Build Your Own Pond

Build Your Own Pond


There a few Chubby Mealworm fans that like to take a dip once in a while. Other mealworm munchers like to live in  100% humidity. Can you guess who the pets are in these riddles? They want you to build them their very own pond.

Throw in the towel or beach ball? OK.

Ducks and fish have a request for their family - they want an oasis. Your duck will enjoy a refreshing splash and your pet fish will spend their summers in luxury. If you have cold water fish (goldfish and koi) they can have a permanent residence upgrade!

Here’s how!

Constructing a water garden is much easier than they you would think. The beauty and benefits of adding a water feature to y

our backyard or back forty is not to be underestimated. The sound of water splashing attracts wildlife and a vast array of songbirds.The Cornell Lab of Ornithology informs us that the “best way to make your backyard more attractive to birds is to just add water. Birds need a dependable supply of fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing.”

Having a natural water source, such as a pond, makes providing water for songbirds even easier! The pond stays cool and fresh throughout the summer (with occasional top offs if rain is limited). Pond edges provide cover and great places to bath. You will attract songbirds that love the water and don’t be surprised to see a few hummingbirds scanning the ripples. Hummingbirds love water and they are just head over heels (literally) for sprinklers. Watch a hummer enjoying a shower in mid-flight!

Site Choice

Usually, you can find a naturally sloping part of your property that could just “use” a water feature. Avoid areas that are swampy, retain ground water, or that hold water after a rain, or in wet times of the year. The ground water will bubble up and lift the pond liner. There are drains that can be placed into the liner’s bottom – but it is easier to avoid siting ponds in these areas.

Don’t place the water feature in an area with large trees (especially pines or willows). The roots can puncture the liner. You won’t want to try to dig a pond around roots. That can be very challenging. Willow trees should not be near your pond, as this tree contains a natural version of salicin and that is not good for the fish.

Soil substrate

Choose an area that has dense soil compaction, clay is best. While you can lay the pond against rock, you won’t be able to dig in an area with a ledge that limits your depth. Sandy and collapsing soils will also create an unstable situation. If you must put your pond in a tricky substrate consult with water garden construction specialists.

Size and depth

The size and depth of your pond is determined by two factors: your coldness zone and if you want to keep fish. Shallow ponds are great for birdbaths and for growing water plants. If you want to keep fish you will need to construct a much deeper and larger pond. The depth of the pond helps to maintain a stable and constant water temperature without extreme dips or rises. The sun, the rain and the weather will cause deadly water temperature fluctuations hat will stress and kill fish. In hot areas water depth provides insurance against rising temperatures. In cold areas, the pond’s depth insulates against freezing.

Most ponds that will contain fish need to be 3-4 feet at the deepest section (you will also have shelf areas and sloping shorelines).

When purchasing your fishpond liner (only buy liners for fish ponds – never buy any roofing or construction liners they are not safe), remember to add an additional foot of overlap. You will need a foot of “extra” liner to secure it to the pond’s edge.

Chubby Digging


The biggest mistake made in constructing ponds involves the size. If you have the space, make the pond as big as you can – always oversize, never undersize!

Step One: layout the ponds edge using a rope or garden hose. You can meander the edge for a natural look (follow the lay of the land and the surrounding landscape. The terrain will dictate how a natural pond should look in that area), or do a formal geometric shape like a square or rectangle. Your imagination and design requirements are limitless!

Step Two: Begin digging the pond. Simply use a shovel and some helpers... or rent a backhoe. Most small to medium ponds can be easily dug by hand.

Step Three: Dig the pond in increments. You will need to create a lip to hold the liner at the rim. Carefully cut out the top rim. Angle the slop BACK towards the shore. This will hold the liner down, as you will set the rocks on top of it. The slope prevents the rocks from sliding into the pond. Set the shelf at a fairly strong angle, as there will be some compaction.

• You can add shallow sections and beach areas. Birds and wildlife will use these places for drinking and bathing.

Step Four: Once the edges are dug and the beach areas set, simply excavate the deep areas. Use a straight board and lay it across the top of the pond. Set a level on that as your guide. Drop a measuring tape or use a measuring stick to help in determining the depth.

Step Five: Prepare the base by setting a layer of clay or sand at the deepest floor point. Once the sides are free of sticks and sharp rocks, lay down your protective barrier cloth. Plastic tablecloths are great – but you can also purchase specially made pond underlayment.

Step Six: Carefully lay the liner over the pond. In large ponds set the folded liner into one end and slowly unfold it over the base. “Pin” down a few section of the edge with stones. You won’t need to smooth it out – just begin to fill it with water! As the water pushes the liner into the form you can carefully smooth the liner out. Do not pull or stretch the liner. Leave it to press softly against the wall.

Step Seven: Once the pond is full – and it looks pretty amazing already – set in the ridge stones. These are the stones that will hold the liner on that sloping shelf. These stones also hide the edge of the liner, making the pond appear naturalized. The stones also hide the liner from the sun, as the sun degrades the plastic. Now you can set down the "finish" or coping stones.

Use crushed river pebble and clean play sand for the beach areas. You may want to set some border stones at the deepest end to prevent the substrates from sliding down into the pond.

Leave the pond to season for a few days. Set up your filtration systems and fountains. If you are adding fish, pour in a water conditioning agent. You will also need to add a biological filter additive to seed the system.

Tip: Only add a few fish at a time to allow the natural biological filter to mature. Do not allow ducks into the pond until the filter has established itself. Duck droppings add a heavy burden to the filter system.

Water gardens add that irresistible allure to any yard... for people, and every other local resident - from frogs to finches. Have a water garden already? Starting your build? Show us your pictures, and the steps you are taking to excavate your oasis!