Add Some 'Zen' to Your Back Garden With a Water Feature
If you read our previous post on how to create a small water feature to add curb appeal to your front garden, you'll know that we were just warming up for our next pond! That little pond in the front was just a practice run for this bigger one we built in our backyard:
Although the mechanics of building this one was similar to the front pond - i.e. we used a drop in liner - it was a lot more tricky because it was integrated into a travertine patio we were installing at the same time. The finished patio had to precisely end at the beginning of the pond so we could incorporate an accent border of stone around the perimeter.
I'm showing you two versions of this pond: one with a bowl that acts as a centre piece (Plan 'A) and a second simplified version without the bowl (Plan 'B'). You can find the complete instructions for the alternate plan on my website (link at the end). To start, we bought a pre-formed rigid liner - 4 feet x 6 feet and 2 feet deep.
Hubs dug out the hole to the exact width and length of the liner. To calculate the finished depth, we had to consider the finished height of our travertine patio. The lip of the liner had to finish even with the underside of the travertine border to both support the stone and hide the liner.
Hubs built a retaining wall of sorts since the pond was being incorporated into a travertine patio that we were installing. In the view below, you can see that there are three layers of cement block that mesh together to form the retaining wall. This ensured that the patio would be less likely to shift during the winter and also gave a solid support to the edge of the liner. If you are not incorporating your pond into a patio - or don't live in a cold climate - this extra step of building a retaining wall won't be necessary.
That's as far as we got during our first season of construction. Hubs built a wooden frame to secure the hole, because winter was soon approaching (see more about that on my blog). He sealed it up with a plywood cover to prevent snow/water from getting into the prepared hole over the winter.
In the spring, Hubs removed the wooden frame so he could continue with the liner installation. To prepare to install the liner, make sure the bottom of the hole is dry (if not pump out any standing water) then add sand to the bottom and tamp it down. A good bed of sand helps nestle the liner into the ground and keep it level. Keep adding sand until the liner stays steady without any rocking motion.
Continue to put the liner back in and check for level as you build up the sand. Making sure the pond is level is the most important step because water won't stay securely inside the liner, where it belongs, if it's tilted at all.
Once you're satisfied with the fit, pop the liner in and start to fill it with water from a garden hose and continue to make sure the liner is sitting level as it fills. If you notice any puckers in the liner, you'll need to backfill with some of the dirt you removed to fill any air pockets if there are any (you can also use some sand).
The liner needs to be a fairly tight fit so it doesn't buckle under the pressure of the water. When the liner is filled about halfway with water, backfill around all the edges with dirt or sand. We used a plastic hand trowel to direct it around all sides. A deep dustpan works well for this purpose too - place it away from the gap between the side wall and the liner (under the lip), then brush the backfill into the gap to fill up the sides and secure it all around the edges.
For more about liner options and installation, there's an excellent video on my blog (link at the end of the post).
Once the pond was filled up, I was then able to complete the travertine accent stone all around the edges. I leveled each piece as I went, adding in HPB aggregate underneath as needed. As you can see below, the accent stone extends over the edge of the liner by about an inch in the front. I was happy to see that our measurements worked out perfectly!
Here's how the accent border looked once I was finished; a nice blank slate for finishing touches!
It was time for hubs to turn his attention to hooking up the electrical and then the pump and water feature. Here's the electrical service to the pond Hubs installed before he finished the final connections. He designed this cedar cover to hide the ugly utilitarian look of the plastic pole and electrical box. The cover is both attractive and functional: even though the electrical box is waterproof, it doesn't hurt to shelter it from the rain!
Over time the grasses we planted in back of the pond grew so large, and the cedar shelter greyed, which blended it into the background of the fence. You can barely notice it anymore - but it was a nice touch up until everything around it matured!
Plan 'A' For the water feature itself, we purchased a concrete bowl, a pump and fountain. We used a powerful AquaSurge high efficiency pump to achieve the water fountain height that makes this version such a centrepiece for the pond! We drilled a hole into the bottom of the bowl so we could install the water fountain through the middle:
To house the pump and raise the bowl out of the water in the pond, Hubs designed a this cedar casing that the bowl could sit on.
You may be wondering what the L-brackets are for? Hubs wanted an extra measure of water filtration. As you can see here, the L-brackets hold the filter cloth to the front and back of the box!
The filter cloth just slips in and out of the channel. Shown below is the back of the box. For details and loads of pictures on how to build the cedar casing that houses the pump, visit my site. Once all the mechanics were in place, hub put the second piece of filter cloth over the front opening and then dropped the box into the middle of the pond, leaving the electrical cord out of the water to one side.
Hubs was able to straddle the sides of the pond to lower the bowl onto the box until it was sitting on top of the travertine. As the bowl is HEAVY, this is an awkward way to do it so I'd suggest adding a strong piece of plywood across the pond and even getting two people to help lower the bowl onto the box. Once the bowl was seated, he then hooked up the fountain to the tubing inside the bowl. It looks like the bowl is floating on top of the travertine!
Hubs plugged the cord into the electrical post (seen at the back of the pond on the right side) to test out the pump and set the height of the flow. Once the pond was up and running we finished off the landscape and plantings around it (like the grasses and day lily you see behind the pond).
Each fall, we dissassemble the bowl and take the pump/box into the garage for the winter. In the spring we bring it back out again and re-connect the pump. When the risk of frost has passed, we load the pond up with tropical pond plants! I had fun accentuating around the pond with decor items - like the yoga frogs and starfish. I also faux finished a mirror/shelf combination that you see on the fence. It adds some sparkle and depth to our small space - and also another surface for display!
The height of the water in the fountain is fully adjustable; we generally have it higher when we have guests visiting but keep it lower when it's just us enjoying the back. Plan 'B' is a much more simplified version of the project described above. It's just as lovely, and is a great alternative if you don't want to go to the effort - and expense - of building the box/filter system from scratch for the bowl. Posting directions for Plan 'B' would be boring without the pictures, so head on over to our blog if you're curious about our alternate version.
If you want to 'get your feet wet' with a smaller project, don't forget to check out the small water feature we built in our front yard.
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