Georgia Gardener Newsletter Design Tip: September 21, 2006


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No garden should be without a water feature and the most beautiful water features are ponds. However, many people are often put off by what they perceive to be an installation and maintenance nightmare. Not so, if careful consideration is given to the location, access and materials used.

The steps for installing your pond are as unique and individual as your landscape. Because of this, I will simply cover some of the general guidelines. It would be best to attend a pond installation class or consult with a professional pond installer.

Pick Your Site

Ponds can be in sun or shade. These sun exposure differences will require some minor alterations in plant selection and maintenance, but no major changes in the installation or materials. What's most important when selecting your site is to place the pond where you will enjoy it the most. If you spend your time in the garden in an outdoor living area, place it nearby where it can be seen and heard. If you spend time looking at your garden from inside the house, install the pond where you have the best view. Make sure to take into consideration the location of the needed utilities to run your pond: water and electricity.

Determine the Size and Shape

Ponds can be large or small, deep or shallow, above, partially above or completely level with the surrounding grade. It's entirely up to you, your landscape and your budget. Many people start small usually making their first pond only several feet in diameter. I've heard many a pond owner wish that they had made the pond bigger.


Liner: While the pre-formed liners make look easier when you are at the store, I prefer to use the flexible rubber liners (EPDM) which are extremely durable, forgiving during installation and allow you to make your pond any shape and size. They come in a variety of thicknesses, but the most commonly used are 45 and 60 mil.

Pumps: There are several types of pumps for ponds: filter, waterfall, fountain, submersible and external. The type of pump you obtain will depend upon your pond's features and the volume of water contained in your pond. It's always better to "upsize" your pump as a pump that's too small can quickly burn itself out. Most homeowner pond pumps are measured in gallons per hour (GPH) and a pond professional can determine the size pump you need. As part of determining your needed pump size, you will need to know the volume of your pond, whether it will have fish or simply be a water garden and the height and width of any waterfalls or fountains.

Filters: I've been in on several lengthy discussions about pond filters. There are many types of filters and even some owners who have maintained ponds without them. The type of filter you need will depend upon the size, location (sun/shade), plants and fish. It is entirely conceivable that a pond that is properly balanced with plants, fish and other aquatic life can be maintained without a filter. In my opinion, this might be easier to attain on larger ponds. Remember, natural ponds don't have any mechanical filtration systems and rely on a balanced ecosystem to do the job.

Miscellaneous: You will need other items to complete your pond including structures and supplies for waterfalls or fountains, artistic features, lighting and of course rocks, lots of rocks. Rocks serve a dual purpose not only being structural by holding liners in place and building waterfalls, but adding beauty and a natural look to your pond.

Pond Life

Fish or no fish? What types of plants? These are questions that pond owners should ask themselves before they ever put a shovel to the dirt. Personally, I'm more of a water garden person (no fish), but to make a pond look natural and complete, it should have a wide range of living creatures.

The number, type and size of any fish you wish to be in your pond will be determined by the size of the pond. Remember, you will need a larger pump for a pond with fish. If this is your first pond, my advice is to start with really inexpensive (expendable) fish. Outdoor ponds often attract various wild creatures including those fishing for a meal: cats, raccoons and blue herons just to name a few. The way to protect fish in a pond is to provide them with places to hide such as large rocks or plant containers in the pond. I even knew of one pond owner who used plastic crates to support plants with one side cut open to allow fish to swim inside. Ponds that are 3 or more feet deep will allow fish to remain at the bottom and usually out of the reach of predators.

Ponds often bring other aquatic creatures. It's a case of "build it and they will come." These can include frogs, toads, birds, etc. Occasionally, I get complaints from new pond owners about the noise caused by toads and frogs. Take comfort in the fact that you've provided them with a needed home and that eventually you'll get used to their night sounds.

There are many plants that can be used in and around a pond. For ponds in the sun, try using Pickerel Weed and hardy water lilies. You can create a bog area nearby and use Red Twig Dogwood or Pitcher Plants.

For ponds in shade, use evergreen Japanese Aralia, Sum n Substance Hosta, Cinnamon Fern or Lady Fern along the edges and common Rush (Juncus effusus) in the water.

There are virtually dozens of plants for use around ponds in sun or shade.

Local Resources & Installers:

Pike Family Nurseries
Randy's Perennials (Lawrenceville)
Pond Doc (Alpharetta)
Atlanta Koi Club
Unlimited Landscaping (Buford)
Earth's Canvas: (770) 931-0329

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