Creating our pond

Digging the pond ©Janet Allen Digging the pond

Fortunately, when we dug our pond we had the help of our 17-year-old son. Although John did quite a bit of digging, a strong, young man was almost a necessity.

Unfortunately, we soon ran into a large bed of shale. The shale was a problem not only because it slowed down the digging, but also because it left very sharp edges.

Sharp edges are a concern when you're building a pond that relies on a plastic liner to hold water!

Finishing up the hole for the pond ©Janet AllenFinishing up the hole for the pond

We built "shelves" into the hole so that there were different depths for different types of aquatic plants. We evened up the edges, cutting through the bits of shale.

Note that the land at the back (near the wheelbarrow) is pretty level. That's where the future stream will be.

Mudding the sharp edges(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Mudding the sharp edges

We decided to cover up these vertical edges with mud made from sifted dirt, so here is John, "mudding" the sharp shale rocks.

To add an extra layer of protection between the shale and the plastic, we also decided to cover the rough spots with old indoor-outdoor carpeting strips.

This is the underlayment.  ©Janet Allen

The next step was to place the underlayment that went beneath the pond liner. This came with the kit.

I imagine this is intended to protect the pond liner and in most cases it probably would.

Spreading out the liner ©Janet AllenSpreading out the liner

We all (including our son's friend) helped spread out the liner, which was really heavy. It's made of top-quality EPDM rubber, which is sturdy, but flexible, and most important, not toxic to wildlife.

Note that pile of dirt. You wouldn't believe how much dirt came out of that hole!

Guess where we'll be putting it all…

Spreading out the liner(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Spreading out the liner farther

John arranged the liner over the underlayment—not a trivial undertaking.

On the left, you can see the darker underlayment material, yet to be covered by the liner.

Covered with rocks ©Janet AllenAdding stones

We added large rocks to stabilize the vertical edges and smooth river stones on the horizontal sections.

Surprisingly (to us anyway), rocks were a big part of our expense. We spent about $1,000 on just rocks and stones of various types.

Unfortunately, since our back yard is fenced in, we had to have the rocks delivered to the driveway, and then cart them all in by wheelbarrow and by hand. (It's a good thing we were younger back then!)

Covered with rocks(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
The pond fully covered with rocks

Finally! We have the entire surface covered with various types of stones. The purpose of all those stones (in addition to stablizing the soil) is to provide a substrate for the beneficial bacteria.

The stream will be coming into the pond from the back.

Note that the stream area has been built up and that there (coincidentally?) is now a smaller pile of dirt in the yard.

Pond stream ©Janet AllenCreating the stream leading into the pond

Digging the hole, covering the sharp edges, and manhandling the liners into the place was hard work. The physical labor was only part of it, though. The practical design decisions—not just the aesthetics, but the functional ones—were difficult.

The Aquascape video and instruction book were helpful in building the pond, but were very sketchy on the stream and waterfall. As we continued, we were a little worried. What if we turned the water on and it all splashed out? What if the waterfalls didn't work?

The stream area has all been built up using the dirt and rocks we got out of the pond hole. We bought a tamper and tamped it down.

The black tub at the top is the BioFalls. The BioFalls contains bags of lava rock to filter the water and provide surfaces on which beneficial bacteria can grow.

Bury the rocks ©Janet AllenBurying rocks into the soil

One design tip: We always buried the rocks into the soil so they would look more natural. After a few years, they sink in a bit more and look like they belong there.

Pond stream liner(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Unrolling the stream liner

The stream liner is being put down.

Connecting the stream to the pond ©Janet AllenConnecting the stream to the pond

The stream liner overlaps the pond liner.

Laying the weir ©Janet AllenLaying the waterfall stone

We were fortunate that friends gave us this and a few other special stones. They were much more natural and more interesting than anything we could have bought.

Pond is done(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen

Ta-da! It worked! It seemed like magic! Our yard was totally transformed. There was still a lot of landscaping and tidying up to do, but we already were enjoying it immensely.

Building a pond was one way to get rid of lawn. After weeks of being covered with dirt, most of the remaining lawn in the back yard was dead, but that was really a bonus.

We now have bark mulch paths instead of grass. There's a sitting area at the back of the yard, so even though there's absolutely no grass in the backyard, there's plenty of room for us—and no mowing!

The finished stream(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Stream and waterfalls

This is the broad part of the stream with the little rocky berm. Note the middle waterfalls. The jagged rock turns and twists the water in an interesting way.

A view of the pond(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Siome plants starting to grow

Here's one view of our pond, stream, and waterfall. The photo doesn't really do the pond justice. You really have to be there in person and hear the water to get the full experience. The biggest downside: it's hard to stay indoors. We could just sit by the pond all day long.

Removing tree next to pond ©Janet AllenRemoving our recently-planted tree

We decided to remove our recently-planted tree since it was so close to the pond. It was a Red Sunset maple, a cultivar of red maple (Acer rubrum), which would get to be very large. Our concerns were that the roots might affect the pond liner, and that the leaves would fill the pond in fall.

It was surprisingly easy to dig up since the landscaper who had installed the tree ("planted" would be too generous a term) had never removed the wire cage enclosing the roots. I guess it might have grown well anyway, but it certainly can't be a good thing for trees to be planted this way.

Once again, we found it's better to plant things ourselves. We can make our own mistakes far more cheaply. We've rarely been satisfied with the designs or plantings we've paid for.