A garden pond adds new dimensions to any garden. As well as providing a tranquil spot to sit and relax on a hot summer's day, it attracts a whole range of wildlife to your garden such as frogs, newts, and water birds and almost inevitably gives you a mini nature reserve. It also opens up new plant growing opportunities both in the water and at its edges.
Choosing the right location, shape and size of garden pond.
An ideal spot for a garden pond is in an open area with plenty of sunshine, but not too exposed to the wind and it is best not to locate it directly under trees to avoid accumulating soggy leaf mould every autumn. You should aim for as large a size as you can manage and the location will comfortably support, as larger ponds will gave a greater impact and are easier to clean and maintain than smaller ponds and are less prone to green water. The shape should be gently curving to blend with the environment and it is best to avoid narrow necks of water if possible. The ideal depth for a garden pond is around 2 feet deep, any shallower and it will be prone to drying in the summer and if much deeper it will accumulate mud in its base.
What lining material to use
Flexible liners are generally the best materials to use and are usually made of either butyl or PVC. If working to a lower budget then polythene can be used but this is thinner and generally won't last longer than 3 years before it needs to be replaced.
Preparing the hole
You should mark out the area to be excavated with a trail of sand or an old hosepipe and the best months for pond making are April and May, so you should start digging around March. The pond base should be dug to around a 3 feet depth in its centre and you should make arrangement for disposing or using the surprisingly large amounts of material which will result! It is a good idea to consider preparing a shelf around the edge of the pond, in preparation for plants that prefer to grow in shallow water and otherwise the sides should slope at around 45 degrees. It is also advisable to protect the liner with a layer of fibreglass matting or sand in the base of the hole.
Laying the liner and filling the pond
Make sure the liner is large enough and then stretch it over the hole and hold the edges down with some heavy stones and check that it overlaps an even amount all around the pond and even out any wrinkles. Now you can start to fill it with water. A hosepipe should then be prepared and the exciting part can begin, filling the pond with water, which will settle down the liner with the weight and help even out any wrinkles. Fill the hole to the brim.
Edging the pond
Usually the best way to edge a pond is by laying flagstones and tucking the liner under them, they should be laid so that they overlap the edge by about 2 inches. These should be laid carefully to get a level finish and should be bedded with fine soil or sand. It is best to avoid concreting them in or repairs can be difficult. Now it's time to stand back and admire your new pond but a little patience is required as it requires about 2 weeks to bed down and for undesirable chemicals in the water to disperse.
Then it is time to start planning to decorate it with water plants of your choice and for you local wildlife to discover it and hopefully take it up as their new residence.
It should always be borne in mind that open water can present a dangerous hazard to young children and this should be considered before making a garden pond.
In a future article I will discuss the range of plants now at your disposal and some of the fish wildlife that you may wish to introduce.
John McGuire is a smallholder and active gardener who manages his large gardens including two ponds and keeps a range of farm animals. He is also an online marketer and has his own gardening resources and products website.
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