Build a Garden Pond

by Andrew Guy | Last Updated: July 30, 2020

Ponds are probably the easiest way of adding a wildlife feature to a garden, attracting a host of creatures from frogs, to birds and beneficial insects, and you can even add some of your own fish or ducks. This post details the steps involved in building a simple garden pond.



Before installing a pond, at least three things must be considered…

Style of pond: eg. is it going to be circular pond, or rectangular or any other geometric shape.

Type of pond: eg. should you decide on a Koi pond, it will require more filtration and must be deeper than most other ponds, with no vegetation, as compared to a goldfish pond which requires less maintenance. Koi ponds need special advice.

Location of pond: eg. is it going to be far from the house, or close by. Sometimes determined by the room in which owner spends most amount of their time.


digging the hole for the pond

Use a hosepipe to lay out your pond shape. When digging, do not break the edges of the pond. They hold your decorative rocks and if disturbed during the digging process, may break down due to the weight of the rocks. If the sides of the pond are soft, you must reinforce them. You can use roof flashing and support it with PVC pipe stakes, as shown.

digging pond

Dig almost vertical to 350mm. Place the excavated dirt in a ring about one foot away from the outer edge of the pond. You will need it later to finish the pond. Install the flashing, hold in place with the PVC pipe. Crimp the top edge of flashing towards the outside of the pond so the sharp edge does not penetrate the liner.


pond underlayment placement

Level the bottom for placement of plants. Clip off any protruding roots and smooth the sides and bottom well. Cover all exposed surfaces with pond underlayment or geotextile, which serves as a cushion for the liner.


Length of the liner =

overall length of the pond + (2 x maximum depth) + 40 inches (3.3 foot)

Width of the liner =

overall width of the pond + (2 x maximum depth) + 40 inches (3.3 foot)


pond liner placement

Open the liner and spread it across the hole. Pleat or fold the liner as the pond begins to fill up with water to make the bottom and sides as smooth as possible.


pond rock placement

After the pond is almost full, place the first layer of decorative stones or bricks around the sides overhanging by about 2 inches. You may pile the rocks one or more layers thick depending on how high you wish to raise the level of the pond above ground level. You will need about a ton of 1 – 4 inch rocks for a 4′ x 10′ pond. If you build a waterfall, you will need more.


placing the final rocks

When you get one or two layers of rock on top of the liner, stand inside the pond, grasp the edge of the liner and pull it over the bottom layer of rocks, about 6 inches. Put another row of rocks on top. Make sure no liner is showing through the cracks. Cover cracks with thinner rocks. Finish filling the pond. You have built your pond slightly above the level of the rest of your yard so that it will not collect runoff from surrounding areas.

The water above ground level gives the pond enough weight to keep it in its place when the water table gets high. The bottom layer, now underwater, not only looks great and completely hides the liner, but also serves as a hiding and spawning place for fish.


Rake the excavated dirt back toward the pond as back-fill to cover up the liner that is showing above the ground. Gently grade it down and use it as a planting area. Put dechlorinator or pond conditioner in the water if you live in an area where the water is chlorinated (most urban tap water). You are now ready for the plants and fish.

garden pond lily


pond landscaping

You may plant whatever you like around the pond. Try using indigenous plants as much as possible. Also try using mounding plants so they drape over the rocks and into the water. Soon your pond will like it has been there forever.


One can add waterfalls and rockeries to the pond. Waterfalls will require a pump. These can be sourced from garden and pool shops. Ask for advice on these features.

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