How to build a garden pond without a pond liner

Written by meg jernigan
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How to build a garden pond without a pond liner
Ponds attract wildlife. (Green Pond Products, Kate Fuller, Hurth Waterscapes)

A garden pond adds a distinctive water element to your landscaping. You can watch migrating birds use it as a way station or you can stock it with fish and spend a lazy afternoon catching dinner. Wildlife will also come to the pond to drink. If you're thinking about installing a garden pond, consider that a small pond will need a liner. A pond without a pond liner has to be large -- a minimum of 3 m by 3 m (10 by 10 feet) and at least 1 m (3 feet) deep, and your soil should be clay to help hold the water through the summer.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Rope
  • Shovel or backhoe
  • Grass
  • Outlet pipe with filter
  • Grass, sod, aquatic plants

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Determine the location for your pond. A large pond can take as long as a year to fill with rainwater or runoff, so try to find a location with a natural spring, aquifer or access to a creek or stream.

    How to build a garden pond without a pond liner
    Fill from natural sources.
  2. 2

    Measure the pond area and mark the edges with lengths of hose or rope. Freeform ponds need only to be measured. Clear the area of trees, brush and rocks.

  3. 3

    Excavate the pond. Use a shovel or rent a backhoe. Leave a 30 cm (1 foot) ledge around the edge of the pond 30 cm (1 foot) below the surface to encourage wildlife use. Create rock formations on the bottom of the pond for fish to hide in.

    How to build a garden pond without a pond liner
    Use a shovel.
  4. 4

    Fill the pond with a hose or wait for the rain, spring or stream to fill the pond. If you are using a stream, construct an inlet pipe with a filter to divert water from the stream into the pond. The filter will keep unwanted aquatic life out of the pond.

    How to build a garden pond without a pond liner
    Fill the pond.
  5. 5

    Plant grass or lay sod around the pond to prevent erosion. Introduce local aquatic plants to the pond. Add about 450 g (1 lb) of fertiliser to the water to encourage algae to grow if you are introducing fish to the pond.

    How to build a garden pond without a pond liner
    Landscape the pond bed.

Tips and warnings

  • Contact your local Soil Conservation Service for a soil analysis.
  • Try deepening areas where water stands for months at a time on your land for a simple pond and a solution to the problem of standing water.
  • Sodium bentonite can be worked into the soil before filling the pond for a more permanent seal. It takes 225 g (1/2 lb) of bentonite per 0.09 m2 (1 square foot) of soil to make a proper seal.

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