Our garden sits in suburban Maryland (Zone 7 USDA). Since 1991 I
installed numerous flower beds, a 250 square foot stone patio,
stone walls, a 400 square foot wooden deck, and two bubbling fish
There is a natural wooded area (we call the 'tree patch'),
the nature of the
plantings. The garden
produces blooming flowers 10 months of the year.
Photos were shot in 2000 unless date specified.
This is the front pond with an antique crank handle water
pump serving as the fountain spout.
Close shot of the fish during spring '99 cleanup. On that day, in
to the usual fish and snails, we had one dozen tadpoles, and one small
how-to on building your own outdoor garden fish pond (March 2004):
- Build your pond such that the only visible building materials are
natural (stone, water, earth, etc.). Thus no visible plastic
liners, hoses, pumps, etc. The few exceptions are fountain heads
and such necessities. Besides the cosmetic benefit, it also
prevents UV damage to your hardware.
- If you wish to have water lilies, choose a site in full
sunlight. Also, try to stay away from deciduous trees due to
their leaf drop in the fall.
- How deep the pond will be is up to you, mine are three foot depth
at the deepest point. If you have small children, you may want to
consider a very shallow pond.
- Use the edge treatment in the sketch above. Note how the
liner wraps 'behind' the lowest course of brick and is then covered by
the top course. Once you are done, the transition from water to
ground will not have any visible liner. See this
- Any hoses that need to pass out of the pond should follow the
path behind the bottom brick so that they make a hidden (under the
water line) exit without needing to pierce the liner.
- You may wish to add a plant shelf as shown above for water irises
or fountain pumps and heads.
- For the surrounding perimeter ground level, make sure it is level
all the way around. This may sound obvious, but you would be
surprised that some make this omission.
- Make sure there is a step down lip in the surrounding ground
level and that the surrounding area is BELOW the pond water line.
This ensures that no rain water will seep down behind the liner, which
will cause it to float up. My back pond is mildly affected by
this annoying problem. Also note that if this rule is not
followed, and a large rainfall occurs, it may cause water to run into
the pond. This may cause a disastrous overflow.
- For the fall, consider making a screen of wire mesh in a wooden
frame to cover the pond. If leaves fall into the pond, it will
choke it with debris. Also passing herons (at that time of year)
will be prevented from eating your fish (happened to my neighbor).
- For the winter, garden books recommend an ice melter that stays
floating on the top to keep a clear area. However this consumes
many kilowatt-hours of energy, and can be very expensive to
operate. In my case, I simply use an aquarium bubbler to pump
oxygen into the water and keep the fish and animals alive. One
warning however, if you use this technique and the winter is very
severe in your area, your pond may still freeze to the bottom.
This has not occurred to us in the dozen years that we have had the
ponds, but in some years the ice can be a foot thick. I have
heard anecdotal evidence that common goldfish survive being frozen,
although I have never witnessed this myself.
- Once your pond is up and running, you may have problems with
algae. The two best defenses are snails and water lilies.
The snails feed on the algae, and the shade from the lily leaves will
prevent light from entering the pond. My front pond has had
occasional problems with horse-hair algae, while my back pond never has
any algae problems (not sure why, perhaps light levels).
The daffodil starts the garden going by blooming in late February.
Meanwhile, before the spring comes, we 'force' Amaryllis bulbs into
bloom indoors. They spend the summer in the garden fattening
up for next year.
The red tulips follow closely behind the daffodils in early March.