No matter what style of landscape you have -- or are considering -- there's a style of pond and fountain that can complement it. Installing your own pond and fountain may seem like a formidable task, and it does involve some physical labor, but it's a project well within the capabilities of most homeowners. Besides, much of the labor makes an excellent excuse for a pond-building party. Before you get the shovels out, however, you'll need to do some planning.
Where you put the pond depends on a number of factors. First consider the general terrain. You'll want to stay away from slopes, unless you plan to turn them into waterfalls. Soil conditions matter, too. Rocky soil will make excavation difficult and may call for an aboveground pond. Sandy soil may not be stable and could require a preformed liner. Clay, though difficult to dig in, holds its shape and is excellent for flexible liners. How the sun hits your location will affect fish, plantings, and even how you use the pond. And while you'll want easy access to this water feature, you may want it somewhat hidden from view so it provides a private retreat. How you want to use the pond will have as much to do with its location as any other feature. On an entirely practical level, however, the installation of a fountain in conjunction with the pond means you'll either have to locate it fairly close to an existing power source or bring the electric power to it through an underground conduit.
Because flexible liners fold into and follow the shape of the excavation, you can design your pond in whatever shape and contour you want. Even if you decide to install a preformed liner, you'll find modern designs can match most every expectation. You'll want to consider the scale of your pond, making sure it neither overpowers your yard nor disappears in a large space. And, as much as possible, you'll want to choose edging that makes this artificial creation look as if nature put it there without your help.
Plants and Fish
Plants add color, shape, and texture to a pond and make it fit more naturally into the landscape. If you want plants, your pond location needs to get four or more hours of sunlight each day -- and you need to be willing to tend to the plants. Fish also add movement, color, and a touch of the exotic to a pond, and they help control the mosquito population. They also require extra care and, in cold climates, the ability to overwinter them in another location.
All of these factors will affect your design, something best done with a sketch on paper. If you don't have a site plan of your landscape, you can make your own, showing all the permanent features of your yard, including the general shape of your house, as well as the location of trees, sheds, and planting beds. Experiment with general shapes that seem pleasing in the location you are planning. If you're thinking about plants and fish, you'll have to do some research about their appropriate depths and incorporate that into your final design.
Two days to a week, depending on the soil type, pond size, and liner type
Old hose or rope, upside-down paint, spade, level, long 2x4, tamper, masonry trowel
Excavation; ability to use level; basic plumbing, wiring, and assembly skills
Consult with a landscape designer if necessary
Flexible or preformed liner, sand, submersible pump, water and electrical line
Cut the sod along the painted line with a spade, pushing in the spade at least 2 inches deep. Slice the sod in foot-wide strips. Then, working from one edge of the pond outline and with your spade at a low angle, slice the sod roots from the soil. Roll up the sod and set it in the shade.
Excavate the main body of the pond, then outline a shelf about a foot wide all around, again using the hose or rope and the marking paint so its shape conforms to the pond. Dig a shelf about a foot deep all around the pond, using a level on a straight 2x4 to keep the height of the shelf consistent.
Locating a pond at the bottom of a slope is not a good idea. Rainwater runoff will flow into the pond, muddying it, perhaps harming your fish, and upsetting the ecological balance required for your plants.
In addition the runoff can easily get under the liner at the edges and run to the bottom, causing the liner to bubble up with the trapped water.
If you must choose a low-lying location, give the runoff a place to go by installing a French drain. A French drain is perforated pipe in a gravel-filled trench. The drain can discharge to the surface farther down the slope or into a dry well.
Drain the pond if you are adding a fountain to an existing pond. Assemble the fountain riser to the pump outlet and other parts required by the manufacturer. Set the fountain pump and riser on a block or flat stone so sediment from the bottom of the pond won't block its intake.