Last week, I decided to finally build a pond in the garden. It had been a project years in the procrastination stages, and so with the week booked off work, I decided now was the time. The first step in any such undertaking is the planning. To fail to prepare, is to prepare to fail, so with that in mind, I headed outside with my tape measure.
Despite a reasonably sized garden, I didn't have a huge space to work with. Unless you want to spend autumn dredging sodden leaves, its best to steer clear of any nearby trees which shed their leaves. Then you need to check for any underground piping and cables, and finally, you need a space which is shaded for at least part of the day, or else your lovely new pond will quickly become an algae breeding pool. The perfect spot was a roughly eight by six foot area, half way down the garden, next to the west facing wall. Next came a trip to the garden centre. For me that means swallow aquatics in Raleigh. The array of options is endless. I was tempted to try digging a hole of my own design and using weighted plastic to seal the pond - perhaps using a mini-digger to make the job easier. The results of this method are far more individual, but with my novice status in mind, I settled on an oval shaped, pre-made hard plastic pond. I chose one with two depths, 2 ft at the edges, and 4 ft in the middle. This is important as it allows the fish to escape to deep water if it gets too hot or cold. I proceeded to fill the back with various rocks and decorations. There isn't much to be said for digging the hole, other than to make sure you have pre-planned where the dirt is going to go. Again, it might be worth considering hiring a mini-digger to make the process as easy as possible. I kept some to build up a bank around the back of the pond, but still ended up with a small skip full of excess.
After shaping the hole to match the shape of my pre-made-pond, I added a two inch layer of fine sand. This serves as both protection for the plastic pond base, and also insulation and drainage. If you've gotten the hole right, getting the plastic base into position is easy. Just slide it into position, but take care not to damage the layer of sand! I then built up the bank towards the back of the pond with some of the dirt from the hole, and adding the rocks from the garden centre on top, I slowly built up a will-be-waterfall.
Then the magical moment.
I filled the pond. Having left it over night to settle into its sand bedding, I returned to the garden centre the following morning and purchased an external filter, pump and some oxygenating water plants, as well as some water line plants to decorate the edge of my creation. I brought in a trained outdoor electrician to wire in the pump and filter to a switch in the garage. It is very dangerous to do this yourself. A combination of mains electricity, water, and amateur fitting, being highly inadvisable! He did a fantastic job, and even set up the pump/filter outlet at the top of the waterfall. A job I wasn't entirely sure how I was going to accomplish. Waterfall complete, I weighted down my plants and placed them in their desired locations with the help of my wife, and a length of string. Hold one end each of the string, with the plant suspended from the middle. Together, manoeuvre the plant into position, before carefully lowering it and finally pulling out the string from one end.
Finally, I planted my chosen plants around the edge of the pond, and added Filter Start and Tap Safe to the water. These are water treatments that make the water safe and hospitable to fish. It is recommended that you wait a week before you begin to stock your pond with fish. Despite temptation to ignore this advice, I managed to hold out. This weekend I added two Koi to the pond, and I shall add a further two 6" fish every two weeks until the pond is fully stocked. When choosing fish, make sure you look at not only their current size, but the size they will be in 5 years. Some outdoor species sold young at 2-3" can grow to over 2-3ft in length, and unless you want to go through the whole process again but with a 20ft pond, these fish are not to be advised! A final note, herons are not a problem where I live, but if you have wild herons near you, it is advisable to cover your pond with a mesh net, lest your prized Koi become bird food!