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Front garden lily pond in full bloom in summer - Lily Nymphaea 'James Brydon'
The lily pond in full bloom

- summer

So you want to build a pond for your cottage garden? Let's go ahead and make one!

What's our Advice Based on?

Ponds need plenty of sunshine so should always be situated in sunny or lightly shaded areas.

If in any way possible, locate your pond so it's easily visible from within your home so you can watch the fish and birds close up during winter.

Our step-by-step DIY build a pond guide will show you how to:

  1. Choose the right tools for the job - keep them together and handy at all times;
  2. Decide what materials you require with advice on using materials already removed during the soil preparation stage;
  3. Prepare the job correctly - how to measure and mark out the areas to be dug up;
  4. Excavate the soil - how to do it and tips for recycling the materials you remove for re-use in your garden;
  5. Construct the pond - the foundation, how to lay the pond liner, the edges and the water plant shelves.

Work Guide

You'll need a copy of your garden layout plan available to be sure you are going to work in the correct location!

  1. Tools for the job:
    1. Self-retracting pocket tape measure - 5 meters (about 16 feet);
    2. A quantity of short sticks;
    3. Rubber mallet;
    4. Drill with a 5 mm. (0.2 inch) bit, stainless steel screws to fit, length 15 mm. (0.6 inch) and a screwdriver;
    5. A ball of string and a few thumbtacks;
    6. Two planks long enough to stretch over the opposite banks of the pond;
    7. Spade, preferably one with a flat blade;
    8. A few bin liners for rubbish removal;
    9. Wheelbarrow;
    10. Pitchfork;
    11. Spirit level;
    12. Hosepipe - long enough to easily reach the work space.Wooden stake

      Hardwood slat
  2. Materials required:
    1. Wooden stakes about a ½ meter (about 18 inches) long, 7.5 cm (3 inches) wide and 0.5 mm (0.02 inch) deep with a flat top and pointed end - number required to be calculated after preparation step 1;
    2. Hardwood or impregnated fence planks - usually 1.8 meters (roughly 6 feet) long, 7.5 cm. (3 inches) wide and 15 mm (0.6 inch) deep, number required depends on how many wooden stakes are required.
      Tip: We re-cycled the fencing from John's previous home - the planks had done duty for 10 years outdoors and were fine for our ponds - and they came free of charge;
    3. Ball of string - to mark out the digging areas;
    4. A really big pile of old newspapers, carton boxes, old magazines and anything else that you can lie flat in layers - old clothes, carpets, rugs and blankets are welcome too.
      Why newspapers etc.?: To provide a soft and springy - and impervious barrier for stones pushed up by frost - foundation layer for the pond liner;
    5. Pvc pond liner 0.5 mm (0.02 inch) gauge - amount required to be measured after excavation stage.
    Rectangular pond with rounded ends

    Circlar pond shape

    Pond shape - oval
  3. Prepare the job: Let's start measuring up -
    1. Use the tape measure and a stick to mark the outer shape of the pond - though you didn't measure the pond (you only sketched it roughly) in your garden layout plan, you need to now.
      1. Look at where your paths are, visualize in your mind's eye where the seating will be and go ahead - draw a line in the ground with the stick in the shape you sketched;
      2. Tip: If you aren't sure, make it a little smaller than you imagined. You can always make it a little bigger as you excavate but once the hole is ready and too large? Ooh 'er, that's a real problem!
    2. Calculate how many stakes you need and:
      1. Place them about ½ to ¾ meter (1½ to 2¼ feet) apart on the line you made with your stick;
      2. Knock the stakes into the ground with the rubber mallet until they stick out about 7.5 cm. (3 inches) above the surrounding soil.Wooden stakes hammered into the earth
      3. Join them on the pond side of the shape you marked with the hardwood fencing planks:
        1. Drill sets of two holes in the planks ½ to ¾ meter (1½ to 2¼ feet) to fit the wooden stakes;Wooden stakes joined with string and thumbtacks
        2. Fasten the planks to the stakes using the stainless steel screws and screw driver;
        3. Move on to the next plank until you've finished joining the stakes with fencing slats and the pond shape frame is ready.
    3. Last but not least:Pond plant level 1
      1. Use the tape measure and a stick to mark the first pond plant level = 30 / 35 cm (1¼ / 1½ feet) inside the wooden frame;
      2. Attach string to a stick and push it deep into the ground along the plant line you've just drawn and move on to the next stick until the planting guideline is complete;Pond plant level 2
      3. If your pond is going to be big enough, add a second pond plant level = 30 / 35 cm (1¼ / 1½ feet) inside the first one and mark it out with sticks and string as before.
      4. That's it! The outer border and planting levels of your pond shape have been successfully laid out.

Preparing the job - finished at last!

Let's go to the next stage and excavate the pond! - a Gardener's Practical Guide to Natural Cottage Gardening

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