The Construction of my Ponds - Page 4 - Second Rebuild Part 2
Having transferred all my fish and lilies to the middle pond and emptied the bottom pond, I was ready to start digging. Ideally, I would have removed all the rocks from the back of the pond and then simply dug out the earth and barrowed it straight to a skip. However, for a number of reasons, that couldn't happen but I didn't have all that much space to put all the earth that I would be digging out so I had to plan ahead and try to dig out what I could and then put the rocks on top of the earth so that I could get at them later when the time came to rebuild.
As you can see from the pictures, I am very lucky in that my garden earth is almost all soft brown clay so at this time of the year it is really easy to work with.
Despite that, its hard work so a reminder to anyone not used to digging. Use a small spade and try to keep your back straight. If you are doing it all your self as I did, you'll have to change positions when your barrow is full and you have to remove the spoil. Don't rush to pick up the barrow though as even a couple of seconds ensuring that you are fully upright before you lift it can save you from hours of agony if you damage your back. Top
And if you do, you can forget finishing your pond for at least a few days, if not weeks. You have to think of this as a prolonged weight training session in the gym except that there is an overwhelming tendency to take on more than your body can support. Take it easy and slowly and get the job finished on time. It isn't worth rushing it. A regular stop for a drink is also a good idea.
Once you've got the basic shape, I would advise using a hoe to finish it off as it allows you to "sculpt" the finished look without disturbing more earth than is necessary. The bottom of your pond needs to be nice and firm. The sides of the pond need to be sloped at an angle of at least 75 degrees so that it doesn't collapse.
Once you are happy with the shape, you need to think about how you are going to transform a muddy hole into the pond that you have planned. Once again, I haven't good a really good picture to show you but if you look at the right hand picture below, you can see what I intend. The gray building locks are set into the bank and must be level. My intention is to take the liner and carpet over the gray block, under the decorative block and then up between the block and the brick. Then I fold the liner over the brick and eventually the liner will be cut at that point before a top slab is fitted over the block, the liner and the brick. Top
The water level will be mid-way up the decorative block so that even as the water level level changes as a result of rain or evaporation, my view will always be of the block and not the liner. The main point to remember here is that the level of the gray block is determined by the level of the edging slabs if you are trying to match with the level of your garden. So to get the level correct, I have to work backwards. In this case, I wanted the slabs to be level with the grass so that my mower could run over the edge of the slabs as I cut the grass. So, from the level of the grass, I need to work out the thickness of the edging slab, then allow about 2cm for the cement, then the thichness of the blocks, then another 2cm for the cement and then allow about 1 cm for the carpet and liner and that will be the level of the top of the gray blocks. It took me almost all of one morning just to be satisfied that I had cut the shelf on which the gray block sits at the right level. Don't rush this because you can't adjust it later unless you want to start again from scratch. And you don't want to be wasting that amount of effort simply because you rushed this bit. The back of the pond will be lined with rocks so I haven't taken the gray blocks passed the point where the decorative blocks will end.
Another thing to consider is the top slabs. Decide how much of an overlap you want and measure the shelf to ensure that they will fit. Before you cement anything into place, position ALL of your edging slabs to make sure that they are going to fit and that you have enough of them. At this stage, its still very easy to adjust the overall size of the pond to remove the need for a part slab which will spoil the overall appearance of your work. Don't try to kid yourself that it'll be OK in the end because even if other people don't notice, you always will and will always regret not spending that extra hour or so to get it right at this stage. (Yes, that is experience speaking.)
You can always cut out a bit more bank at this stage but the end result will not look right if you have to cut a slab just to fit it into a place that is too small. Take care when you are working it can be quite slippery, especially if it gets wet like the far left picture. Once you are happy with the levels its time to give the whole thing some support. I cemented the bricks to the block, ensuring that I had left enough room in front of them for the decorative blocks, the carpet and liner. At this stage, check that the depth is as you need. The books will tell you that if you are going to have Koi in your pond, then the depth should be at least 3 feet or 90cm and if you are going to spend a small fortune on your fish, then deeper is better. However, I use a different gauge. There have been a number of occasions when I have had to get into my ponds for maintenance or, as you'll see on the next few pages, for construction in the middle of winter and there are parts of my anatomy that do not need to get frozen if it can be avoided. Consequently, I have built my pond such that, to put it politely, whilst my shorts might get wet, my y-fronts would not. Gentlemen, trust me, you don't want to be deeper than that in the middle of a British winter. The final picture on this page shows the start of the placing of the carpet that I used to protect the liner. As you can see, it covers everywhere that the liner is going to go so that there is no chance of a puncture or tear.