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Building a Garden Pond

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Garden Pond

Building a garden pond helps create a tranquil setting and has the added bonus of attracting wildlife such as birds and frogs. This is a guide about building a garden pond.


Solutions: Building a Garden Pond

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Tip: Decorative Rock Pond

We had designed and constructed a rock garden pond in one of our flower beds in the front yard a few years ago; the liner got a hole in it and the pond began to lose water.

We took the entire pond apart rock by rock and bought a new liner, dug the pond opening larger and built a dam around the perimeter of the pond to keep the water in the pond. We constructed a small waterfall and a perch for the ceramic frog that "spits." We filled the bottom of the pond with large stones and river rock. Decorative Rock Pond Decorative Rock Pond

There is a large fern growing behind the pond which gives it color; plus I have a bird feeder with a homemade gazing ball in it; I have 2 miniature spruce trees on each side of the pond in the front with stepping stones in an oval shape going to each tree.

A plastic window box sits on river rock which is filled with bright orange Zinnias; I have whimsical ceramic and resin frogs and turtles around the pond. All the river rock and stones came from my late sister's home in the Ozark mountains which makes it a very special place to visit. Decorative Rock Pond

The sound of the water coming from the small waterfall and the "spitting" frog (we put a tube in the ceramic frogs mouth and placed a pump nearby) the frog spits water into the pond; I also have a ceramic green lizard that sits on the other side of the perch where the frog sits like it wants to pounce on the frog and eat it!

It was fun reconstructing this pond and the enjoyment of this area of our yard is beyond measure in our eyes.

By Jose

Article: Installing A Preformed Pond

Installing a preformed pondPreformed ponds are an easy and relatively inexpensive way to get started in water gardening. Most box-garden centers offer several sizes and depths to choose from, including complete kits that contain everything you need to get started: the pond, the pump, and filters-for as low as $100. Installation is easier than digging and lining a free form pond, too. Depending on the size you choose, you can install a preformed pond by yourself in a single afternoon.

Selecting a Form

Shop online and research your options before making a purchase. Online retailers sell in volume and have a low overhead. Even with shipping charges, sometimes they can offer you the best deal. Preformed ponds are designed to be durable and puncture resistant. With proper care and maintenance, one made of at least 1/4-inch thick fiberglass can last up to 50 years.

A pond featuring varying depths will accommodate the largest variety of plants and wildlife. Three different depths are ideal. Water lilies, lotuses, and other submerged plants need a depth of at least 18 inches. A depth of 6 to 10 inches will accommodate most marginal plants, and attract aquatic animals like frogs. Over-wintering plants and fish need a depth of at least 2 to 3 feet.

Note: In areas with harsh winters, be prepared to bring fish and plants indoors for the winter.

Start out with something small until you get the hang of the required maintenance. If you want to expand the size in the future, you can combine two or more preformed ponds together to form something larger and more dramatic.

Choosing a Site

The ideal site for your pond will be fairly level, offer good drainage, and feature both sunshine and shade. Most aquatic plants prefer at least 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight a day, and both plants and fish will appreciate some afternoon shade.

Try to locate your pond away from overhanging trees and shrubs. Not only will this save a tremendous amount of work in the way of maintenance (constantly removing fallen leaves), but you'll also be less likely to encounter tree roots while digging your hole.

Low-lying sites leave your pond vulnerable to runoff contaminated by fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. Even if you don't use them, maybe your neighbors do. Also, a pond located near an outdoor faucet makes filling and cleaning it more convenient.

Digging the Hole

A simple way to dig the correct shape for your pond is to flip it upside down in the desired location and dig around the perimeter. You can also outline it with chalk dust, move it out of the way, and start digging.

Dig your hole a 3 to 4 inches larger and deeper than the form. Make sure you dig your hole to match the angle of the walls. If your pond contains one or more plant shelves (varies in depth), you may need to move the form in and out of the hole several times to ensure you get a good fit. Remove roots, rocks, and other debris as you dig.

Once the hole is deep enough, level the bottom by tamping it down with the back of your shovel. Cover the bottom with several inches of builder's sand so that the bottom is level and the top edge of the form sits slightly above ground level. Using a carpenter's level on top of a board laid across the hole, check to see that the top of the hole is also level. Adjust the height of the soil at ground level if necessary.

Setting in the Pond

Before setting the pond form into the hole, rinse it out to remove any dust and residue acquired during manufacturing. Place the pool into the hole and wiggle it into position. Check to see that both the bottom and rim all the way around the sides are level.

Filling the Pond

To prevent bulges from forming on the sides of the pond, you need to backfill the hole and fill the pond with water at the same time. Slowly start to fill the pond with water. As it's filling, backfill the gap around the perimeter of the pond by working your way around it several times, adding even amount of soil and tamping it as you go. Continue to fill the pond and backfill the hole so that you finish both at approximately the same time. When you're finished, the soil around the rim should slope slightly away from the edges of the pond to prevent runoff from getting in.

Finishing the Edges

To give the edge of the pond a more natural look, disguise the plastic edges using rocks, or fieldstone. Secure them by digging them down into the surrounding soil or fixing them to each other with mortar. Note: Depending on the mortar you use, you may need to let it cure before being able to safely add plants or fish.

Adding Plants and Fish

Before adding living things to your pond, run the motorized pumps and filters for a couple of days to ensure everything is working correctly. Water contains a variety of chemicals depending on its source. Check with local pond and fish suppliers to see what, if any, chemicals you need to add your pond water to make it safe for plants and fish. Expect to wait at least three days after filling your pond before adding plants, and a week or more before adding fish.

Check with the pond's manufacturer for their recommendations on the number of plants and fish your pond can sustain, and plan on starting out with less. Both your plants and fish have the potential to grow larger and reproduce. Besides, it's always easier to add more plants and fish than to try to correct a pond with oxygen and nutrient imbalances.

By Ellen Brown

Article: Keeping Ponds Safe for Fish and Wildlife

A squirrel drinking out of a pond.One of the greatest joys to having a backyard pond is the variety of wildlife it attracts. They come for a variety of reasons: to drink, hunt for food, hide from predators, or even to raise their young. Here are some ways to keep your pond a safe haven for wildlife visitors.

Furnish Hiding Places for Fish

Goldfish and Koi are a welcome addition to most ponds-to both humans and local wildlife. Once you add them to your pond, don't be surprised to see raccoons, herons and neighborhood cats waiting around for an easy meal.

Create deep water: Large, deep ponds (30 to 36+ inches deep) make it harder for predators to hook or spear a fish.

Erect bridges and tunnels: Bright colored fish are easy to see. Use bridges or ledges to cast shady hiding spots that will dull their color, or construct fish tunnels made from rocks, broken flower pots, or hollowed-out logs.

Provide extra plants: Use extra terrestrial and floating plants (especially around smaller ponds) to create a wide border of plantings around the water's edge. This will help keep four-legged predators away from the water's edge, and provide extra cover for fish when swimming in shallow water.


Create Cover for Frogs and Turtles

Amphibians like frogs, salamanders, and newts, and reptiles like turtles spend a significant amount of time on land near the water's edge. If you want to attract them to your pond, you'll need to provide them with plenty of safe cover. Allow the grass to grow tall on three sides of your pond and mow one side short for easy viewing. Place small piles of rocks and logs near the water's edge to provide perches for basking in the sun and safe places to hibernate.

Prevent Accidental Drownings

Construct escape routes: Small animals and baby animals may become startled or accidentally fall into the water when they come for a drink, so it's important to provide ways for them to climb out of the water. Create ramps by leaning logs or boards up against the sides of your pond at angles that allows for easy climbing. In deeper water, create life preservers out of floating logs or large rocks that break the water's surface.

Build gentle slopes: A pond with steep sides is nearly impossible to climb out of. Use sand or gravel to create a gentle slope on at least one side of your pond. This will provide a safe place for animals to access water to drink, and provide a safe shore for swimmers to escape to.

Using Physical Deterrents

Netting: Although visually unappealing, stretching netting across your pond will effectively deter birds and cats. Because it may also deter other wildlife you're hoping to attract, once local predators lose interest and move on to easier prey, you may want to remove it until it's needed again.

Spikes & Spiders: Larger birds like gulls and herons can be kept from landing near your pond by attaching stainless steel or plastic bird spikes near the water's edge. These are the same spikes used to keep pest birds from landing on gutters and roofs. Their somewhat unsightly appearance can be camouflaged with tall grass and pond plants.

A more aesthetically pleasing option may be the bird "spider'. With its stainless steel "arms" that bounce and sway in the wind, its almost resembles a spider plant (or some kind of sea creature). Birds find the constant movement of the arms disturbing and they move on. Neither the spikes nor "spiders" will prevent small birds from visiting your pond or cats, unfortunately.

Dummy Birds: Setting realistic-looking birds of prey (owls, hawks, etc.) next to your pond will temporarily scare off small birds-both desirable and undesirable species. Dummy Trumpeter swans can help deter problem geese for a time (real swans will attack geese), but as with the dummy birds of prey, once the "unwanted" figure out the dummy is fake, the jig is up.

By Ellen Brown

Tip: Build Your Pond Close To Your Home

If possible it is a better idea to locate a garden pond closer to your home rather than far away. Ponds are like swimming pools - they attract wild critters, pets, and also the neighborhood children. If it is where you can keep an eye on it, it is also easier for you to respond to emergencies or shut the power off on the fountain if necessary.

Tip By Hope M

Tip: Build a Beautiful Garden Pond for Under $4

After laying all the liner (if you have one), place the pump in the lowest part of the stream or pond, setting it on bricks so it won't take in silt.

The pump should be set opposite a waterfall, if you have one. At this location the pump provides maximum circulation and aeration.

Attach the pump to the supply and outlet lines. Turn on the pump to move water through the pond. Allow any header pools, terraces and catch basins to fill, settling the liner into place. Fill the pool halfway, readjust the liner then let the pond fill completely. Make sure that no liner will show after the edging is installed. Add or remove soil beneath the liner to bring the edge level with the water. Trim the liner if necessary, but leave enough to go under the edging. Make the final trim after the stones are set in place.

By Susan

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Below are photos related to this guide.

Bathtub Water Pond

I designed my own water pond. I had an old bathtub. The birds love it the water. It does not turn green. It's so relaxing to hear the waterfall.

By Sheila from WI

clawfoot bathtub pond

Garden: Backyard Pond

Hi to all you pond lovers. Here is a picture of my back yard. I built my pond by hand and went out every evening to add rocks. It was a lot of hard work, but the end of it all it was well worth it. Hope you like this picture.

By Karen from Hinton, Alberta

Backyard Pond

Garden: Small Pond and Waterfall

My hubby created this beautiful pond for me to enjoy. It is situated right outside of our doorway so we enjoy it all day long. In the evening it is illuminated with colorful lights and it's so cool to see the fish cruising around in the dark. I am so lucky to be married to such a talented guy!


Garden Pond

Transplanted Garden and Pond

We had a garden beside the kids playground that had to be moved because the wild blackberries were killing the plants. My 10 year old son came up with this plan. We worked hard for 5 days digging the pond and transplanting the garden. Now this is our family's favourite place to sit and talk. Hope you like it.

By Justin and Mom from Lawrencetown Nova Scotia

Transplanted Garden and Pond

Making a Small Garden Pond

I thought I would share this thrifty idea as I only have a small garden and wanted a pond.

The pond had to be small due to lack of room so I made two little ponds side by side using an old washing-up bowl and a deeper mop bucket. I put the bowl and bucket in separate bin liners so as not to see the sides when they were full of water. I then dug a hole large enough for the two items, made sure they were level by filling the bowl and bucket with water and looking at the levels and adjusting them until they were level. Then I filled around them with garden soil and edged it with some pieces of broken flat slate that I had lying around, and cemented the slate in. I put some stones in the corners so that frogs or anything else can get in and out. I know there is a frog around that area as I have seen it.

Finally I had two figures that my daughter didn't want, I made a little fishing rod and started planting around the sides. I will put more plants around to finish it off when they grow in my mini- greenhouse:-

By Richardpeeej from Leicester UK

Making a Small Garden Pond

Summer Garden with Fish Pond

Photo Description
Summer Garden with Fish Pond

Our deck and fish pond was made out of items that were free. The rocks around the pond are from all over. Texas, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Georgia.

Photo Location
Ludowici, Georgia

By Sue Hinely [20]


Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.

Archive: Garden: Decorative Pond


Garden: Decorative Pond
*** This my pond in my front yard that my husband and I made this spring. Hope you like!

By sandyb125 from Bluff City, TN

RE: Garden: Decorative Pond

What a unique idea with the little boy fishing in the pond! Thanks for the idea. We are remodeling our pond and we might incorporate that type of idea into our landscape. (08/06/2009)

By WandaJo

RE: Garden: Decorative Pond

Very peaceful looking. Good job. (08/06/2009)

By mulberry204

RE: Garden: Decorative Pond

Love the little boy fishing while sitting on a tree stump! (08/06/2009)

By Deeli

RE: Garden: Decorative Pond

You should be proud! (08/06/2009)


RE: Garden: Decorative Pond

That is almost identical to the one that I've had in the back of my mind for years! The only difference is, I want to put a few bushes around it and some flowers. And the statue that you have, mine is a "Pee Pee Boy". We're just waiting till we move to do it. Don't want to go through all that here just to have to leave it. I love yours though! I'm going to print this out and show my husband! (08/06/2009)

By Cricketnc

RE: Garden: Decorative Pond

We're also thinking of a pond, but are too tired to do it this year. Perhaps in the spring. I've heard it doesn't take too long if you have a few people to lift the rocks/boulders. I just saw a link on how to build on, haven't tried it, but it makes sense. (08/07/2009)

By Allison5

RE: Garden: Decorative Pond

Thanks for all the nice comments! (08/07/2009)

By sandyb125

Archive: Building a Small Pond and Waterfall

I would like to put a small pond and waterfall in my yard. I would love to hear of your tips, ideas, success or defeats. Thrifty ideas are so welcome! Where do you shop in Washington State for pond items? Thanks in advance for replies.

Hardiness Zone: 7a

Lori C. from Ephrata, WA

RE: Building a Small Pond and Waterfall

My MIL put a small pond in her yard and she went to Agway. I don't know if they have any of these near you, but they are a feed store (we buy chicken feed there) and some of the bigger Agway's have a ton of flower garden stuff, including pond forms etc. (07/20/2008)

By Tracy In NH

RE: Building a Small Pond and Waterfall

You can for your own pond with lumber and cement in a hole that you dig to the shape you want. To make it waterproof, torch on flat roofing is good. It lasts a long time and better than the rubber liners. Visit your library and get some ideas there - there are excellent books on the subject. The need for a ledge for the edge plants --- how to make the pond fit with its environment etc. For instance, a waterfall just doesn't make sense unless the area has a natural slope you can take advantage of. Better then to use a fountain instead. (07/21/2008)

By Lady BE

RE: Building a Small Pond and Waterfall

I am currently building a pond in my yard using the shell from an old hot tub. You seal the outlets and it make a great pond. Build it into a deck and surround with rock and you don't have to dig to deep. I am putting the lower part into the ground but this thing should not freeze since the water will be flowing. (07/21/2008)

By travis in ohio.

RE: Building a Small Pond and Waterfall

Hi! I have 3 ponds, liner, pre-formed plastic, and concrete. I have had better luck with the pre-formed because either my dogs or other critters poked holes in the regular rubber liner which calls for repairs, and my water plants grew thru the 4" deep concrete! so now I have a liner over the concrete. So far none of my plants have bothered the pre-formed one. the plant roots just follow the bottom of the pond. All my pond stuff came from Home depot or Lowe's , I hope you have some type of home improvement store near you. the most important tip I can give is to be careful when and if you bring plants across state lines, many no-no's about that with hefty fines! One other thing, use the dirt you dig out along the side top to help you get the depth you want , this will help keep yard debri out of your clean pond. good luck! hope you get as much pleasure from yours as I do. (07/21/2008)

By kwinters

RE: Building a Small Pond and Waterfall

Hello Lori from Ephrata, from Kim in Moses Lake. The new Lowes will surely have them, you might have heard about that building going up at Kittleson road. Home Depot has them. There are probably some water plant things at the nursery between Ephrata and Soap Lake. I didn't see anything except a water-filled half-barrel at Edwards Nursery in Moses Lake, but I didn't see the whole place. Lots of beautiful stone around, of course! Landscapers can refer you to projects they have done so you can go get ideas for free. God Bless! (07/21/2008)

By kimhis

Pond needs safety stepping stones

Make sure to put in large stones or rocks so that wildlife that falls in, like chipmunks, can save themselves from drowning. A friend did not do this and was shocked to find dead chipmunks in his pond. I put rocks in my small pond for spiders, ants, and critters that might fall in and drown.

There is a product called Skamper-Ramp - "a patented water escape device that prevents animals from drowning!

Every year in the U.S. alone tens of thousands of family pets needlessly drown, along with countless millions of other creatures; raccoons, possums, squirrels, frogs, chipmunks, mice, etc. Pets are family members! They rely on their owners to keep them safe.

According to the American Pet Association, the odds of a pet drowning, are approximately one in 1,028 each year in the US alone. And over 53% of pet owners have a pool and/or spa! The problem is very real but equally preventable." (07/21/2008)

By OhioGirl

RE: Building a Small Pond and Waterfall

Check out They are my favorite. I have a 1200-1500 gallon pond w/ 6 BIG Kois and two waterfalls. Pond Market sells the least expensive and best chemicals I've ever found. The only problem I've had in 9 years is algae build up on rocks and down the waterfall. But, there are chemicals that control that. I've just kinda lost interest. Mine is NOT the pre formed plastic but the free form that I dug out myself and put in the liner. It is GORGEOUS! (07/24/2008)

By karen55