A DIY backyard water garden will create a WOW factor in your landscape like nothing else can. The sound and gurgling water will also help melt the stress of the day away, plus a water feature will increase property value.
Use these tips for creating a backyard water garden as a personal tranquil retreat and/or landscape focal point.
Location, Location, Location
The right location for a water garden is essential for a leak-free water feature. The ground must be level, or made level, to avoid water loss or overflow from excess rainwater.
The amount of sunlight the potential location receives must be considered also. Most aquatic plants and fish can’t tolerate direct sunlight all day, so select a location that provides a few hours of shade each day for the water garden.
Avoid Trees and Shrubs
If deciduous trees and shrubs are near the water garden, you will spend a lot of time cleaning debris out of the water. Tall trees and shrubs can also provide too much shade and aquatic plants won’t survive.
Near a Window
Select a location for the water garden that can easily be viewed from a window or glass doors so the aquatic plants can be enjoyed from inside the house.
If there’s a backyard area, such as a firepit, that your family spends a lot of time at, consider locating the water garden near that space for viewing pleasure.
The perfect location for your water garden must also be near a source of electricity.
Solar power can also be utilized for an off-grid water feature if desired. Either way, the water pump must have power to run.
After selecting the ideal location, check with local utilities to make sure there are no underground cables where you plan to dig. Also, check your city or county codes and ordinances before digging and installing electrical pumps.
Size and Shape
The easiest way to design a size and shape for the water garden is by using a long water hose. Lay the (empty) hose on the ground and move it around until you’re happy with the shape.
Next, decide where to put the soil that will be removed to create the pond area. The soil will be used later to level the ground or create planting mounds, so a location that is close, but not in the way, will be ideal to place removed soil.
Start digging around the outer edges, working towards the pond center.
Form at least two ledges as you are digging your pond. The first ledge at about 12 inches in and the next about 9 inches past the first one. Ledges inside the pond will make it easy to grow different varieties of water plants and make getting in and out of the pond for maintenance chores easier.
Dig the ledges almost vertical with a slight slope to the center of the pond, making the pond center the deepest point. The center of the water garden pond should be two feet in mild climates, three feet deep in cold winter climates.
Purchase high-quality, flexible pond liner so it will last for years with leaking. Also, purchase high-quality padding to place between the ground and liner to prevent rocks and tree roots from poking holes in the rubber.
Install the liner on a warm, sunny day so the heat will soften the rubber and make it easier to work with. Unfold the liner and stretch it out over the entire pond, keep the liner as smooth as possible and allow it to sink down in the center.
Place a few rocks around the outer edges to hold the liner in place and slowly begin to add water. The weight of the water will press the liner into place. Occasionally move the rocks around the edges to allow the liner to sink down into every nook and cranny of the water garden.
After the pond is full, leave it alone for a few days to make sure it doesn’t leak. Once it passes the leak test, trim off any excess pond liner and begin to transform the barren pool of water into a beautiful backyard water garden.
Birds can easily be attracted to a water garden with a few minor adjustments. Plant an evergreen shrub or two near the water feature so birds will have built-in protection from predators. Create the pond with a shallow end so birds can bathe and drink while standing.
If you want fish in the backyard water garden, consider the winter temperatures in your region. The colder the winter temperatures, the deeper the pond must be so the water won’t freeze and kill the aquatic life.
Select aquatic plants that will help keep the ecosystem of the pond in balance in addition to beautifying the feature. Water lilies, hyacinths, water lettuce, duckweed, and cattails are good choices for a healthy underwater ecosystem.