportunity to try your hand at planting pond plants. The pond’s reflective surface will also bring light and colour to your garden.

So, if you feel like a garden pond is exactly what your garden needs, this is the article for you. We have put together a step by step guide to help make your dream pond become a reality.

Pond prep

Before you build your pond there are a few things you need to consider, and preparation really is everything. You are going to be carving a large hole in your garden, so you need to be sure that you are fully decided on what you are trying to achieve before you get started.

Position

Choosing the right position for your garden pond is personal, it should of course be where you are going to be able to enjoy it most. That said, we do recommend that you choose a spot away from deciduous trees to avoid leaves falling in which, once decayed, can lead to algae. 

You may also be wishing to include a fountain in which case the pond will need a power source. If you are hoping to add a water feature, then you will require a qualified electrician.

stunning asian style water feature with sloping waterfall
A water feature can transform your garden

We also recommend that you site the pond somewhere near a garden hose so that, should drought occur, you can replenish the pond’s water.

Finally and unsurprisingly your pond will need to be in a flat area so that the water can be level.

Size and depth

Before beginning your pond, you will also need to decide on its size and depth. You ideally want your pond to be deep enough for pond plants and perhaps fish, so we suggest making your pond no less than 60cm in depth.

If you have already decided on which pond plants you are keen to grow, check what depths the water needs to be for them to thrive and build your pond accordingly.

Size obviously comes down to the space you have available and your own personal preference but again, like the depth, keep in mind any plants you are going to be growing and how much space they require.

Shape

The shape of your pond once again comes down to your own preference and the space that you have available.

If you have a more formal garden, you might want to opt for a square or rectangular pond, whereas with a less formal garden you may wish to choose an asymmetrical shape like the ever-popular kidney bean pond.

Step by step guide to building your pond

Once you have decided on the position, depth, size and shape of your pond, it’s time to start the actual construction.

For this guide we are going to show you how to make a basic pond which includes a marginal shelf for planting pond plants.

We have included the depth, but you can apply this guide to any shape or sized pond.

You will need:

  • A spade
  • 85cm long wooden pegs
  • 2cm thick retaining boards
  • Timber for edging
  • Spirit level
  • Protective underlay
  • Butyl pond liner
  • Four Decking planks
  • Residual current device
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Long brass screws

Step 1

Begin by roughly marking out your pond. If you are opting for a formal line, then you can do this by using canes and strings to make sure you’ve got those straight edges. If you have decided on an informal design, you can map out the shape using a hose.

Step 2

Dig a 60cm deep hole in the shape and size that you have chosen and the knock in the 85cm long wooden pegs around the edges. You can then screw the 2cm retaining boards onto them and then frame the edges with timber which you can screw to the top of each peg.

man in green wellies digging turf with a spade
Can you dig it?

Step 3

Carefully check the perimeter of your hole by using a long plank and spirit level. If your pond is not level the pond liner will not fit smoothly, and it will compromise the shape and aesthetics of your pond.

Step 4

Now you need to build in your marginal shelves where you will be able to place pond plants. Do this by adding soil to one side of the pond to create a long, sloping shelf and compact the ground using your heel and rake to level it out.

Step 5

Place your potted pond plants on the marginal shelf to make sure the depth is correct. The pond’s edge should be 2-3cm above the rim of the plant’s pot.

Step 6

Before lining the pond with the underlay, take care to remove any sharp rocks or stones. Carpet off-cuts make excellent underlay; you can also use geotextile, lining the pond like this will reinforce it and protect the Butyl liner from punctures.

Step 7

Now it’s time to lay the butyl pond liner. To determine the size of the liner, measure the length and then multiply it twice by the depth with an additional 15cm for overlap. Then repeat this with the width.

Next, lay the liner in the hole and then get in and push the liner into every nook and cranny. We recommend that you take your shoes off at this stage so as not to damage the hole or get them grubby. You can neaten the edges by pleating the liner. Make sure you have an excess of at least 15cm over the edges.

Step 8

Now it’s time to fill your pond with water. Ideally, you want to use rainwater but, if you don’t have that option and need to use tap water, you should wait a week before introducing plants into the pond as the chlorine would be harmful and therefore needs time to evaporate.

Step 9

Once you have filled your pond, trim both the lining and the underlay together to 15cm to make sure it’s neat and even then fold over the edges ready to lay your decking planks.

Next lay the planks over the edges of the pond, making sure it’s parallel to the sides and make a mark in each place the decking overlaps.

Using a saw, cut the decking to the appropriate lengths, place the decking in the correct positions and drill through the edges and liners, right into the edging frame beneath.

We strongly advise using a residual currency device to protect yourself.

Make sure the lining is taut to ensure a neat finish and fix the planks in place with the long brass screws.

Step 10

Finally, there is nothing left to do aside from adding in all your plants and enjoying your own, self-made, one of a kind pond and all of the wonderful wildlife it is sure to attract.

Pond perfection

We hope this article has inspired you and shown just how easy it is to build your very own garden pond.

pink water lily on the surface of some water
The perfect pond is yours to build

There are so many options when it comes to designing a pond, whether you keep it simple or go for a more luxurious look, the choices really are unlimited.

Do keep in mind that you are likely to be using electrical tools close to the water, so make sure you take all the necessary precautions. 

We also recommend that you take your time with your pond project, especially when it comes to prepping to prevent any mistakes that could spoil the aesthetics of your pond.

If you are particularly keen to attract wildlife to your pond then choosing the right plants will help you, for example, lily pads are extremely sought after for frogs because they hide their tadpoles from view.

Whatever your plans with your pond, big or small, applying this guide will help you achieve the perfect pond of your dreams.

About the author

Chris Lee

Chris is interested in nature and the good things that happen when people are in it. He is a freelance writer, with writing published about cycling, green living, and ways to make a difference without fundamentally restructuring your lifestyle.

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