Before you Start

Things to consider before you start your next water garden project.


Always dig with caution. Call 811 or your local utility company before you begin digging to locate buried pipes or power lines on your property.


Your pond should not be built on a slope or grade. If it is located at the lowest elevation of the yard, you will have rainwater run-off that can muddy the water, wash away fish and destroy plants.


The size, scale and layout of your pond should complement the other features of your yard, including your landscaping and terrain.  


Consider how the water garden will enhance your landscape. Examine all potential sites while considering economics, accessibility, and safety.


If you wish to include plants that require moderate to full sunlight, you will need to choose a location with a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight. Shade is good, but note that trees do drop leaves, which can fill up your pond and cause organic decay.

Mapping & Digging

The biggest complaint from first-time pond builders is that they didn’t make their pond big enough. The pond should be made as large as possible, especially if you wish to add fish and/or plants. Larger ponds are more stable ecologically, require less maintenance and are less costly per gallon. They are also safer for fish. Usually, depths range from about 18 to 36 inches for water gardens (without fish) and 3 to 6 feet for fish and koi ponds. Ponds that hold plants require sunlight so they should be kept in shallow areas.

TIP! Check local codes for depth allowances and fence requirements.

Once you’ve selected the perfect location in your yard, mark the area with rope and create the shape you want for your pond. When that’s complete, start digging out the grass and dirt to a depth of 1 foot deep. This will be your plant shelf where aquatic plants and accessories can be easily accessed and maintained. Haul away excess dirt in a wheelbarrow but save some for leveling, if necessary. Dig out a deeper second tier to create a safe space for fish.

map out your pond's shape

Not enough space or not able to dig in your yard?