Ponds and water gardens are great assets to the landscape and provide much interest for the homeowner. Small ponds are not expensive; you can purchase a pre-formed hard-plastic variety and dig a hole to fit its contours, or, a flexible pond liner that will lay down and follow the shape of the hole you’ve already dug. Yes, digging the hole for the pond might cause a slight backache—it’s all in how you handle the shovel—but if you remember to bend your knees and spread your hands apart on the shovel handle, your back will survive with little or no discomfort.
Find a spot in your yard that needs some interest. Plan to place your pond where it can be observed from a window inside the house for greater enjoyment. You’ll enjoy watching your pond plants grow, birds coming over for a drink and frogs just hanging out.
Dig the hole to a depth of 26 inches, smooth it out as much as possible, making sure to remove any rocks, then add two inches of sand (children’s play sand will do). Now you’re ready to put in your liner or insert your pre-formed pond. Add a small water fountain for the delight of the sounds it will make and the pleasure of seeing falling water. Set the small submersible pump that you purchased from the garden center into the pond (they’ll tell you what size to buy, depending upon the size of your pond). Plug it into an outdoor electrical outlet and listen to the music of the cascading water.
Now, add plants. There are four types of water-garden plants: floating plants, submerged plants, marginal plants and deep-water plants. Small ponds that are unfiltered will stay cleaner with a mix of submerged, deep-water and floating plants. All pond plants except floaters will need to be potted up, using a good potting soil WITHOUT FERTILIZER, which would be harmful to fish or other pond creatures. There are, however, aquatic fertilizers available that are beneficial to pond plants and are not harmful to wildlife. Spread a layer of gravel or small rocks on top of the pot to keep the soil from spilling into the water.
Floating plants float above the water with their roots dangling down. They can help to filter the water; they also provide food for some water creatures as well as providing shade for them. Marginal plants sit in pots along the shelves of the pre-formed pond, or on shelves that you have dug into the sides of the hole you dug for the pond liner. These bog plants can offer attractive decoration around the edge of the pond. Submerged plants grow in pots at the bottom of the pond. Their foliage, which is entirely beneath the water, can add small amounts of oxygen to the water and help keep down algae growth. Deep-water plants grow in pots beneath the water, but their leaves and flowers must float on top of the water. You can sit bricks or blocks beneath the water to give them enough height. These supports can be adjusted as the deep-water plants grow.
Finish up your weekend pond project by giving your new pond an attractive edging of flat rocks or other stones.