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Issue Date: February 2009

Just Add Water

You can dig it! Seven steps for a pond.

Kristen Hampshire
A POND CAN BE A SERENE centerpiece that transforms a basic backyard into something striking and special. Plus, the gurgle of a peaceful pond boosts a landscape’s romance factor. Jay Schwartz, of J & K Landscapes in Columbia Station, gives us seven steps to build a pond.
Before you start, find a “crew” to help you. You’ll be schlepping 200-pound boulders and digging at least 24 inches into the ground (so your water feature won’t freeze during winter). These instructions are your framework. Carefully review manufacturer instructions before building, and consider consulting with a landscape designer.
Get digging — and don’t call us if you’re too sore to go to work Monday morning.

• Spray paint (to mark spot)
• Pond liner
• Mechanicals (pump, skimmer box, plumbing lines)
• Shovel
• Spade
• Backhoe (optional rental for digging)
• Boulders, various sizes
• Decorative stone/flagstone
for pond edge
• Hose and outdoor water source

The Basics:
PICK A SPOT. “You’ll really only have five or six months to enjoy it each year, so you want to put the pond outside a kitchen or family room window where it can be viewed throughout the seasons,” Schwartz says. Avoid low areas and spots where large tree roots could interfere with digging.

DIG LAYERS. The pond cavity will step down in 8-inch increments. The bottom should be at least 24 inches. Set the skimmer box and plumbing lines, then cover with dirt. “You are not hurling dirt out of the hole,” Schwartz says. You’ll reuse what you dig to cover mechanicals and create steps.

INSTALL LINER. Soft, rubber liners look like large tarps and feel like roofing liner. Schwartz likes these better than hard shell liners that restrict pond size.

HOOK UP SKIMMER. This is Part Two of mechanicals connections. Follow manufacturer directions carefully.

LAY STONE. Don’t make the mistake of lining your pond with similarly sized boulders. You need a few sizes. For an 8-by-11 foot pond, get a few 200-pound boulders as foundation rocks. Then fill in gaps between these rocks with softball- and baseball-sized rocks. Cover the liner so none of it is exposed. “If sunlight gets to the liner, it will break down the plastic and won’t last as long,” Schwartz warns.

FILL POND. First wash the stones with a hose, then fill the pond.

FINISHING TOUCHES. Create a polished pond edge with a rim of sandstone. Tuck liner underneath and trim back so none is exposed. (This project can also include up to 10 more steps if you decide to add a waterfall, stream or surrounding landscape beds.)

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