Mistakes that I have made in my Garden Pond

Some of the tasks listed here may seem obvious to you but my experience is that they are not so obvious to all. So forgive me if you think that I am overstating matters.

Always make it bigger        Don't cut the liner        Always Hide the Liner       
Always Start with a Plan        Allow for holidays        Always Handle Rocks with Care       

Always make it bigger

The main mistake that I made, and you'll gather from other pages that I'm passionate about this, is that I didn't make the pond big enough in the first place. The reason for it at the time was economy. I couldn't afford a bigger liner. But it was definitely a false economy because I had to throw away the original liner and buy a bigger one. If I had waited a little longer, I could have built a bigger one at the start and possible saved myself a lot of the effort involved in removing old structure, plants, rocks etc.

Don't cut the liner

More times than I like to admit, I have cut the liner too close to the limit and have been left with virtually no room for manoeuvre. That usually resulted in having to excavate the walls of the pond so that I could move the wall inwards. The way to avoid that problem is to roll the liner tightly towards the wall of the pond. It will roll up small enough to be hidden easily but enables you to unroll it later if needed. This is particularly important when working with ponds above waterfalls because once the waterfall is cemented in, it can't be altered easily. If the level needs to be adjusted you need to be able to raise or lower the edge of the pond by moving the liner. This is quite easy to do as usually all that is needed is to push a few handfuls of earth under the liner to raise the level in a particular area or to remove some earth if you need to lower it. Unfortunately, if you have cut the liner too close initially, you won't have the necessary flexibility to make any changes. It is also possible that the area around your pond will settle somewhat after a time and that the edges of your pond will need to be changed. If there is excess liner available, it can simply be unrolled as required.  Top

Always Hide the Liner

If you don't manage to hide all the visible liner it will not look very good when the level of the water drops due to evaporation in the summer. If rocks are put on a shelf as I've tried to show in the diagram below, when the water drops a few centimetres due to evaporation, more of the rocks will be exposed rather than liner. Plants can be grown between the rocks and will make the edge of the pond look so much better than if it were edged with slabs above exposed liner. Another bonus of this method is that frogs will live in the holes behind and between the rocks. Any liner that is exposed to sunlight will rapidly become brittle and lose its flexibilty so the more that you can cover, the better.    Top

Always Start with a Plan

You don't have to be a great artist for this. Just a few basic shapes will give you an idea where you hope to get to. I have been constructing ponds for a number of years and I enjoy designing "on the fly" and letting the whole thing evolve as I go. However, that doesn't work when you are starting out and its very easy to lose track of where you are in the process if you don't have a plan. You will have seen from other pages on my site, the process of constructing a pond does cause a great deal of disruption to your garden and if you don't have a plan, its very easy to get despondent mid way through. However, by far the most important role of a plan is to convince "management" that you do know what you are trying to do and that she will be able to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour at some stage in the reasonably near future.    Top

Always Handle Rocks with Care

Most of the ponds that I have built have been constructed using pvc liners and these liners are very strong and will withstand a certain amount of punishment. However, the bigger the pond that you build, the bigger you will need the rocks to be because, as I keep stating, the pond has to look natural. A big pond needs big rocks because a pile of little ones just doesn't look right. The problem is that big rocks are very heavy. First of all, just moving them about the garden requires a lot of care. But from the point of view of the liner, you have to be extremely careful about lowering the rock into place onto a shelf as shown above. The position of your body will be very uncomfortable if you try to lower the rock from beside it and there is a tendency to rush the positioning of the rock. The real danger occurs if you try to reposition the rock in situ to get a slightly improved aspect. Sharp edges on the rock can tear the liner as it moves. There are a number of things that you can do to help here. It sounds daft, but get some help. All too often we try to lift more than we should because we don't want to ask for help. Back pain is not worth it. Another thing that I have done is to place a ladder across the pond with a plank across the rungs so that I could position myself directly in front of the rock. It makes the job of lowering the rock easier and you can see the finished aspect as you lower it. Perhaps the best thing though is to use an extra piece of liner and carpet. Lay the carpet on top of the shelf and place another piece of liner over it. Then lower the rock into place. Any damage that might occur should affect the additional piece rather than the actual pond liner. Once the rock is positioned, just trim the carpet and liner and leave them where they are. Be careful not to cut the real one during trimming.    Top

Allow for holidays

As I have mentioned on other pages on the site, I don't like to see any liner once the pond is completed. For that reason, I try to get the water level in my ponds to be as close to the top of the sides as I can. However, I once went on holiday and returned to find half empty ponds because I had forgotten about weed growth on top of my waterfalls. I had set the level of one of my ponds too close to the top of the water level for normal running. Whilst I was on holiday, the weed over the waterfall had grown sufficiently to raise the water level just enough that the water was able to seep between a couple of edging rocks and leak away into the flowerbed. It was only seeping but as my pump runs for 24hr / day, there was a continual supply of water to leak. Luckily, none of my fish were harmed but if I had been away for another couple of days, I could have lost the lot.    Top