There’s nothing more calming than the tranquil sound of water trickling from a water feature. What better way to greet guests than having one right by the front door?!
Now that Spring is here, it’s a great time to start thinking about adding some curb appeal by installing a pond. Ready made ponds are a great convenience. Here’s one we installed on one side of our front walkway. Following below is a complete tutorial with the lowdown on how we did it – twice: before and after installing a permanent walkway.
It is a simple and straightforward task to add a ridgid liner to the garden, but there are other considerations when the liner is going to be up against the edge of a walkway (as ours was). We ran into several challenges and we’ll show you how we resolved them.
If you are installing a liner anywhere else in the garden, here are the general instructions. However, if you want to install a liner that will be intersecting with a walkway (like ours did), skip down to “Walkway Challenges”.
We started with a small kidney shaped pre-formed ridgid liner. It was very easy to install with a few simple tools and supplies (shovel, garden hose, sand, scoop, level). We placed the liner where we wanted it and then, using a hose, we marked out the outline of the shape (you can use marking paint or sand to mark also). We carefully measured the depth needed and also the depth and placement of any shelves we would also need to dig out (we have one shelf in our pond).
Dig out a hole to the shape and depth measured and check to make sure it’s level once the liner is placed into the hole. Remove the liner to add a few inches of sand to the bottom of the hole. This will help nestle the liner into the ground and keep it level. Keep adding sand until the liner stays steady without any rocking motion. It’s a good idea to tamp the sand down over the dirt on the bottom so the liner is seated securely. 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 the fit is satisfactory, start to fill the liner with water from a garden hose and continue to make sure the liner sits 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 (you can also use some sand). This is especially important underneath any shelves as you don’t want the liner to buckle under the pressure of the water – the liner needs solid support, both underneath and all around the sides!
When the liner is about halfway full with water, backfill around all the edges with sand. Use a hand trowel to direct the sand where you want it. 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 sand into the gap to fill up the sides and secure it all around the edges.
We purchased some flagstone to hide the edges and finish it off (more to come about that in the next section).
For more about liner options and installation, here’s an excellent video to watch.
When we first installed our liner it was with the recognition that one day we would be installing new paving stones. We actually ended up doubling our work because of that; we had to re-support the pond when we updated the walkway. This is how the walkway looked before we installed the new pavers. As you can see the liner is level and sits on top of the stone slab.
Line Around Edges
To dress is up, we bought natural flagstone and placed it all around the edges of the liner to hide it. Be sure to buy different thicknesses so you’re able to stack it up to different levels since you’ll have higher gaps in the back and side than the front where it meets up with the walkway!
Here’s how our interim pond looked before we updated the walkway with new pavers. It looked quaint, but there was still lots of room for improvement; we knew we could do even better!
Notice that the flagstone around the edge looks a little skimpy? That’s because we didn’t buy enough initially. It’s sometimes hard to judge how much you’ll need until you’ve got the stone on site. Oh well, another trip back to the stone yard! Between our front and back yards, we’re on a first name basis with everyone there!
When we finally got around to updating the old stone on the walkway from concrete slabs to pavers (before and after shown below) we wanted to be able to easily pull the liner out of the hole so we could power wash it each Spring and then put it back, ready to fill with clean water.
Easy upkeep and maintenance is always an important factor to us. Our biggest challenge was figuring out how to remove the liner without disturbing the base underneath our pavers and having it all crumble into the pond each time we lifted it out.
Hubs and I put our heads together and came up with a brilliant idea using some concrete blocks, construction adhesive and some metal edging that we had left over from installing our walkway. Once you read through the following instructions, it will all make sense!
The first step is to set up string lines to determine the level of the new walkway and where you’ll need to place concrete blocks to fall just under the lip of the liner.
When setting up the string, it’s important to establish a slope AWAY from the house. You don’t want to get into a situation where if the pond ever leaked, the water could potentially end up leaking through the foundation! Ours is by the garage and so a proper slope assures adequate precautions 🙂
After grading, dry fit the concrete blocks around the front edge of the pond where it intersects the walkway. Our blocks are two-high in order to get the necessary height. We kept taking the liner out and putting it back in as we dry fit the stones to ensure it would sit level once the stones were in place. You might have to add some sand into the bottom of the hole at this point to make sure the liner nestles properly.
I know this looks like a mess, but stick with me here!
Once you’re happy with the arrangement, use construction adhesive rated for outdoor use. Glue the underside of the upper blocks to the bottom layer of blocks. Gluing them together is important as you don’t want anything to shift; the top stones also act as a base for the metal rim still to come.
Keep adding construction adhesive until all the stones are in place.
Let the construction adhesive dry. Since our pond was done in two stages, it wasn’t necessary for us to add any dirt or sand around the sides. But if you are building yours from scratch, this is the time to make sure you’ve supported the bottom and sides with dirt and/or sand and leveled it as described above in the general instructions. Do this BEFORE you proceed to the final step.
Use the metal edging as a frame: bend it until it’s the exact shape of the pond. Temporarily tape it together to make sure that the pond can easily slip into the frame. Make any adjustments, then connect the two edges in the middle. Either rivet or screw it together with a nut and bolt to hold the shape. Place the metal frame with the pond liner into the hole. Then tape it down in a few spots to hold it against the concrete blocks. Gently lift out the liner so you’re only left with the metal frame sitting on top of the concrete blocks. Permanently glue the metal frame to the concrete blocks at each tab with construction adhesive (remove the tape as you go).
Now you’ve got a metal frame that acts as a ‘lip’. It will prevent the fine gravel that forms the walkway from falling into the pond each time it’s lifted in and out (we used high performance bedding stone or ‘HPB’)!
Pack a little dirt under the rest of the tabs if there are any gaps (make sure you don’t skew the level) and drive a few spikes into one or two of the them to secure the metal around the edges that aren’t glued down. This isn’t really necessary, however. You’re not trying to support the weight of the pond with the frame (that work is supposed to be done by adding and tamping sand in the bottom of the hole as described in the general instructions above). As I mentioned, the metal is simply acting as as guard between the walkway and pond to prevent migration of the HPB into the hole.
Fill up the rest of the walkway with the HPB base and cover up the concrete blocks to just below the lip of the metal (below you can only see evidence of the support blocks in the hole itself).
Our last step was to screed the HPB to the final level and install the new pavers.
Here’s how the pond looks now: all dressed up, complete with pond plants and turtle spitter. We bought a variety of different thicknesses of flagstone and REALLY beefed it up all the around the edges since our first attempt. Isn’t it MUCH better than it was?!
To finish off the vignette, we built this trellis.
Once the clematis is trained on the trellis, it really highlights the curb appeal of our little front pond.
In the fall, leaves and dirt make will their way into the pond. But we don’t fuss about it because we know that we can lift it out in the Spring and hose it down if we have to! We simply put away the pump and then add a wooden board over the top of the pond to keep the snow at bay.
Here is how the pond looks in the fall (we didn’t have snow yet when I took this shot!).
Here it is over the course of winter:
In the Spring, we can usually clean the liner while it’s in place. However, with a little innovation on our part, the liner is also a breeze to pull out. We give it a deep clean and then reinstall – ready to shine as the star of our small front garden 🙂
Keep Mosquitoes at Bay
To keep mosquitoes at bay, they can’t breed in flowing water. So make sure you run a spitter and pump to recirculate the water. You’ll need a source of electricity close to the pond and a weatherproof box that’s rated to be near water. Our main source was in the garage on the other side of the wall. Consult or hire a licensed electrician to ensure it’s up to code.
We don’t have problems with algae growth in our little pond as it’s fairly shaded throughout the day; however if yours is exposed to a lot of sun, barley straw works wonders against algae.
By the way, the walkway was the very first paver project that I had ever attempted (and I installed every block myself)!
The front walkway was my ‘practice run’ for the travertine pavers we did in the backyard (here’s how that project looked in progress). To see how we landscaped our entire back yard, click here.
I have one more pond project coming up in a future post, so stay tuned. Here’s a sneak peek at the water feature I’ll be featuring that we built in the backyard.
Pin for Later
Are you ready to attempt a water feature in your own garden? If so, please pin and share:
For more seasonal inspiration here’s a good representation of some of our other garden projects. Check out our garden category.