This may seem like a strange topic for pond building. Most of the older
books, pamphlets, catalogs, videos, whatever that you get will do a 4 to
6 step process to build a pond. If that's the approach you take, you won't
be happy with the result within 6 months of your installation. The minute
you finish those steps, you will start to find out about all the things
you SHOULD have thought of, but no one told you about. So I take a different
approach. I have you start the thinking process first! What a concept!!!
You will find that you will be doing a lot of this... You have a lot of
questions to answer such as:
- How big will the pond be? How deep? Where?
- Do you want fish? Plants? Both? What kind?
- Do you want a formal or informal pond?
- Do you want it above ground or below?
- Liner type or rigid? Filtration?
- What are you going to do with all the dirt?
- What will it all cost?
The answers to these questions are all related as they apply to the big
picture. You need to keep all these in mind as you start your next section,
Research... As part of your thinking process,
you need to start a little research now. Can't think without a little fodder
to think on, can you? Start looking for pond building seminars. Look around
for local pond societies. The Austin
Pond Society maintains a great list of local pond societies, check
it out. Also check out the web for other pond sites and link pages like
the one I have at this site. Part of your thinking process is preparing
for your research process by collecting information. You won't get all
your answers here, so talk to people. Visit the library. Get on the mailing
lists of lots of mail order pond suppliers. (Good list in the Library...
section.) You would be surprised what you can find out in a catalog. I
don't expect you to necessarily buy from them unless you don't have a local
supplier. They really keep the ponder going during the winter when your
fish are just vague shadows moving under the ice. They also are the first
place you are likely to see new products.
You can start answering some of your questions now.
The first advice anyone will give you is to build the biggest pond you
can afford. The only regret that anyone ever has after building a pond
is that the pond isn't big enough. Also, a pond big enough to actually
get in is a lot easier to take care of than a smaller pond. You can get
to your plants at waist level rather than bent over on your knees.
Contrary to what you might think, a small pond can be harder to keep clean
because there is less room to maneuver your tools to clean the bottom.
The exceptions to this are small container gardens. These work great on
a patio, apartment, condo, or front yard. They also make a great way to
highlight some of the smaller water plants.
So much for size. Depth is a little complex. If your pond is only going
to be a reflecting pond or a bog pond, 12 inches is fine. If you plan on
having lilies, you are going to need at least 18 inches. If you are also
thinking koi, you need at least 24 inches. The thing is that you are limiting
yourself with a small pond. If you just want a reflecting pond now, you
might wish to change your mind later and add a water lily, but if your
pond is too shallow, you can't do it. Depth never hurts except by needing
a little bigger liner. By the way, any pond without fish is a mosquito
factory waiting to happen. Heat and cold dictate your pond depth too. If
you want your fish to over-winter outside, you need water at least a foot
deeper than your thickest ice. If you are in a really hot area, you need
deeper water to keep the water cool enough to not boil your fish, unless
you have an abundance of tartar sauce.
I live in North Texas. By the first of July we usually have LOTS of days
with temperatures over 100 degrees. Depth helps but water lilies also help
to shade the water and a large waterfall helps, too. My main pond with
both koi, and plants is 32 inches (my inseam - so I can get in it in cold
weather). My highest water temps are around 85 degrees. I have found that
below the Mason/Dixon line, 30 to 36 inches is a good depth for fish/lily
ponds and for the pond keeper.
Where to put the pond? Good question and the first answer that comes to
mind for non-ponders is "the low spot". Actually, the low spot
is about the worst place. See, this is where all the runoff from the rest
of the neighborhood collects. Your neighbors have lawn services, fertilizer,
pesticides, herbicides, ... dogs? Do you want all this to end up in your
pond water? If you're planning on having lilies, they require 4 to 6 hours
of sunlight a day. Some varieties are more shade tolerant. Bog plants run
the gamut from full shade to full sun. Put your pond where it will be accessible
to a water and electrical supply. Of course, you can install these things,
but why make your job harder? Put your pond where YOU will get the most
good out of it. See where other people have put their decks. Maybe what
you do with the dirt will affect where you put the pond. I built a hill
behind my pond with my dirt so I had to make room for all the dirt. More
stuff to think about before you get out the shovel.
Fish and plants are a personal choice. You can get some ideas about your
choices from your research. I like both fish and plants for a number of
reasons. Any body of water will invite mosquitoes and the best defense
against them is fish. Water gardening is also just about the only way I
want to garden in Texas. The variety of plants available is amazing! The
plants also help to use up the wastes produced by the fish and help keep
the water clearer. I get into more of this later in the Plants
and Fish... page. There is some good stuff there that you might want
to read to help you decide.
The choice between formal and informal ponds is a matter of choice. The
architecture of your house may dictate your pond style. Formal ponds are
very geometrical in shape. They may be above or below ground. Informal
ponds are just about any shape and are usually below ground, but not always.
Above or below ground is usually dictated by how much work you can or want
to do. Dig a test hole where you think the pond will go to see how much
trouble the work will be. It may change your mind about where the pond
will go or whether it will be above or below ground. Maybe a little of
both if you only dig down part way and use the dirt to make a berm for
Pond liners fall into 4 different types - natural liners, flexible liners,
hard liners, and concrete. All but the hard liners allow the builder complete
flexibility in shape and depth. Natural liners use the natural tendency
of clay soils to hold water and are probably the cheapest. They may be
reinforced with mixed in additives to help out leakage but it will not
completely stop it and increases your costs. These are usually used for
very large ponds and the water quality is not as good as that for other
Flexible liners are sheets of flexible materials such as rubber or plastic
that lines the pond. Your limitations with this type of liner are available
liner size. They come in rolls up to 100 feet wide and long, and larger
custom sizes can be ordered. Plastic liners are the cheapest but the plastic
becomes brittle over time. Rubber is a little more expensive, but will
last you a lifetime. Do yourself a favor. If you are going to use a flexible
liner, use the rubber.
Hard liners are molded plastic or fiberglass liners. The shapes and depth
are determined by the manufacturer and the biggest hard liners are not
really very big. They are difficult to install properly in ground, but
they may be used above ground easily and are almost indestructible. They
are also about twice as expensive as the flexible liners.
Concrete liners have been around a long time. They are more difficult and
expensive to install than flexible liners and may eventually crack and
may need relining with a flexible liner. They are also among the most expensive
liners to put in unless you can get a great off-season rate from a local
swimming pool company for a gunnite job.
Your catalogs will give you an idea of the costs you can expect. Make a
list during your research of everything you think you will need and add
another 50% to the total. Catalogs will also give you an idea about liner
sizes available, both hard and flexible. I do all my planning from catalog
prices so that I am always figuring on the high side.
Don't forget, if you have any more links or have any questions, shoot me
an e-mail at
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