Installing a pond for the first time

Once you decide on site, size and shape, it isn’t difficult to install a pond in your garden, using a rigid or flexible liner.

With the option of using a rigid or flexible liner, you can create exactly the kind of pond you want.

Ideally you should install a pond on a level site – you certainly need to check carefully during installation that the pond is exactly level. On a sloping site you may need to build a retaining wall above or below the pond.

In a formal setting, such as a patio, you may want the pond to be raised or semi-raised, rather than flush with the ground.

You can introduce plants to your pond straight away, but it’s best to wait about four weeks be- fore stocking with fish, to allow the plants and the water to settle. See Garden Features 11-14 for information on choosing a pond.


Rigid liners are ideal for small to medium size formal ponds, including square, rectangular and L-shapes, as well as more informally-curved styles.

Make sure the liner not only suits your garden hut also is appropriate for the plants you want to grow in or beside the pond.

Many rigid liners have a built-in shelf for plants that grow in shallow water. Plants that thrive in deeper water, such as water lilies, are placed in the middle of the pond.

Installing the liner

Installing a rigid liner is straightforward once you have cleared the site of vegetation – you may be able to use any unwanted turf elsewhere in the garden. The hole can be slightly larger than necessary because you use excavated soil to backfill around the liner once it is in position. Keep topsoil and subsoil separate. Bag up surplus top soil for future use.

Some rigid liners have a moulded paving-effect lip to form the edge of the pond. Although this saves you work, it never looks quite as effective as an edging of real paving slabs bedded in mortar, as shown here, lake care no mortar falls into the pond and contaminates the water.


Flexible liners allow you tomakeDon’t buy a pale or brightly any shape pond you like. They arecoloured liner: it discolours under better suited to sweeping curveswater and can be an eyesore if any than to angles, which cause uglyof it is exposed above water.

Creases.that can weaken the linerFirst establish the size and shape and eventually lead to leaking,of the pond by experimenting with a length of hose on the ground. The minimum size liner you need is the maximum length and width of the pond, each plus twice the pond depth. The elasticity of the liner takes care of the slight overlap at the edges.

Neatly dig the hole for the pond with a flat base and gently sloping sides. Dig down to the level of the planting shelf first, then dig out the middle. The planting shelf needs to be about 23cm (9in) wide and deep. The middle of the pond should be at least 45cm (I (Sin) deep.

Finish by removing turf from around the edges to allow 6cm (21.5in) for the paving slabs. When laid, the slabs should overlap the pond by 2.5cm (lin) and completely hide the liner.


A pond doesn’t have to be below ground – some or all of it can be above the surface, supported by a brick wall. The diagrams here show ways of building raised and semi-raised ponds using a flexible liner – but you can just as readily use a rigid liner, based on the instructions for installing a pond on sloping sloping ground.

When using the concealed liner method (centre drawing) fill and drain the pond twice before introducing fish and plants, to get rid of any alkalinity from the mortar.

Whichever way you build a raised or semi-raised pond, you must build the walls correctly. This means:

Laying a concrete foundation for the wall (use dry pre-mixed concrete) 10cm (4in) deep and 5cm (2in) wider than the wall.

Leaving the foundation to set for at least 24 hours before building the wall.

Using frost-resistant (or engi-neering) bricks and pre-mixed bricklaying mortar for the wall.

Checking that each course of the wall is level as you build it. Q Allowing 48 hours for the mortar to harden before installing the liner. With square or rectangular ponds, make ‘hospital corners’ at the internal angles: tuck one side in first and fold over the other.

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