Digging Your PondWhen it comes to adding a water feature to your garden, whether you opt for a pre-formed shape or indulge your own creativity with a liner and no matter what end result is intended – wildlife haven, a fish pond or a water garden – sooner or later, you have to do some digging. However, although reaching for the spade is certainly where the whole thing begins to come to life – there are a few things to consider and a spot of planning before the soil starts to fly is well worth the time, to ensure the actual excavation goes smoothly.

The Best Laid Plans

Aside from settling on the site and size of your new pond, choosing between liner or pre-forms and thinking about what you would like to have living in it, deciding ahead of time if you are going to install the likes of pumps, waterfalls or filters is a very good idea. Including them in the early planning stages means that once the digging does get underway, you can make sure to accommodate them too – rather than adding them as an afterthought and being forced to compromise on your overall vision for the pond. It is always easier to dig channels for wires and pipes at the same time as the main feature, than to try to do it later.

Actually digging the pond can be done by hand if the planned feature is not too large, but for bigger undertakings it may be a better idea to hire a small excavator to do the job. It may work out more expensive than a bit of spade-work, but it certainly avoids a lot of aches, pains and a bad back.

However you eventually choose to do it, you will need to know in advance what you intend to do with the excavated soil – and remember that soil tends to “fluff up” when you dig it, producing what looks like far too much material for the size of hole you have made. It will compact down again eventually, but it takes time and the extra volume needs to be accommodated somewhere, particularly if the pond is going to be a big one. If you are planning a waterfall, using it to build up a bit of height can help get around the problem – otherwise some thought will need to be given as to where it can be put; digging direct into a wheelbarrow can help make this part of the job a little less arduous.

Making the Hole

The requirements of the hole do vary a little depending on the type of construction you are using, though some aspects are the same – such as making sure that there are no tree roots around and that sharp rocks and stones are removed to avoid damage to the fabric of the pond.

For a pre-formed pond, lay it on its intended site and then mark out a shape around 9 inches bigger than the thing itself; liner-users can choose their own shape, but must take care to allow for how much liner is needed to make their desired pond depth. In both cases, marking the outline to be dug on the ground with a rope or hose pipe can be very helpful in avoiding mistakes.

Once the hole itself has been excavated – to an inch or two deeper than the depth of the finished pond – it should be filled with a thick layer of sand or wet newspaper, to protect the liner or moulding and help bed it in.

A rough check of the fit can now be made in the case of a pre-formed pond before the next essential step of checking that the top surfaces are horizontal. This can be a particularly frustrating task, but in the long run it will be worth it – otherwise, when you add the water, the level will look wrong and few things are more annoying after all that effort! A useful tip is to get a straight plank of strong wood a little longer than the pond’s longest side, perch it on the edge and use a spirit level to make sure everything is right. It is a slow process and all the sides need to be checked and dug away a little more or built up as necessary.

Finally the moulded pond or liner can be added, checked one last time for level and finished off before the water is added and any gaps between it and the soil embankment filled.

Digging the hole can sometimes seem the least interesting part of building a pond and it is certainly the most physically demanding. However, it is worth resisting the temptation to hurry on to the more exciting bits, like planting and stocking it and taking the time, especially in the planning and levelling stages to get it right. These things are best not rushed – after all, you intend enjoying your pond for many years to come!

Siting your pond

When it comes to selecting the right location for your pond, there are a few things to keep in mind. You want to make sure that the pond is situated in an area that receives the right amount of sunlight and shade. A balance between the two is ideal, as too much sun can lead to excessive evaporation and cause algae to grow, while too much shade can stunt the growth of aquatic plants. You’ll also want to consider wind patterns, as strong gusts can cause water to evaporate faster and create waves that can damage plants or disturb the pond’s inhabitants. Lastly, the location of the pond should be chosen with regard to visibility. You’ll want to ensure that you can see the pond from various parts of your yard or house, so that you can enjoy the beauty of your pond from different angles. Read more about siting your pond here.

Planning pond shape and size

When it comes to planning the size and shape of your pond, there are several factors to consider. The available space will determine how large the pond can be and what shape it should take. You’ll also need to consider the type of pond you want to create, whether it’s a fish pond, water garden, or wildlife habitat. Once you’ve determined the type of pond you want to create, you can start to plan out the dimensions and contours of the pond. It’s important to take measurements and create a plan that reflects your preferences and meets your needs.

Choosing the type of pond liner

Choosing between a liner or pre-formed pond can be a difficult decision, as there are pros and cons to both. A liner offers more flexibility in terms of size and shape, and can be easier to install in tight or oddly shaped spaces. On the other hand, pre-formed ponds are easier to install and maintain, and can offer a more naturalistic look. When making your decision, consider factors such as cost, durability, and the overall aesthetic you want to achieve. Both options can create a beautiful and functional pond, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Read more about pond liners here.

Pond excavating

Excavating a pond is a major undertaking that requires careful planning and preparation. The amount of work involved can vary depending on the size and depth of the pond, as well as the type of soil and other conditions on your property. If you have a larger project, you may want to consider hiring a small excavator to help with the job. This can save you a lot of time and effort, as well as ensure that the excavation is done correctly.

Once the pond has been excavated, it’s important to prepare the site properly. This means removing any rocks, tree roots, or other debris that could damage the liner or moulding. Adding a layer of sand or wet newspaper to the bottom of the excavation can help protect the liner and provide a smooth surface for the pond.

Checking for level

Checking for level is an essential step in preparing your pond for filling. A pond that is not level can look unattractive and may not function properly. Checking for level can be a slow and tedious process, but it’s worth taking the time to get it right. A simple tool like a spirit level can be very helpful in ensuring that the top surfaces of your pond are even and level.

Last Modified: April 6, 2023