Make Your Own Personalized Pond or Water Channel

Want to bring some new interest to your garden? Have a couple of days to dedicate to a project? If you answered "yes," a pond's the plan for you. Here, we show you how to make ponds and water channels, step-by-step.

Water Lilies in a Pond With Garden Bench

Garden Pond and Bench

2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - Garden Design View original photo.

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Water lilies and other varieties of aquatic plants and grasses create a lush effect in this small, round pond. A nearby wood bench is a perfect spot to sit and relax.

Designing a pond with a flexible PVC liner, rather than a rigid pre-formed type, allows you to create a water feature of almost any size and shape. To work out how much liner you need, add twice the depth of the proposed pond to its maximum length plus the width.

Do a little prep work before you break ground on your new water feature. Choose a location that's sheltered and sunny, avoiding heavy shade under trees. Make sure you have all the listed materials on hand so you don't have to interrupt your work. Remember, this project should take about two days if you don't make a channel, three if you do or one day for a stand-alone channel.

Once you're done installing your pond, wait a week for the mortar to set before placing plantings, such as water lilies and marginals.

Materials Needed:

  • garden hose
  • spade
  • pickax
  • level/plank
  • sand
  • pond or carpet underlay
  • flexible pond liner
  • waterproof mortar, bucket, trowel
  • sharp knife
  • decorative stone
  • pegs and string
  • plastic reservoir
  • plastic liner
  • sharp knife
  • bricks
  • waterproof mortar
  • submersible pump, flexible pipe, filter
  • gravel, cobblestones or river rocks
  • permeable fabric
  • metal grill

Dig an Informal Pond

Use a hose to mark the outline of the pond (image 1). Aim for a curved, natural shape without any sharp corners.

Before you start digging, skim off any sod for reuse elsewhere (image 2). Keep the fertile topsoil (which you can also reuse) separate from the subsoil. Loosen compacted subsoil with a pickax.

Dig out the pond, making the sides gently sloping. Leave a shelf 12–18 inches wide around the edge, then dig out the center to a further depth of 18 inches. If winter temps in your region drop low, consider digging a little deeper to prevent freezing.

Use a level placed on a straight piece of wood to check that the ground around the top of the pond is level (image 3). Remove any loose soil and all large or sharp stones from the sides and bottom of the pond.

Install the Lining

To protect the liner, line the sides and base of the pond with pond underlay (image 1). On stony soils, spread a 2 inch layer of sand over the base first.

Center the liner over the hole, letting it settle under its own weight into the base. Leaving plenty of surplus around the rim, pleat the liner to help fit it to the shape of the pond. Fill with water (image 2).

Edge the Pond

When the pond is full of water, trim the excess from the liner leaving 18 inches around the rim. Pleat the excess liner so it lies flat and bury the edges in the ground. Lay a bed of waterproof mortar for the edging stones (image 1).

Place the edging stones into the mortar, overhanging them by 2 inches to hide the liner (image 2).

Clear and Level the Site for the Channel

Pick a site for your channel that's similar to the one you sought for the pond: sheltered and sunny, and out of the way of trees. Hire a qualified electrician to run a power supply for you.

To start, clear and level the site. Mark out the length and width of the channel with pegs and string. Dig out the area to a depth of 6–8 inches. Cut a shallow shelf all around the channel for the brick edging.

How to Prepare a Rill for Brick Edging

How to Prepare a Rill for Brick Edging

2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - Garden Design

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Install the Reservoir

Line the channel with sand, and tamp it down with a piece of wood. Use a level to make sure the base is flat. Dig a hole at one end and insert the reservoir. Check to make sure that the rim is level with the base of the channel.

Insert Reservoir and Check that Rim is Level

Insert Reservoir and Check that Rim is Level

2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - Garden Design

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Line and Edge the Channel

Line the channel with the plastic liner, smoothing out any creases. Trim the liner at the reservoir end so that it drapes over the rim. Leave 8 inches excess along the other three sides (image 1).

Edge the channel with bricks on three sides (not the reservoir end). Set bricks on a 1 inch layer of waterproof mortar, making sure that mortar doesn’t fall into the channel. Mortar between the bricks (image 2).

Install the Pump, Pipe and Filter

Place the pump in the reservoir. Push the pipe on to the pump outlet, run the pipe along the length of the channel and cut it to fit at the far end. Fit a filter on the free end of the pipe to prevent blockages.

Install Pump in Pond Reservoir

Install Pump in Pond Reservoir

2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - Garden Design

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Add the Finishing Touches

Cover over the pipe in the channel with a level bed of gravel. Place a metal grill over the reservoir and top with cobblestones or river rocks (image 1). Permeable fabric placed between the grill and the stones will stop debris from falling into the water.

Fill the reservoir with water, prime the pump and adjust the flow according to manufacturer's instructions. Place edging material, for example slate chips (image 2).

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