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How to Install a Backyard Pond

Backyard ponds provide the ultimate in relaxation with their soothing trickling sound of water. They also provide a water source for birds and other wildlife. A small pond is easy enough to install in just one or two weekends.

First, you have to decide where to place the pond in your yard. Depending upon your design, you may want to place the feature so that it can be seen from various positions around the yard. Many people choose to place a pond in a remote part of their garden so as to enjoy a more peaceful retreat. It’s a good idea to avoid placing it beneath trees otherwise it is likely to quickly fill with leaves. Adequate sunlight will also help to prevent algae growth. Placement should allow easy maintenance access from at least one side. And of course, allow plenty of room for seating and enjoyment.

Next, what size will your pond be; consider both diameter and depth. Keep in mind that larger ponds will require more general maintenance. Smaller ponds can be created fairly easily using a pre-fabricated ponds found at many local home improvement centers and landscaping retailers. Pre-fabricated pond liners are made of durable plastic and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For larger ponds or for shapes not available pre-fab, you can install a flexible liner yourself. It requires more time and effort but affords much more flexibility. For our purposes, let’s assume that you choose a pre-fabricated pond.

When you purchase your pond, you’ll also need to purchase a pump that corresponds to the pond's capacity. Select a pump that is rated, at a minimum, to move your pond's gallon capacity once per hour. Smaller ponds typically use submerged pumps, while ponds over 1,000 gallons use external pumps. The size of pump you purchase is also influenced by how much trickling sound you prefer. If you want to create a waterfall or fountain, you will need a pump that is rated to lift the volume of water to the height of your design.

Map the perimeter of the pond with marking paint, a length of hose, wooden stakes or rocks. This will help you to make certain you are satisfied with the position. Also, it is vital to check with local authorities to make sure there are no buried cables in the vicinity of the pond before digging. Even if it’s going to be a small pond, digging without checking first is a huge safety hazard.

Now it’s time to dig. The size of your pond will dictate whether you can use a shovel or whether you get to play with rented equipment! As you remove the soil, pile it on a poly tarp, this will make clean up much easier. Be sure to save all the soil you dig, as it will come in quite handy later for filling in holes around the pond’s base. This ensures a snug fit. You can also use the soil to create a mound from which to descend a waterfall feature.

After you take a big, relaxing break from all that digging, it’s time to insert the pond into the hole. It is important to install the pond level. Small deviations will probably cause you no trouble, but the closer to level the better. Test fit the pond liner and fill any voids under the liner. Fill in all gaps around the base with soil. As you fill, work uniformly around the perimeter of the pond. It’s important to compact the soil each time you add more to prevent uneven settling when you fill the pond with water.

If you’re installing a waterfall feature, pile a mound of soil in the desired location. Again, it’s important to compact the soil. Dig a trough down the area of the mound where the waterfall will be. Make it oversized so that it ’s deep enough to accommodate rocks that will help the water flow trickle and tumble. A small, modest waterfall only requires a simple trough. But a larger waterfall requires molding the soil into compacted stair steps, which you will later line with rocks.

Next, fill the pond about halfway with water. Inspect the perimeter again for any gaps and fill in with more soil if necessary.

When you install the pump, you can hide its electrical cord with recessed stones and/or plants. If you have a waterfall feature, you can do the same with the piece of tubing that will extend from the pump to the top of the mound. You can hide the end of the tubing at the top of the mound under a recessed rock.

Now for the really fun part! You can put stones in place around the perimeter of the pond, on your waterfall mound, and in the waterfall trough. You can purchase specialty stone from a landscaping retailer, or you can use rocks from your own property for original and natural style. Of course, stones aren’t necessary, but they lend a natural look. Larger stones are most convenient for the pond perimeter and mound, as they can’t be knocked over by late-night wildlife prowlers. Smaller stones may be necessary in the waterfall trough, depending on how deep it is. Here is a tip for more natural looking stone, bury them a little more than halfway as they often are found in nature. You may want to leave some areas open on your waterfall mound for compact plants and/or ground cover vines; you can fill in around the plants later with mulch and stones.

When you fill the pond, it may start out fairly murky or dirty. To help avoid this, clean out any dirt before filling with water and rinse the stones before placement. The murk should settle within a few hours.

Now grab a lawn chair, sit back and enjoy the relaxing sights and sounds of your pond!


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