So You Want a Water Garden Pond!
Well, congratulations and welcome to the club. Having a pond with a water garden is one of the most joyful additions you can make to your property. There are few things that are more satisfying and enriching than a water feature in your yard. The beauty and the sounds are incredibly relaxing and yet energizing.
There are some important things you will want to know, however, before you get started. There is a huge range in the definition of a water garden that goes from a small inexpensive fountain to a top of the line gushing stream with multiple waterfalls, a pond, and numerous accessories. So the first thing is to set a budget and get an idea of what you are looking for and where you would like your water feature to be situated.
As a general rule you will want to position your project in a way that gives you the best effect, so put it where you can enjoy it. If it’s a fountain put it on your patio or in front of a kitchen window. If it’s a waterfall make sure the falls are facing the main viewing area usually a patio or deck. This will ensure that you get the most bang for your buck.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer a small pond is a doable project, but it is very important to do a lot of research. Ponds are not complex, but there
are some very important factors you need to be aware of for the successful functioning of your water project. There is nothing worse than to put in a lot of work and then have the system not operate properly. You might consider consulting with a professional to ensure your ideas are sound and will function as you envision.
As we are highly trained experienced contractors we see a lot of ponds that just didn’t turn out and the results can be heart breaking and ultimately add a lot of additional expense that could have been avoided. This is true not only for home owner constructed ponds, but also for professionally done ponds. We recently had to completely re-build a water feature that originally cost over $20,000 by a local landscaping company who was very good in their landscaping, but knew nothing about water and the project was a complete failure. Do not assume that just because they are landscapers that they can build a water garden and pond.
Besides a fountain there are 2 main types of water gardens that you could create. A pond with plants and fish is one option and a pondless waterfall is another where there is no visible pond. The water disappears as it enters the basin area going into the underground reservoir where it is pumped out to the source of the waterfall or stream. We use what are called Aquablox to form the basin. Since they are hollow they will hold almost 100% of the volume with water so the basin can be much smaller than if using gravel to fill it in.
A pondless system will not have fish so if you want fish you will want to go with the pond option. Otherwise the choice is up to the homeowner. A pond will entail a little more maintenance, but besides fish you will be able to incorporate various water plants which enhance the beauty of the project. Pondless systems can more easily be turned on and off, so if you are out of town a lot this may be the perfect solution for you.
The size of a pond will depend on the several factors: your space, your budget, the scope of your project in terms of stream length, and just personal preference. In any case realize that you are not building a swimming pool. We rarely build a pond over 2 feet deep. We will then form shelves around the edges so the water steps down in depth. This allows marginal water plants to be incorporated along the edge.
There is a myth that Koi fish need to have a deep pond in order to survive, but that is completely untrue. Koi will do very well in a 2 foot deep pond.
In the design of a pond make sure that the water will flow end to end. Avoid creating dead areas where water stays out of the flow of the overall circulation. This will increase your maintenance and reduce your enjoyment. Also, make sure the water can overflow out of the pond to a lower area. If your pond is in a basin and excess water can’t get out you could have problems with water under the liner destabilizing the shelves in the pond.
When selecting your pond materials we highly advise not to skimp. Quality is really important. We use Aquascape products exclusively for their quality and reliability, their warranty system, and their high level of expertise. Besides manufacturing they are some of the top pond builders in the world so their products are well tested and designed.
If you have room add a stream to your water feature. The stream is an important part in developing a dynamic exciting appearance as water moves from one end to the other. When creating a stream always make it step down rather than slide down a hill. Having a number of small waterfalls creates a lot more action, sound, and interest than a slide which does none of the above. The stream should curve and meander a bit. Avoid making it look like a straight flight of steps. Vary the size of the drops. Of course the lay of the land has an impact on how you will step the water down, but make it look random and natural. You can also vary the widths of the stream to create more interest. If you pinch a stream into a narrow area it will flow more aggressively through that point. Try to move the water side to side in a stream that will create interest and more action. You can also split a stream. Just make sure you have enough flow to do that.
One of the most important decisions you will make with your stream and waterfalls is the size of the pump. If the pump isn’t large enough for the width of the stream the flow and falls will look wimpy. This is where you should get advice. Also, understand that the amount of water to power a waterfall varies with the type of stone used. What we call a sheet fall is created by a larger flat rock. If your water flow is smaller a sheet fall will look better because it needs less water to look attractive. A sheet fall may have a glassy look if the rock has a smooth edge. Just make sure it is level across and sloping slightly downhill. Another type of waterfall you can create is where the water just tumbles down over rocks but it needs more flow to look interesting. They both look good when correctly used so vary them in your design.
The stone you use should be good looking natural stone with weathered appearance. Avoid using very blockish or roundish stones as it will be hard to make it look natural. Think about what a stream looks like in nature and try to incorporate some of those effects. We always use river rock in our streams and ponds to cover the liner. Using various sizes of gravel from 1” up to 4”+ make it look more natural.
One thing that is an absolute must when putting a water project together and that is expanding foam. This will prevent the water from running under your rocks which causes the water to disappear and that is not good. The foam will seal up most of the small gaps that water will want to first follow. Any pond store will carry it. One caution is that when it gets on your hands you will be picking it off for days. Always use gloves and old clothes. I have a wardrobe of black spotted jeans and shirts.
And finally you will want to make sure you include lights in your budget. Although they are somewhat pricey especially LED’s they are worth every penny and more. LED is definitely the way to go as they are a lot less maintenance and have a longer warranty. I have had customers balk on the lights. I tell them let me put them in and if you don’t want them I will take them out and not charge you. I have never yet had to take lights out. The water garden at night is probably more spectacular than it is during the day. It is certainly more dramatic and magical as the light flickers with the moving swirling water.
OK, so whatever your level our motto is, everyone wants a pond or water feature, they just may not know it. It’s true. If you have ever even wondered about having a water garden in your yard it’s time to get serious. You can either do this on your own or contact a reputable pond installer. We highly recommend a Certified Aquascape Contractor who has had many hours of training who will give you the look that goes way beyond anything you can imagine. Most people are in complete disbelief when they first see the completed project. We have had people with tears of joy in their eyes upon the completion of a job.
So in closing, make this a reality. Make it happen! Honestly you won’t believe the improvement in your quality of life.
Good Earth Water Gardens is a Certified Aquascape Contractor that has been designing and installing ponds for over 10 years serving the Kansas City metro area. You can visit their website at http://goodearthoutdoor.com or call them at (913) 749-8090.