Complete Guide to Building Garden Ponds


Complete Guide to Building Garden Ponds

Complete Guide to Building Garden Ponds

Build Your OwnGarden Pond – Because building someone else’s garden pond would be trespassing

Building your own garden pond is not as difficult as you might think. If you have opposable thumbs you can wield a shovel, and if you’re not legally blind you can properly position a pool liner. Often the most time-consuming part of building a water garden pond is filling them with water. So set your mind at ease, and read on for simple instructions on how to build your own garden pond.


Chances are that if you’re standing in your backyard with a shovel in hand, you’ve already decided why you like garden ponds. Then again, if it’s after midnight and you have a beer on the other hand, your reasons might be a little too impulsive.

The purpose of garden ponds plays a significant role in garden pond designs. If you want to fish, your pond should be deeper and larger. If you want water lilies, they should be positioned for maximum sun.

Above Ground or in Ground

One more digression: many first-timers decide to purchase performed above-ground ponds. Above ground, ponds are also simple to build. So if the in-ground thing seems a little daunting, try researching the above-ground water garden ponds.

Building in-Ground Garden Ponds

Begin by laying a garden house on the ground. Move it around until it resembles the shape you want your garden pond to be. Before you start digging, run through a quick mental checklist:

  • Is this the right size?
  • Is this the right location?
  • Am I sure there are no utility lines I’m going to “discover”?
  • Do I know the exact depth of this garden pond needs to be?

The commonest mistake at this point is for garden ponds to be sized too small. A good rule of thumb to follow is that garden ponds will look about one-third smaller than you initially expect. However, that doesn’t mean you should turn your backyard into a tribute to Waterworld.

Now you dig. Create a shelf or shallows by digging a perimeter that slopes to about one foot wide and one foot deep. This encourages birds to visit garden ponds. Unless you want to fish, water garden ponds don’t need to be much deeper than 18 inches anyway.

Once you’ve achieved the shape you want, dig any needed ditches for pond skimmers, filters, or waterfalls, for example from a submersible pump/skimmer to an external filter/waterfall.

Liner Notes

There was a time when concrete was the favored liner for garden ponds, but not anymore. Flexible synthetic or rubber pond liners are going to be easier for you to position than rigid ones. We recommend putting a layer of sand or roofing foam between the soil and your garden pond liner to provide a cushion to prevent rupturing.

Put the water garden pond liner in the excavated hole and unfold it, smoothing out wrinkles without being obsessive-compulsive. Connect the pond liner to the skimmer if you have one, and hold the liner in place with rocks set around the perimeter of the hole. How much time you spend on this depends on how natural you want your water garden pond to look. A more organic appearance can be achieved if you’ve dug a slope that permits multiple layers of stone.

Water Time

Once you’ve completed any excavations necessary for skimmers or waterfalls, it’s time to fill your garden pond. Fill slowly, allowing the liner to gradually conform to the shape of the ground. If your garden pond liner is sticking out over the pool edge, don’t trim it until after the pond has filled. The weight of the water should pull it down as it fills.

How to Build Garden Ponds – Step by Step?

You could build a swimming pond yourself, and the commercial process explains how, but in standard gardens, the style will need much adapting.

Step One:

The site is visited by the designer and construction manager to choose a suitable area and check the geology of the site. The ponds are up to 8ft/2.5 meters deep and digging the hole correctly is the most important and expensive part.

Locating the pond in the lowest part of the garden gives it a very natural feel, whereas next to the patio makes it look like you built your house next to a lake.

In some cases between 150 and 400 square meters of space have been required, due to the large marginal areas needed for effective natural cleaning by the plants (bigger than most back gardens).

Smaller ponds are possible but the natural cleaning by the plants needs to be supplemented by mechanical filtration.

Step Two:

In comes the labor and the mechanical diggers. Some 200 tonnes of soil was removed for the first pond and had to be taken away (and at Hampton Court, it also had to be brought back at the end of the show).

Step Three:

The sides of the swimming area are reinforced with concrete before a specially-made liner is laid over a Geotextile underlay. Now it finally stops looking like a building site and resembles a pond.

Waterfalls, decking, and hard landscaping can be added. This is when the individual tastes of the customer start to show.

Step Four:

The planting is vital to the success of the pond’s stability and the plants need to be selected by the experts.

Lilies are placed nearer to the swimming area (plant-free zone) along with the oxygenators, the marginals are chosen to give all year-round color and structure, or to be good at cleaning up wastes.

It’s important to keep distinct swimming and planted areas. The planted shelf (regeneration zone) is like a normal pond with shallow water for moisture lovers and shallow water marginals, like Gunneras, Geums, and Sisirynchiums.

Deepwater marginals, like Pontederias or Orontiums, are placed on lower parts of the shelf and the lilies of every color are placed nearer to the open water.

It is amazing to swim up to the underwater lip which separates the plant and swimming zones and is face-to-face with a fragrant lily bloom and a huge dragonfly hovering over it.

How Does it Stay Clean?

The ponds have no need for chlorine, salt, or noisy mechanical filters. The huge planted area (about a third of the pond) has carefully selected plants, oxygenators, marginal, and lilies, which eventually create a naturally balanced pond.

These remove waste like ammonia and nitrates and their roots – and the gravel they are planted in – provide the correct environment for the bacteria involved in breaking down solid waste.

The plants produce oxygen and remove nutrients that would otherwise be used by algae to grow, producing a clear, chemical-free, algae-free swimming area.

This is not instantaneous because it is a living, growing environment. Some maintenance will be needed in the first year or so, then it will stabilize, needing only minimal effort, mainly at the start of the swimming season, to clean the silt out of the swimming pool area using a pond vacuum cleaner. In the autumn it’s necessary to remove leaves and cut back the foliage. Surface skimmers can be fitted to remove wind-blown debris.

If cold water puts you off then you can add solar panels and warm it up. This will also extend the swimming season. The one at Hampton Court was a very pleasant 26°C.

Garden Ponds Design Ideas – Building Garden Ponds for Ambiance, Wildlife, or the Beauty of Water Liliesgarden pond design ideas

Many guides to garden ponds provide a great deal of information about “how to.” But before you start constructing water garden ponds, you should also consider why you want to build one. That can be a pesky little question, but taking the time to answer it thoroughly will make the construction process a lot simpler. Here are some garden ponds design ideas to help you get started.

Why a Garden Pond?

Garden ponds always look best when they’ve been designed with a particular purpose in mind. That purpose may be to attract wildlife, provide visual or aural ambiance, or introduce a unique setting through which to expand your home garden.


If it’s the ambiance that attracts you to water garden ponds, there are several routes you can take.


In traditional Japanese gardening, garden ponds are meant to provide an organic sense of seclusion. This is often reinforced through the use of bridges and islands. Many books are available on Japanese garden pond design, but we recommend visiting a real Japanese garden for inspiration.

Beautiful Japanese gardens open to the public can be found in Illinois, California, Texas, Portland, Phoenix, Seattle, Massachusetts, and St. Louis, among other places, so location should be no obstacle to a weekend visit.


A less sympathetic observer might refer to rustic water garden ponds as “kitschy,” but we say if you love windmills and gnomes and rainbow-colored bridges, then rustic your garden pond design should be. Unlike Japanese garden ponds, it’s alright if rustic water garden ponds are a little artificial-looking. Garden pond accessories will be a greater part of the planning process with rustic garden ponds, and features such as windmills or fountains are fitting.


The category of contemporary water garden ponds encompasses a great many garden ponds, from modern Zen to urban art deco water gardens that incorporate cascading fountains. Unique looks such as sculpted, above-ground water garden ponds can put a futuristic twist on a historical landscape feature.


The size of water garden ponds plays a major role in attracting or nurturing wildlife. Koi ponds, for example, should be four to six feet deep and hold at least 1,000 gallons of water.

You’ll need to decide whether you prefer garden ponds that attract wildlife or can sustain fish. Fish need deeper water and will eat tadpoles and other creatures that spawn in shallow water. Birds like to drink and bathe in shallows, so if you want birds congregating around your water garden, you’ll need to select garden pond designs with gentle slopes.

When positioning garden ponds, remember to think from a bird’s perspective. The shrubs you find so lovely are also great hiding places for predatory cats.

Diversifying your Garden

If you’re looking at garden ponds with gardening solely in mind, the two aspects of garden pond designs you need to focus on our depth and positioning.

The plant most commonly associated with water gardening is, of course, the water lily. Water lilies prefer garden ponds in full sunlight, without shadows from buildings or trees. Water lilies also dislike moving water, so decorative garden ponds with waterfalls or windmills won’t be a good fit.

Though some pond plants, such as water hyacinth, actually float on the water, water lilies do not. If planning for water lilies, avoid garden pond designs much deeper than 18 inches. Otherwise, the pots that water lilies are planted in will have to be given support from underneath.

Other considerations

A final but important consideration when choosing garden pond designs: don’t forget to research topics such as zoning restrictions and electricity. Garden ponds of a certain depth sometimes require a fence, and there may also be insurance issues. Give these things the proper attention, but don’t let them discourage you from pursuing your favorite garden pond design ideas.

Garden Pond Supplies Checklist – Supplies to keep the algae out and the oxygen in

The planning is done, the garden pond designs have been scrutinized, the zoning commissioners bribed, and soon it will be time to actually begin constructing your water garden pond. But first, you’re going to need garden pond supplies — lots of them. So many, in fact, that it would be prudent to create a garden pond supplies checklist. To save you some time, you can use ours as a starting point.

Garden Pond Aerator

Water and oxygen are essential to life. Even garden ponds need to be oxygenated to stay healthy, so you’re going to need some kind of garden pond aerator.

There are many different types of garden pond aerators available. For shallow-water garden ponds, decorative fountains can act as aerators, moving water and preventing garden ponds from becoming stagnant. However, for deep garden ponds, you’ll probably want to use diffused aeration. Diffused aeration requires an air diffuser that sits on the bottom of the garden pond and dissipates the oxygen.

Garden Pond Filter

One thing to be avoided with water garden ponds is the appearance (and odor) of green pond algae. This appears when excessive nutrients in your garden pond feed the algae and cause it to grow. The essential garden pond supply item you need to prevent this is a pond filter.

The total volume of water in garden ponds should be filtered every two hours. Make sure the pond filter you buy is large enough for the job. Remember that fish increase the pond filter workload, so size accordingly. We also recommend comparing newer-style bead filters with older sponge filters.

In addition to pond filters, adding good bacteria to garden ponds helps break down buildups of organic matter. Additives such as Microbe-Lift are a simple way to introduce beneficial bacteria to water garden ponds.

Garden Pond Skimmer

Another way to reduce the workload of garden pond filters is by using garden pond skimmers. Garden pond skimmers act as a sort of housing for water garden pumps, filtering out and removing debris as water circulates through water garden ponds. A garden pond skimmer will increase the life of your pond filter by operating as a nightclub bouncer. It keeps the riffraff out and lets security deal with whoever is inside.

Garden Pond Pump

When creating a garden pond supplies checklist, you should put an asterisk next to a garden pond pump. A garden pump runs constantly and is the key piece of equipment for keeping garden ponds healthy. When shopping for garden pond pumps, make sure you buy one that’s compatible with your filter. Some filters have a minimum or maximum psi (pounds per square inch) or require a particular water flow rate.

A typical water garden pond requires a water flow rate (measured as GPH, or gallons per hour) about half the size of the pond, meaning that all the water in your pond will be circulated every two hours.

Garden pond UV sterilizer

Prevent algae growth before it happens by using garden pond UV sterilizers. Many water garden ponds are positioned for maximum sunlight, which can also aid in algae growth. UV sterilizers expose free-floating algae to ultraviolet light, causing the algae to flocculate and thus be easily removed by a garden pond’s filtration system.

Other Water Gardening Supplies

Besides all these mechanical contraptions, you’re also going to want old-fashioned gardening supplies such as gloves and fertilizer. Aquatic planters can work as containers. And the one thing that’s easily forgotten when shopping for water garden pond supplies: is nylon waders. As a hands-on gardener, you’re going to get into your garden pond at some point, and chest waders will help you to stay dry.

Water Garden Ponds FAQ – The where, when, and hows of water garden pond

garden pond supplies

Where should I locate my garden pond?

Though there are many factors to consider, the main one is how you intend to use your water garden pond. Water garden plants will typically require about six to eight hours of sunlight, so you’ll want to choose a location that facilitates that. However, too much sun is harmful to some plants and can also promote unwanted algae growth.

Water garden ponds should be built in areas free of utility lines. It’s also prudent to consider ground height when locating garden ponds to avoid drainage issues. Level ground is also important, and try to avoid getting too close to deciduous trees that will drop debris and foliage into the water.

But above all, select a location that’s visually pleasing, easily accessible, and allows you to enjoy your garden pond whether you’re indoors or out.

What Size Should my Garden Pond Be?

The answer to this question is also determined by usage. Garden pond designs should take into account your needs and also the needs of fish and wildlife gardens. The commonest mistake made with garden ponds is building them too small. It seems counter-intuitive, but a larger water garden pond is easier to maintain.

Water lilies require a depth of about 18 inches, while goldfish or koi require two feet or more. koi garden ponds are necessarily larger in volume than goldfish ponds. Deeper water garden ponds help fish to stay cool or warm during seasonal weather, but a garden pond that is too deep will decrease the likelihood of ever seeing fish. A depth of about four feet should be sufficient to protect and enjoy your fish so long as you keep algae levels low.

How do I Get Rid of Green Water?

Just as building too small is the commonest mistake with water garden ponds, dealing with green water is the biggest problem. Green water is caused by algae-eating available nutrients. There are many possible reasons for this, from an insufficient number of plants to too many fish, to fish overfeeding or too much sunlight. Nor are all algae bad. Algae appear naturally at certain times of the year, and almost always in newly built water garden ponds until a proper balance of plants and animal life has been established.

There are many ways to combat excessive algae growth in water garden ponds:

  • Add floating aquatic plants that shade the water and deprive algae of sunlight and underwater plants that use up nutrients.
  • Keep debris down by using drains and biological filters.
  • Install a properly sized water pump.
  • Avoid building water garden ponds in locations that receive rainwater runoff.
  • Use a net to physically remove floating debris from the pond.
  • Install a UV sterilizer.
  • Add bacteria and enzyme products such as Microbe-Lift.

Should I Ever Change My Pond Water?

Yes and no. A complete water change is not recommended for water garden ponds unless done to eliminate a toxic chemical. Garden ponds require time to establish a natural balance, and completely changing the water will cause that process to start from the beginning, enabling an explosion of algae growth.

However, periodic partial water changes can be beneficial for garden ponds, particularly for the fish that occupy them. Make sure you do not use chlorinated water. Tap water will destroy the good bacteria in garden ponds and chlorine can be deadly to fish. Always use a de-chlorinator or carbon filter when adding tap water to water garden ponds.

When Should I Add Fish to My Pond?

We recommend waiting a month before adding fish to garden ponds. This will allow time for bacterial colonies to get established. Liquid bacterial starters and de-chlorinator are available that can enable you to add fish to garden ponds sooner, but time and nature put you on the safe side.

Read More: Tips To Keep Your Pond Clear


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