Choosing liners, pumps, pond filters & plants
Q – I am interested in pond building, but the choices of liners, pumps, filters, etc. is staggering. I would like to build a 5′ x 8′ kidney-shaped pond that is 30-36″ deep. I would like a waterfall at one end.
I live in mid-Michigan so I will need to bring them in for winter? I would like some information on what materials to use to build a good quality, inexpensive pond. I do not want to spend more than $500. Also, do you have any pictures of kidney-shaped ponds that would give me ideas of plants, shrubbery, lighting, etc.? Thank You … Todd Slater
A. You need to concentrate on getting the pond in first whilst being mindful of what you intend to have in the end. They don’t have to go in straight away as long as you make provision for them. For instance, if you are going to have a fountain, waterfall, and lights then you need to lay on some power with waterproof connections at the pool end and connected to an outdoor electric plug with its own RCD (Residual Current Device) safety trip switch at the other end. Cable and connections can be expensive especially if someone is going to have to do it for you. The cable needs to be ‘armored’ or conduited through polythene pipes.
For lights, the most economical pool and poolside lights are 12volt and they should come with a transformer. In this case, you will need a weatherproof outdoor box for the transformer to sit in.
With regard to the pond building material and the weather and the fact that it is quite small, I would go for a plastic preformed pool. HDPE is the sort of plastic one of those Big Foot stomper trucks could drive over and still not break it. It’s easy to clean out and it lasts a long time. A cheap PVC liner might crack if moved it during your winters. If you go for a flexible liner then you should get rubber or butyl rubber. 1mm EPDM rubber (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) (45 mill in USA) is a lot cheaper and should stand your icy winters.
Getting that lot and a simple stone or paving edging will see away the best part of your 500 bucks. But you’ve got to save at least a third of the money for plants – plants are essential in inhibiting the algae. You’ll want 15 bunches of oxygenators in a small aquatic basket of gravel. These are the most important plants and cannot be left out of any straightforward forward water garden – if you don’t have these then you automatically need a biological filter system to cope with the algae.
If you have more than 2″ (fish longer than 2″) of fish per square foot of surface area, you will also need a filter system. Get 1 lily and or water hawthorn. 3 floating plants and at least nine marginal plants. Some can be paired up in baskets, but aim for at least 10 medium-sized aquatic baskets. It makes life a lot easier if you are taking plants in and out if they are restrained in baskets, and you will need to take the plants and the water out to catch the fish.
When pond building consider plants as a backdrop that can be anything from plants that are similar to the marginal plants, like irises and ligularia, or ground cover plants like bergenia, creeping jenny, or lilies, leading up to bigger shrubs like Cornus (dogwood), some evergreen for shelter. Avoid any willow relatives(salix), elders (Sambucus), yew, (Taxus), Oak or Laburnum.
What are you going to do with the excavated soil that comes out of the hole for the pool when you are pond building? Will this become the slope down which the stream will flow? Will you need to budget for rock and or paving around the edge?
Hope this helps and doesn’t put you off. There are also a few more pond building ideas on this site. These show simple pools that can be done with preformed units. The smallest one here incorporates a small biological filter. There is about $500 worth of gear here. Nearly double your budget, but you may find cheaper materials in your State.
Hope this helps and doesn’t put you off, Pond Professor
Q. Thank you very much. I went to our local Home Depot on Monday and they were not helpful at all. I mean, why should they know anything about the products they sell?! I priced out everything for my pond building project that I think I need and it came to just under my budget. I still have 1 more question then I will stop bugging you. Does the same pump run both the waterfall and the fountain? Thanks again for the information … Todd Slater.
Hi Again Todd,
A. For your pond building project here are the answers to you questions. Most water garden pumps come with a ‘t’ piece already with the pump for fitting a fountain and at the same time a hose that will run to the top of the waterfall. Both of the outlets will have flow adjusters on them. If it does not then you will have to buy the fittings separately and they can be an added expense (more than you can imagine).
Get a pump that is ‘continuously rated’. This means that it is designed to run 24 hours a day for as long as the guarantee. The minimum guarantee should be 2 years. 3 is better. Look for the pump performance on the side of the box and remember that if you are running a fountain of a small pump the performance is going to be two-thirds or even halved. So always go for the next size up from what you think you will need, cos when the thing gets clogged up with crap that performance is going to be even more inhibited.
Allow 60 gallons per hour per inch of waterfall width to the header (height above pool level). 100 gallons per hour will give you a more forceful display. On this basis, a one-foot wide waterfall at 3ft high will need a pump capable of pumping at least 720 gallons per hour to a 3ft head. 1000 gallons would be better especially if you have a fountain.
All the best Pond Professor