Water Garden, No Dig.
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Here is about the easiest way to build a large water garden, this one is 8'x11', no digging. Well I of coarse had to dig up plants, seems like I do this a lot in my yard. Even if you rent you may be able to talk the landlord into this since you won't be digging up the yard, and if you build it with wood it will be easy to take down later. This kind of pond can be easily made to any size you need. My display ponds for the fish are made this same way, are 3 feet deep, above ground and about 800 gallons, the biggest difference is that they have a bottom drain and external filters. For a more in depth explanation of how this pond is built take a look at the wakin pond build at http://www.tadege.com/wakinspondbuild.htm although it is partially under ground it is put together the same way and I spent more time on the build details than for this water garden. I spent the day cutting all the lumber to size, try to do this early Sunday morning to bother everyone in ear distance. It got hot, so tomorrow I'll be back to square and level the first layer of timber and pour a concrete footer at the 4 corners and a couple spots in the middle of the board run, (do this at any time, it's doesn't make enough noise to bother anyone) don't leave this part out, Florida is made of sand and if you don't pour a concrete footer at the base it will move with every rain, you'll just end up with a moving mess. Or at the very least use a 4" X 4" post at each corner.
The is not a big deal and you should be able to put in the footer support in less than an hour, just dig a hole at each corner and a couple in the middle of the board run and just fill the holes with cement. You could also build a small form with 4" X 1" boards and pour a footer all the way around, 2" thick will be plenty, this would keep your wood off the ground and it will last longer, If you leave the concrete a little soupy it will also level itself, but if you change your mind about the garden shape later, this would be a hassle to remove. Don't use rebar or wire, it will make it very hard to remove later if you have to and all this footer will be supporting is the weight of the wood. It's very cheap to mix your own concrete, everything you dig here will be sand, so just mix that sand with portland cement, 3 parts sand 1 part cement. A bag of portland cement (94 lbs, feels like a 1000 lbs) is under $10, makes 500 - 600 lbs of concrete, at Lowe's or Home Depot. If you don't have sand for mix, just buy concrete mix in the bag, all you add is water, still under $5 for 60lb bags. Don't spend the extra $ for fast set, it all dries within a day.
You can use any wood that will support the water (not plywood, nothing less than 2" thick), I'm just on a land scape timber kick plus they're pressure treated so you'll get a couple extra years out of them, the first 100 for the tanks in the back ground were on sale for $1.99, now there back up to 4 bucks, still beats digging. Watch Home Depot for a sale, every few months or always when you don't need them..
This water garden will only be 18" deep, and only for displaying plants, no fish other than little bug eaters. I can supply you with either mosquito fish or blue Gerome to keep the skeeters out, and they don't require a filter or even an air pump, but will never get friendly like goldfish or koi. You can very easily design any shape you want out of any material you like, wood is a lot cheaper than block, but it won't last forever, but by the time it falls apart which will be about 10 years you'll be ready for bigger or better anyway, I don't even wait for it to fall apart before I change my mind. If you choose to go round or octagon, or worse yet, some kind of kidney shape there will be a lot of extra cost per square foot for the liner and extra scraps that you'll save till you figure out it's worthless, they only come with square corners.
Before you start any of this get your liner, they don't run true to size, they will always be at least the size you ordered but sometimes you get lucky and get a lot extra. This water garden was going to be 8'X8' but when the liner arrived there was an 3' extra in length. Ordered 12' X 12' and got almost 13' X 15'. So the plan changed, and I think for the better, 3" deeper, 3' longer. Make sure you order the liner a little bigger than you need, they are heavy to drag around and you don't want to be filling and draining to find that inch you need. Of coarse if your location size is limited none of this matters. If you are thinking of using anything other than 45 mil pond liner give this idea some thought. I know they are expensive, but in a year or so when you have to redo the cheap plastic liner because of a leak or even just UV break down, you'll be kicking yourself. You should expect a water garden of this size to cost from $300 - $400 with a DIY pump and filter if you intend to keep more than a couple fish in it. You can build your own filter, very easy, more on this later. The truth is that that much money won't do much else in your yard that will be as cool as your own water garden, you'll be spending a lot of time enjoying it.
The timbers have been placed, log cabin style and nailed. 4" nails from the top about every foot. I also toe nail from the inside with 3" nails and added corner 4" L brackets for extra strength on every 3rd board. I'll dig down a little below the base timbers before I add the inside plywood so that the liner can't slip under when filled with water. The inside plywood is added just to gave a smooth surface for the liner and isn't a must (but 3/8" is very cheap) have as long as you fill in any gaps with foam. This above ground level garden will only have a depth of about 18", you can also dig out below the ground level, with the added depth the lily pads are larger along with larger flowers. If you do this you will have to run the plywood all the way to the bottom to keep the sides from caving in. The lily pond in the back ground was dug out 30" below ground level, not only did I run the plywood all the way to the bottom, I also covered the bottom with plywood, just because I had enough extra for the bottom left over. My display tanks have a dirt bottom, made it easier to slope the bottom towards the center bottom drain.
Even with this 11' length the landscaping timbers don't need any extra braces to keep them from bowing along the sides. If you are using 10"X2" or whatever planks for your sides you may want to use 4"X4" post at the board joints every 6' or so along the side to keep them from bowing out. If you space them evenly they will look great and the board seams won't show, plus you'll have something to fasten the top rail to as long as you cut them off at the same height. Just set them in a hole a foot or so deep while building the sides and after you have everything the way you want it, just fill the holes around the post with concrete, don't get to crazy here, you may want to dig them up some day. < (That is the voice of experience.)
After the interior plywood is installed with just enough 2" dry wall screws to hold it in place, be sure to run these up tight to pull the plywood flat against the timbers so the screw head don't poke a hole in the liner, "Great Stuff" foam has been used to fill in all gaps and seams. After it's trimmed back I'll cover all the edges and seams with duck tape just to smooth it out. On the far end I have made a planter box for dirt plants. The 2 upright post are to put a lattice on for vines (Passion Fruit), which have since taken over the trees and power lines .
The liner installed and filling with water, I'll fold the corners as it fills, then let it settle for a day before trimming the liner edges. I'll add 1 more layer of the landscaping timbers to cover the top of the liner. You could also use a wider flat board here to make a little shelf, but I have found that anything you set on the edge of a pond, will end up going in!
Finished water garden, lotus and water lilies being added. Without filtration you'll want to keep any fish load to a minimum, I'll just be using misqueto fish in mine, but you could add a couple goldfish if you can keep yourself from feeding them very often. Goldfish in your water garden are very appealing, you and your visitors will get a lot of enjoyment from them. They are very friendly and will be rushing right up to you every time you visit them. With a water garden this size it will be something to see them all rush towards you. Even with water this shallow they will be fairly safe from birds since they can swim under plants and stay hid. Birds are the number one preditor of pond fish, a cat or dog in the yard ends that problem.
Don't want fish? Well, I have an idea for you that can become quite profitable, I added Red Cherry Shrimp to my display pond and there are now thousands. Here in south Florida they can stay in the pond year round but they stop breeding when it gets down to the low 60's. What do I do with red cherry shrimp you ask? Check out my auctions at Aquabid, 200 to 300 of these little guys sell at auction every week! Click Here to see what I have listed this week alone and as they sell I relist them. I started with 6 and have been selling them for about a year now. No filter required for these guys, but you'll need to put a sponge over any pump that you are using for a fountain or they will get sucked in, they are extremely small when they hatch. Click here and scroll down in my "Raising Your Spawn" page until you see the pump wrapped with a sponge to take care of this problem. Very easy to make.
A small pump with a fountain will add a lot of interest to a water garden. A very inexpensive 100 gallon per hour pump with a very cheap sprinkler riser and sprinkler head will work very good. There also solar powered pumps, but I have no experience with them, I assume they only run in the day time or shortly after dark which is fine unless you are running a filter for fish, you'll want that running 24/7.
By the way, it's best to plant your water lilies near the edge so you can keep them trimmed without going in the water, the pads will extend towards the center of the pond and the blooms will be above the planter. If you have a choice of where you can build you water garden try to put it in an area that will get the most sun, you'll get a lot more blooms. I always have tropical water lilies for sale at the best price around. Click here for more information on what I have available.
Goldfish with this much room will breed and you'll end up with 100's to give away. Actually a school of goldfish in a water garden is very eye catching. You'll enjoy seeing the new additions as they spawn, just 1 pair will fill your water garden the first year with their babies. Add a small filter if you want to keep a number of fish and feed them, they can just live off of bugs, but it's a joy to feed them, besides I also sell goldie and koi food at very good prices. Take a look at my cheap DIY filter build at http://www.tadege.com/diyfilter.htm it will work out real good for a water garden this size and be very inexpensive to make and run. This pond looks bigger in volume than it is since the depth is only 18", it's actually around 1000 gallons and won't need a huge filter for keeping goldfish. The sound of running water adds a lot to a water garden.
Another fish that would work out great in a water garden is a wakin (wah-keen), mine just spawned, take a look click here. They are more expensive that regular gold fish but are much hardier, with a short split fantail and in demand, so you can sell the off springs when you get over run with them. Although if you don't keep wakin well fed, they will probably nibble on your plants.
If you're thinking of turtles for your pond, you better think big time filters, turtles make a big mess, and a small pond filter will not keep up. They will also eat your water plants, so nix that idea. Build the turtles a pond of their own. Thoughts like that is why I have no yard left or grass to mow.
Don't put koi in a water garden, they will get to big, eat all the plants, knock over all the planters, throw dirt and gravel everywhere and make a bigger mess than the grand children. Don't listen, it's not my water garden that will get trashed..........
If you add a small fountain or spitter try and place it where it won't splash on the water lilies, the water drops tend to burn spots on the leaves in the bright sun. As far as fish go, in our zone you could use just about any tropical fish, a school of neon might be very eye catching, but I have no doubt they will breed also and with all the mom and pop fish stores gone it's hard to sell them without shipping, which is a whole other world, but is being done. What ever fish you get, try and get good bright colors on their backs, this is what you'll be seeing, you can probably make the fish store people crazy crawling up on their tanks to see the fish from the top, might take a mirror with you, nah... Expect frogs and toads to make this their new home too, the singing will go on every night. I almost forgot the dragonflies, they are very cool and will put on an air show for you every day, they also eat mosquitoes while in flight, a real plus.
This garden will only be planted with container plants waiting for their new owners to take them home, this is the display pond for the lilies I sell. You could also cover the entire bottom with 6" of compost and grow directly in it. I did this with my water lily pond. If you have a mix of plants in a dirt bottom pond some will try to take over and will have to be cut back often. For most people containers will work the best and you can adjust the height by raising the pots for different plant requirements, upside down pots or milk crates work great for this. In either case you will muddy the water when adding plants but this will settle in a day or so. You will probably get a bloom of algae in a new water garden, but this will go away shortly as the plants develop. Algae in a water garden is much easier to deal with than in a pond, the nutrients that the algae would live off of are going to the plants instead, plus the plants add a lot of shade that slows the algae. You can add a couple snails that will munch away at the algae, you'll get to know them also, they'll hang around where you feed the fish for left overs. Have fun and enjoy, the work you put into a water garden will pay off for many years in enjoyment. Thanks for stopping by and take care, Tom at Tadege Koi.
All our information is free for anyone to use. You are welcome to copy and print this information for future reference but not for resale. If you enjoyed the pond and filter builds here at our site you may want to help keep the information on new project coming with a small donation. All information is always free at Tadege.com but it does take considerable time and expense to list it. You are always welcome to watch for new DIY projects for free. Thanks and enjoy your new pond, Tom at Tadege Koi.
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