Miniature tabletop fountains offer a taste of the ways a trickle of water can enhance the ambience of a small space. But if you’re thirsty for more, this life-size pond and stream provide ample opportunities to savor the sounds of falling water and the sparkle of a pool’s reflections — even in the smallest city lot.
Not up for a big-budget, full-time project? That’s OK. The manageable size of this garden centerpiece makes it easy to build and maintain. Because it doesn’t support aquatic life, there’s no need to continually run a pump, so it uses less electricity than eco-system water features. And don’t fret about wasting water: When it’s time to freshen the pond, you can employ the pump to spray the stale water on garden plants and refill the pond with a fresh batch.
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Fortunately, this project does not demand a sloping terrain; the soil excavated from the pond area will create a mound for the falling stream. When selecting an ideal spot, follow these guidelines:
• Check local codes for minimum setbacks and to verify that no permits are required.
• Choose a location that allows you to see and hear the water from your deck or patio (and possibly through an open window when you’re inside the house).
• Avoid a location directly beneath trees that drop flowers, leaves and other debris.
• Call the national hotline number 811 to have underground utilities marked before you settle on a spot.
Planning the Pond and Waterfall
When it comes to planning your pond’s design and organizing for the big dig, the project will go more smoothly if you follow these tips:
• Visit local garden centers and rock suppliers to see tile and stone options. The pond shown is lined and bordered with 4 x 4 x 1-1/4-in. granite tiles.
• Find out about delivery of compactable gravel, sand and stone. For the stream and falls, choose regional rocks of various types and sizes. (Tip: You can’t have too much stone.)
• Gather all of the supplies (see shopping list) so they’re on site when you begin work. To determine the proper size submersible pump you’ll need, see “Calculations,” p. XX or consult with a pond supplier.
• Enlist one or two strong helpers to save time and energy (yours).
Building the Pond and Waterfall
Once everything is on site, you can dig into the project. Although the physical labor is demanding, the four stages of construction are:
- Forming the pond. For the pond, we excavated an area approximately 4 x 6 ft. and 12 to 14 in. greater than the final depth (piling soil to one side). We lined the hole with layers of gravel, sand and concrete(as shown here).
- Creating the pump chamber. To house the submersible pump, we dug a hole adjacent to the pond; then lined it with concrete and a waterproofer.
- Finishing the pond surfaces with tile. For the pond floor and all of the edge caps, we set granite tiles into a bed of wet mortar, allowing excess mortar to ooze up and fill the gaps (as grout) between tiles.
- Building the stream and falls. After trenching the water tube in the mound of soil, we formed the streambed, covered it with pond liner and added the ledge stone and rocks. Water from the pump flows through a ½-in.-dia. hole we bored into a large rock (see WEB EXTRAS, “Boring Boulders”) and cascades to the pond.
Embellish the setting with plants that suit your hardiness zone and the sun/shade requirements. This is an ongoing, fun part of the project. If you live in cold-weather climates, drain the pond and remove the pump before winter; then over the pond, stream and pump chamber with a tarp (propped up so it won’t sag or hold ice) until spring.
This water feature is just one configuration; you can easily customize the project. No matter what the size and style of your landscape, a garden pond provides an enchanting spot where you’ll look forward to sipping your coffee on a cool morning and dipping your toes during a hot afternoon.