Create a DIY Garden Pond

article image
Photo By Philip Beaurline
Build a basic garden pond in your backyard.

You can create a pond in your yard similar to the one Hanuman Bertschy built outside her Virginia straw bale home, with your own personal touches. These instructions for a basic, one-tier pond will get you started.

Materials and Tools

Preformed pond (3 foot by 4 foot, reinforced plastic or fiberglass)
Two straight boards, 3-foot and 5-foot long
Tape measure
Carpenter’s level
Three 50-pound bags of sand
Submersible pump (200 to 30 gallons per hour capacity) with filter
Assorted stones, rocks, and plants for landscaping edges
Aquatic plants

1. Place the preformed pond right side up on the selected site. Trace the perimeter of the pond’s top rim onto the soil by dribbling handfuls of sand to make an outline. Set the preformed pond aside. (Trace the outline of the top rim and not the bottom of the pond; the rim will be larger in diameter.)

2. Carefully begin removing soil from within the traced lines, digging two inches deeper and two inches wider than the actual pond form. Pond forms often include ledges, and so they have a smaller diameter at the bottom than at the top. With this in mind, shape the hole as closely as possible to the contours of the pond form, leaving shelves of soil to support the built-in ledges. Reserve some of the soil that you remove; you’ll need it to backfill the hole once the pond form is in place. To check the depth of the hole, place the five-foot long board across the top of the hole. Measure the distance between the bottom of the hole and the board. (Do not continue with step three until the hole is at least two inches deeper than the depth of the pond form.)

3. Using shovel and trowel, scrape the bottom of the hole to make it level. Remove large or sharp rocks and any roots or debris. Check whether the bottom of the hole is level by setting the three-inch long board across it and placing the carpenter’s level on top of the board. Reposition the board and level several times to check for level all the way across the hole’s bottom.

4. Spread a two-inch thick layer of damp sand across the bottom of the hole. Smooth the sand by running one edge of the three-foot long board across it. Run one edge of the three-foot long board across the sand and place the carpenter’s level on top. Repeat to check for level in several positions.

5. Set the pond form in the hole; its rim should be at ground level. Then check the rim for level by placing the five-foot long board and the carpenter’s level across it in various places. To correct the pond form’s positioning, remove it from the hole, level the sand again, and replace the shell.

6. Add four inches of water to the pond form. Put some of the sand and reserved soil in the wheelbarrow and mix them. Firmly pack this mixture around the outer wall of the pond form, all the way up to the water level inside. Continue this process, gradually adding water and then backfilling with sand and soil, until the pond is filled with water and is firmly supported around its exterior. As you backfill, make sure there are no gaps under the shelves or around the sides of the pond form.

7. Install the submersible pump and the filter according to manufacturer’s instructions. Raise the pump above the pond bottom by setting it on bricks; this prevents debris from clogging the intake valve.

8. Arrange stones, rocks, and plants around the pond site. Use only smooth stones on any exposed portions of the liner, because sharp stones might tear the plastic.

9. Turn the pump on and continue to add water to the pond until it’s full. Add soil around and between the rocks at the edges of the pond and basins, and put in some plants.

Excerpted from Backyard Living Outdoor Style, by Amy Elizabeth Cook. Copyright 2000, Time-Life Books. Reprinted by permission of Time-Life Trade Publishing.