How to build a small garden pond on a budget


Water brings a new dimension to any garden. It allows you to raise attractive fish and grow a wider range of plants with all other wildlife coming as a bonus. It is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to make your garden that much more attractive. Elders love it, children love it and the flowing water can soothe your nerves. The vibrant koi fish and goldfish will add life to your whole garden. Let’s get started on how to build your very own small garden pond.

What you will need to build your small garden pond

  • Pond liner – preferably made of butyl rubber
  • A variety of aquatic and pond plants
  • Some large aesthetic looking rocks, flag stones, logs and gravel
  • A spirit level
  • A good spade or mini-digger according to pond size
  • Water pump motor or fountain pump according to your design
  • Building sand
  • Water (use rain water for best results)

Building your small garden pond

Site and digging

First decide on the location of where you’d like your garden pond to be. If it is in the middle of your garden then all is good but if very near to a wall, you’ll have to fill out the space in-between. You can also line a pond to a wall but then you have to specifically design it. Look out for trees as in fall season, the leaves will pollute the pond and it’ll become difficult to keep the water clean as well as needing to clean the filter more frequently if using a pump, which reminds me, keep the power source in mind for motors, pumps etc.. If you are going to have fish or would like to watch the wildlife thrive in your new garden pond then try and put the pond in a warm, sunny area so that the fish, frogs (Yes, frogs too because they eat mosquitos), tadpoles (fish food), dragonflies and plants can thrive better.

The design of your pond should look natural and blend in. First, mark out your pond on the ground with a rope or hosepipe hoop. Make different shapes and have a look for different locations to make sure you are happy with the way that your new garden pond will look from all angles. After this, it is time to start digging! Make tiers in your pond. Your pond should be at least 3m2 to support plant and aquatic life. Level the shallow tier base.

Ensure that the sides are levelled during the digging by placing a plank across the pond’s hole with a spirit level on top. You can use the dug-up soil to make a rockery or fill up your pots. At one side of the pond, you can create a spring.

Pond liner

Remove any sharp stones from inside the dug-up hole. Put down a 5 cm-thick layer of builder’s sand to line it. Builder sand is preferable because it is sterile and non-organic and will not harbour any undesirable microbes or seeds, but you can also try old carpet, newspapers or even soft insulation material. Save some sand to use in the next step.

Carpet the whole pond with pond liner. Dig a small trench around the pond edge so that the overhanging pond liner can drop in it. Tuck the liner edges into the trench; weigh it down with large rocks. Snip off any extra excess liner with scissors.

Fill the bottom of the pond with the remaining sand and add some gravel here and there.

Filling up your small garden pond

Using collected rainwater to fill your pond is best, or fill from the tap with a hose. To avoid dispersion of the sand substrate, place the pipe nozzle over the tier 1 pond liner in such a way that it absorbs most of the water pressure. If you fill your basin with tap water, let it sit for a few days before adding any fish so that any compounds like chlorine would evaporate.

As the pond fills, the liner stretches. Fill up the trench around the edge of the pond with soil. While the pond is filling, lay flag stones, boulders, grass, soil, or tiles on the exposed liner at the pond’s edge. Butyl coating will degrade in sunlight, so try not to leave any bare areas of the liner exposed for too long.

Add a water fountain or use a pump motor to filter and oxygenate the water.

Plants and more plants

Approximately 1-2 weeks after the initial filling of your pond with water, plants can be Introduced. Carefully select aquatic plants that will thrive in your area and support your local wildlife. Add plants like water lettuce, cardinal flower, water lilies, green taro, water lotus, canna lily, dwarf giant, water fern, swamp lily, sweet flag, new England, witherod viburnum and many more. Hide your pipes and motor with them.

Beautifying your small garden pond

Now is the time to beautify your small garden pond. This really depends on how you see your perfect pond, there is no wrong or right answer. You can place stones and logs around the edges to give a natural feel and create habitats for pond-visiting creatures. You can build a small bridge over it or add a small fountain statue. Flowery cart wagons or vases will also look aesthetic.

If the plants are chosen well and the pond is kept in a relatively well balanced ecological condition, it should not require much maintenance. However, be on the lookout for accumulation of dead organic matter and unkempt vegetation.

A well-planned and designed pond can be the visual centerpiece of your whole garden, especially if it has a three-dimensional rockery behind it. You can make a waterfall which can flow between the boulders like a natural spring.

With just little creativity, you can design and build your own perfect garden pond. It is a wonderful addition to your home and garden. So what are you waiting for? Create your very own garden pond on a budget and show it off to family and friends!

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