Build a Garden Pond Using a Flexible Liner
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Build a Garden Pond Using a Flexible Liner

How to instructions on installing a basic garden pond. Water features in the landscape can create a pleasant oasis for summer relaxation.

A garden pond can be a wonderful asset for your landscape. A pond can provide water for birds and other wildlife critters. If you locate your pond in the right place at the bottom of a slope it can act as a collection for water runoff as well.

Choosing Location

There are several factors to consider when locating your garden pond. Do you want it in the shade or sun? Will you need to have electricity nearby for a pump? Are there underground utility wires that need to be avoided? Are there going to be a lot of tree roots where you will be digging? What is the slope of your yard? Are you going to have a seating area near the pond? What size and how deep do you want it?

Before starting your plan there are two important steps that you absolutely must take.

Call 811 the Call Before You Dig number. You can call this number from anywhere in the US and you will be routed to your local provider. Someone will come to your home and mark your lot indicating the underground lines for free.

Visit your municipal building code office. They will be able to guide you on what the codes are for your city and some even have standard plans that they will provide to make it easy on them and you.

Draw up Your Plan

Measure your lot and draw a scale drawing of all the elements in the landscape marking trees, shrubs, out buildings, patios, walks and fences. Mark the underground wires, hose bibs, sprinkler heads, electrical outlets.

You won’t regret this as it will force you to think through all the potential issues you may face when locating your pond. Remember you are going to need water available and perhaps electricity as well. Draw your pond to scale on the plan.

Prepare the Ground

Draw out the shape directly on the ground using landscape spray paint.

Remove the sod and dig the hole 2 to 3 inches deeper than your planned finished depth. This will give you space for the underlayment base that you will put down under your liner. An 18 to 24 inch depth is a good depth to shoot for. The depth of your pond will be dependent on whether you want plants and/or fish. If you live in a cold area you will want an area of your pond to be approximately 3 foot deep by at least 3 foot square surface area so that the fish will have a place to go that won’t freeze solid in the winter. Use a line level across the span of the pool to make sure your edges are even with each other. If one edge is lower your water will run out that edge and the liner will be exposed on the other side.

You may want to visit your local nursery to see how deep the water should be for any water plants that you intend to include. If you have a nice sloping pond or stepped pond you will have the opportunity for the widest variety of plants.

After your hole is dug you will need to measure the area to determine the size of the liner. Determine the width: Measure the depth at the deepest point and multiply by 2 since you have two sides. Add in the width across the bottom plus 12 inches on both side for overlap around the edges. Do the same process for length. So a 2 foot deep pool that is 4 feet by 5 feet would need a liner 10 feet by 11 feet liner.

Purchase your supplies and materials.

Purchase thick PVC or rubber pool liner, your pump, your filter and your underlayment. The measurement of your pond will determine the size of pump. You will also need your pool measurements to purchase your underlayment. There will be charts on the bag to guide you in how many bags you will need for the size of your pool. Always take your plans with you to your home improvement store. If you have plans in hand you can always check with the store staff for guidance.

Make sure that your hole is completely clean and free of rocks and roots. Pack your underlayment on all flat surfaces and slopes where it will hold.

Gather a few helpers for this next step!

Arrange the liner over the hole so that there is an even amount of excess around the entire edge. Place stones or other weights around the edge and begin slowly filling the center with water. As the weight of the water sags the liner begin to adjust the liner by smoothing out wrinkles and removing the rocks to allow for the liner to move into the space. Continue to work the liner down into the void as smoothly as possible. Having two or three helpers is advisable.

Now that your liner is in position and your pool is full you are ready to add the rocks and other edging material. Trim the liner leaving about a foot of liner around the edge and under the rocks. You are now left with the fun task of landscaping. Many nurseries have water plants and knowledgeable staff to guide you in choosing which plants will be best for you.

Additional Unique Approaches

There are of course many ways to get a great water feature into your backyard!  For some other great ideas see Irene Nevin's article How to Create an Inexpensive Water Feature 1

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