Water features add depth and new possibilities to your landscape design options, but they’re not for everyone. Although an elaborate pond or waterfall is undeniably beautiful, many homeowners who’ve been enticed by fancy water features discover that they don’t have the patience or time for the necessary maintenance. It’s alarming how quickly an exquisite new pond with a babbling brook and lush waterfall can deteriorate into a smelly mosquito farm.
If you’re thinking of adding a water feature to your landscape design, start small. A simple, inexpensive feature such as the waterstone shown here will give you a good taste for the plusses (there are many) and minuses of landscaping with water.
Besides testing your compatibility with water features, this project delights on many levels. The glistening surface of the rock entertains the eye, and the bubbling water helps dampen unwanted noise. And there’s not much more to the project than a pond pump and a rock.
The installation process was perfected by Club member Joel Forsberg, waterfall specialist with Colonial Stone Walls of Maple Grove, Minnesota. So far, Joel has created about a half-dozen waterstones for clients in the Twin Cities area. We tagged along to watch and take photos when Joel installed one as a housewarming gift for his uncle.
The process is simple. First, dig a catch basin deep enough to hold a 5-gallon bucket. Set the bucket in the hole and cover it with a piece of rubber pond liner. Cut a small hole in the center of the liner, set a pond pump in the bucket, and run 1/2-in. vinyl tubing up from the pump and back through the liner hole. Then feed the tubing up through a hole in the stone. Position the stone on top of the grate; then backfill around it. Finally, fill the bucket with water and turn on the pump.
Perhaps the only challenging aspect of the project is obtaining a suitable stone and having a 1/2-in.-dia. hole drilled through it. The stone shown in this project was provided by Colonial Stone Walls (see SOURCES ONLINE). Weighing 150 pounds, it’s about as big a rock as one person can reasonably handle. Another option is to find a thinner stone and drill a 1/2-in. hole yourself with a masonry bit and hammer drill. A good alternative to drilling is to stack several smaller stones together, creating a small cairn with a water tube feeding up between the rocks.
Installation step by step
Start with a site that’s close to water and power sources. Begin by digging a hole for the bucket — roughly 2 ft. dia. x 2 ft. deep (Photo 1). Set the bucket in the hole.
If you’re installing the waterstone in a landscaped area, remove rocks and landscaping materials within a 2-ft. radius of the hole. Then cut a piece of pond liner big enough to cover the cleared area. Lay the liner over the work area (Photo 2), anchoring the edges with rocks or landscape spikes. The purpose of the liner is to catch water and divert it through the center hole into the bucket reservoir.
Attach a length of 1/2-in.-dia. (i.d.) clear vinyl tubing to the pump. For this job, Joel used a 210-gallon-per-hour recirculating pond pump. Lower the pump through the hole in the pond liner so it rests flat on the bottom of the bucket (Photo 3). Make sure you have enough tubing to feed all the way up through the stone.
If the stone is smaller than the bucket opening, set a steel barbecue grill grate on top of the bucket and liner to support the stone. (Replacement grates for small, kettle-style grills are sold at most hardware stores.) Position the stone near the bucket and feed the tubing up through the bottom of the hole (Photo 4). The tubing should stop about 1/2 in. below the top of the hole.
Finally, lower the stone onto the grate and backfill around it (Photo 5). Fill the catch basin with water. Pump out the water by inserting 1/2-in.-dia. tubing into the top of the hole and turning on the pump. Make sure the free end of the tubing is well away from the catch basin area. Fill and pump out the water a couple of times to get rid of impurities that wash in initially. Then remove the overflow tubing and the project is complete.
Even though the pump recirculates the water, you’ll occasionally need to replenish the supply because of evaporation. In colder climates, pump out the water reservoir before the first freeze.
Beckett Water Gardening Systems (pond pumps); 888-232-5388
Colonial Stone Walls (612) 281-0072