No matter how big or small your garden is, a pond adds an extra dimension to it. Not only do ponds reflect light, they also encourage wildlife and offer a wider range of planting opportunities. Still ponds are restful and contemplative, while the ‘tinkling’ water of a fountain revives the spirits. Nevertheless, a pond – even a very shallow one – can be extremely dangerous to your children and pets. If your children are very young, the pond should be surrounded by a safety fence to prevent accidents.
You can make a pond using a flexible or rigid liner. Rigid, prefabricated ponds are quick and easy to install and they come in a wide choice of shapes and sizes complete with moulded plastic planting shelves to suit most water plants. All you need to do is dig a hole to accommodate the mould, ensure the mould is level, back fill around it with soil and fill it with water and plants. Flexible plastic liners, on the other hand, allow you to design your own individually shaped and sized ponds.
Ponds should be located away from large trees as fallen leaves will collect in them, rot and be harmful to any fish. Instead, choose an open, semi-shaded, level spot, but remember you’ll need to be close to a water supply for filling and topping up the pond in summer. Measure and mark out the site with string, or use sand trickled from a plastic bottle.
1 Excavate the site
Mark out your pond’s shape and dimensions, including the maximum depth. The top of the pond must be level all the way round. Place level pegs all round the perimeter – check them with a spirit level – then dig out, working to the pegs and adding 50mm (2in) to the depth for a lining of smooth, fine sand.
2 Inspect the site
Once the hole has been dug, inspect the sides, ledges, edges and bottom: remove sharp stones, glass and any other debris that could puncture the liner. Coat the bottom, the sides, the ledges and edges of the hole with a 50mm (tin) layer of damp, fine sand, and compact it well to make it stay in place.
3 Drape the liner
Drape the liner over the hole, allowing an even overlap. Make sure when you arrange the liner that you do not disturb the sand lining the edges, ledges and sides of the pond. Let the liner sag a little in the middle.
4 The edges
Place bricks or blocks around the edge of the liner: allow enough weight to control the liner but not so much that it stops it gliding and stretching gently into the pond as you very slowly fill it with water from a hosepipe.
5 Trim the liner
When the pond has filled with water, trim off the liner around the rim, leaving a minimum of 200mm (8in) pf liner as an overlap. Hold the edge of the liner in place by driving some nails through it into the ground.
6 Finish the edges
The overlap is easily hidden by placing paving stones around the edge. This will also help to anchor the liner. Slabs must overlap the edge of the liner by 150-200mm (6-8in), but not overhang the pond by more than 40mm (1 3/4in).
You can plant a pond as soon as it is complete, but don’t put in any fish for at least four weeks.
Some tree leaves and seeds are poisonous to fish so don’t plan a pond anywhere near a willow, poplar or laburnum.
So the edging stones don’t fall off if someone steps on one, they must be carefully bedded down on mortar.
Take care not to let any mortar drop in the water – you will contaminate it and it must then be replaced.
If you are creating your own shape, try laying out a garden hose on the ground in different shapes to inspire the form.
Make a ramp out of smooth rocks and pebbles leading from the depths of the pond to the ground surface so that amphibians – frogs and newts – can get in and out.