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Garden Ponds - Planning, Installing & Maintaining Your Garden Pond

Garden Ponds

Q.We are looking at the possibility of installing a garden pond in our back garden. Can you please tell us how to go about it?

A well designed and maintained garden pond will add to the beauty of any garden landscape – and given the latest weather there is no shortage of rain water to fill it! The reality is that no one pond will be the same as each property owner can add their own personal touch, influencing its final shape, depth, the type of flora that the pond supports as well as the addition of any water features that are required. Some people prefer to have their pond positioned in full view of the house, so that it can be admired from indoors, while others like it to be out of view so that they can ‘escape’ to the sound of running water and a different landscape. While the possibilities are extremely broad there are however a few set guidelines that we suggest that you in getting to your final goal.

From a positioning perspective it is important to address any environmental factors before you select a site for your pond. Once such factor is the presence of overhanging or large trees in close proximity to the pond. There is always potential for the root system of young and nearby trees to distort or pierce the membrane of your pond so you will need to consider this in your positioning. The amount of leaves and or flowers that will be shed into your pond is also an essential factor – it will increase the overall maintenance for you and some shedding (from the likes of willow, oak and elder among others) is actually toxic to plant life and fish so it is important that you do your homework first. It goes without saying that other man made factors should also be taken into account, digging a pond in proximity to large load bearing structures should be avoided where subsidence is a risk, and shallow seated electricity lines, drains etc will also come into your planning. We would also recommend that your final site provides necessary protection from the elements – try to make sure that the pond is sheltered from any cold prevailing winds and that it receives good sunlight for half the day. These factors will only serve to improve potential for growing water plants.

The most popular form of pond construction is created by digging an appropriately sized hole in the ground and lining it with a plastic liner or membrane. This allows even the novice landscaper to shape the pond in accordance with their design flair and to control the depth of the pond itself. However a word of caution – often what looks good on paper or in your head can end up very different in practice! For this reason it may be a good idea to consult a professional landscaper at to make sure of that the design is consistent with the existing garden and that it delivers the desired look and feel. The most effective way for the novice to proceed is to pick a very simple design – a square or rectangle normally work best – and one that promotes the natural flow of water. Another option is to use a moulded glass fibre pond shell instead of the plastic membrane or liner. These shell provided a fixed shape and depth and all that is required is that the property owner digs the appropriate hole in the ground to facilitate it. You should always leave adequate access space around the pond – enough space for you to walk comfortably around it and get access for maintenance when required. This space will also be a consideration for any planting, water or rock features that you are considering integrating into your final design.

When considering the depth of your pond it is worth noting that deeper ponds provide a better balance to pond life. However please apply your own environmental and safety factors to this – if you have young children in the house a deep pond is not necessarily the best way to go. A general rule of thumb is that at least 40% of your pond should be at the deepest required depth to avoid large temperature fluctuations in the water that can promote the algae blooms that are harmful to pond life. If you are considering stocking your pond with fish then bare in mind the recommended minimum water depths for each species – goldfish generally thrive in minimum depths of 18 inches or so and carp, Koi and other breeds need a minimum of about 36 inches in depth. If you are looking to plant water lilies then consider their requirements also. Other plants may require ‘pond shelves’ at different depths to be included into the pond – so very often your final pond design will actually be dictated by what you want to put in it!

Water features such as streams or waterfalls can add a lot to your final pond but it always wise to keep any such additions in proportion to the size of your pond – a large waterfall in a small pond can look tacky and create over-turbulent water which will adversely affect pond life.

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