Following are the basic steps to build a low maintenance pond.

Though a garden ponds can be as simple as a few plants in a small tub, many people get started in water gardening by purchasing a plastic preformed pond, a pump and filter.  This setup will work great for a while, however  after a few years most people want to build a bigger pond.  They want more water sound, a stream or waterfall.  That is when they start looking into liners and more efficient ways to filter the water.

Pond kits containing everything you need except for rocks and boulders are available for about $730 for an 8×10 pond or $1,200 for a 11×16 pond.  You can also buy pieces ala-carte to custom build any size you desire or to add to or modify an existing pond.

A liner pond can be built to any size and can include streams, multiple connected ponds and waterfalls.  Rocks and gravel hide the liner and are useful in naturally keeping the water clear. At the top of the pond is the bio falls.  This is a box that contains filters and rocks or some other material that is used to help grow natural pond bacteria that reduces the algae in the pond. A skimmer box at the opposite end of the pond from the water fall will collect most of the debris that lands into the pond.

The first step is to lay out and dig the pond.  Laying a hose on the ground in the outline of the perimeter works great for this job.  Next, set stakes and pull a level string over the area we are digging for a reference point.  Now start digging the hole.  As you dig you need to build shelves in the pond.  The first dig will only be 6-8” deep in the entire area.  Then mark a smaller hole inside of the first hole and dig out another 6-8” down.  By doing so you are stepping down the bottom of the pond to create different levels to set small boulders on and bog plants that like to grow near the water surface.  The next small area to be dug is the deeper spot so the fish can survive the winter and plants such as lilies can grow at the bottom of the pond.

Next, dig a hole adjacent to the pond to install the skimmer.  The bio falls are placed at the opposite end of the pond and the soil removed during the digging is filled in around the bio falls.  The bio falls is at the top of the pond and the starting point of the water falls.  The pump is placed in the skimmer and the hose connects the pump to the bio falls.

Once the hole is dug and any rocks or roots are removed, a thin layer of sand is placed on the bottom and on the shelves.  Landscape fabric will now be placed in the hole before the liner to protect the liner from punctures from below.  Then the liner is installed and excess liner is folded.  Smaller rocks from 4-10” are placed around the walls of the pond, and edges.  Smaller gravel is used to line the bottom and shelves.  Once all the rocks are installed they can be hosed down in place.  Your pump can be set at the bottom to remove the dirty water.

The water fall is next.  This is the fun and creative part of pond building.  First create a step down trough of soil to hold the water fall.  Make sure there is enough liner to extend into the pond and hold in any splashing water.  Find some natural stone for the falls.  Flat stone without sharp edges works best for ponds to reduce the potential for cutting the liner.  Starting below the ponds finished water level, stack up the stone using concrete or pond foam to seal up the gaps behind and between the stones.  By overlapping stones you can direct the water where you want.

You can now fill the pond and test the water falls.  Hide the edges of the water with stones but do not trim the excess pond liner until you are happy with the edges.  Spots around the edge with a lot of excess liner can be turned into planting bog areas.  This will make your pond more natural looking.

Add plants in and around your pond to naturalize the look.  Fish can be added after the pond has been running for a few days and the chlorine is gone.  Over the next few weeks the ecosystem in the pond will balance and the pond water will clear up naturally.   Happy ponding.

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