With the ready – and relatively cheap – availability of modern materials and equipment, there’s never been a better time to think about building the perfect pond for yourself. However, although this means that you’ve got a lot of flexibility to construct something unique and rather special, it’s still important to get the basic design right so that when you do eventually pick up a spade and start digging, things go according to plan.
How much space do I need?
There’s room for some kind of water feature in every garden, however small, but obviously things become considerably easier the more space you have.
Ideally, a garden pond should have a surface area of at least 40 square feet (3.5sq m); this will allow for good oxygen transfer across its surface and provide a large enough volume of water to keep the conditions within the pond healthy. If you can afford to make your pond bigger than this, so much the better.
Even small gardens or patios which lack sufficient space to accommodate something this size can still provide the opportunity to house a few well chosen plants and one or two fish in mini-ponds made from barrels, tubs or other similar containers.
Where should I site my pond?
The ideal site for a pond provides full sun for a significant part of the day to stimulate water lilies and other aquatic plants into good flowering displays, but doesn’t expose the pond to excessive wind, which will tend to drop the water temperature, damage foliage and blow over tall marginals.
With very few exceptions, it’s also a good idea to site your pond away from established trees, unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of your time fishing out fallen leaves in the autumn – and some such as cherry and plum, may encourage aphids, which could damage your plants.
The site should also be reasonably convenient for water and electricity, be easily accessible and fit pleasingly into the overall garden design.
What’s the best kind of material for a pond?
Puddled clay was the original pond-building material, but it is seldom used today and almost never for garden ponds. The three remaining materials – concrete, rigid or pre-formed ponds and flexible liners all have their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the location and type of pond you’re intending to build, so there probably isn’t a single ‘best’.
Concrete offers exceptional longevity, but building a pond from scratch is hard work. With a pre-formed type, you know exactly how your pond is going to look, but it isn’t quite as easy to install as you might think – and they often tend to seem a lot smaller in your garden than they did in the garden centre.
Flexible liners have revolutionised DIY pond building, offering maximum scope for creativity and personalisation, but they’re not particularly easy to use if you want a sharply-angled formal style. With both the rigid and flexible liners, you largely get what you pay for and the cheaper versions tend to last significantly less time than their more expensive counterparts.
In the end, the choice of pond material principally comes down to a matter of personal preference.
What else do I need to consider in my design?
There are a number of other factors that need to be considered when it comes to designing a garden pond – of which safety is, clearly, one of the most important. Although everyone is aware of the danger that open water poses to children, it’s not just the young who need to be taken into account. The design needs to ensure that the edging and surroundings of the pond are safe and that any electrical equipment or supply wires are properly connected and present no danger – so consult a qualified electrician if you’re in any doubt.
You’ll also need to decide very early on what style of pond you’re intending to build, since this influences the selection of materials, as well as whether you want your new feature to be primarily a home for fish, a true water garden to grow interesting plants or a wildlife habitat. It’s important to know what you want its main function to be at the outset if you want to make sure that you end up with the best possible design for the job – although having said that, there’s nothing wrong with a multi-purpose pond if you really can’t make up your mind!
Finally, give some thought to what you’re going to do with all the excavated soil; an elevated rock garden – perhaps with a waterfall – is one common solution, but it’s obviously important to be sure where it’s all going before you get too far into the job.
However much you like gardening, moving the same mound of soil twice is nobody’s idea of fun!