Install a Backyard Rock and Water Garden

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Want to add an interesting focal point to your garden area? Consider installing a backyard water garden. I installed my miniature backyard pond in one day with the help of a friend. Though we were both rookies at the time, we must have done something right, because eight years later my water sanctuary is not only working well, it’s thriving. In fact, it has become my favorite gardening area.

Backyard Pond

Backyard Pond

Each year I look forward to setting up the pump and water feature, as well as adding additional stones to the array of rocks that surround the pond. The tiny succulents I tucked into the rock crevices a few seasons ago have settled in nicely and are right at home. They have crept around the pond area lending a timeless appeal to the stones.

The sound of the trickling water combined with the beauty of the plants and rocks surrounding the pond have transformed my backyard area into my own personal sanctuary. An added bonus is that the water entices thirsty wildlife—deer, squirrels, birds and even the neighborhood pets—all stop by to drink from my pond, and because the water is in motion it will not be used by spawning mosquitoes (mosquito eggs need still stagnant water to hatch).

The same tranquil effect may be achieved on a smaller scale by using a large plant pot without drainage holes or a small plain pond basin placed on a deck surrounded by plants. Make sure you purchase a fountain pump and not a pond pump if you opt for a smaller water feature. In the summer, goldfish will thrive in these man made ponds, adding a touch of color and life to the area. Be sure to check with your state’s law regarding outdoor pond fish beforehand. The laws vary from state to state in New England.

Instructions to Install a Backyard Water Garden:

Supplies to Install a Backyard Water Garden

  • Basin
  • Filter box and pump (see below)
  • Tubing to fit the pump (check the pond pump box to see what size tubing the pump requires)
  • Level
  • Shovels
  • Various rocks and stones
  • Tape measure
  • Outdoor extension cord and outside electrical outlet
  • Optional: fountain or water feature, stones and plants

* The Basin, filter, tubing and pond pump may all be purchased at home improvement stores. Expect to pay approximately $175 for everything. Items are usually sold separately. I recommend a medium sized pond pump for use in a small pool basin to start.

Choose a location: Choose a spot that receives both sun and shade—not direct sunlight as the water tends to evaporate quickly in man made ponds that receive full sun light all day.

Preparation and set up: Start by measuring and marking the ground area where the pond is to be placed. Remove enough of the dirt to allow for the basin to fit snuggly inside the area. This is the hardest part of the pond building experience. Get help digging if you can. When the opening is ready, lower the basin into the hole. The rim of the basin should be even with the surrounding ground. Use a level to ensure that the basin is even so that the water will be evenly distributed. Next, test for cracks by partially filling the basin with water. If the water level stays the same after a few hours, put the pump and filter box system in (follow directions on the package) and test to see if it is all working properly. Weigh down the pump in the filter box with a heavy rock or brick. Fill the pond with water. Add rocks to bottom of the basin if desired—this may be done while the pond is being filled. Layer rocks, bricks, or crushed stone around pond with plants if desired to conceal the rim of the basin.

Suitable plants for rock wall gardens and rocks surrounding water gardens:

  • Summer Succulents: (common names) sedum, hens and chicks, string of pearls, burrow’s tail. These thrive in rock crevices with good drainage.
  • House Plants: Most ferns, spider plants, ivy, coleus, etc. Hint—to add instant appeal to your pond, stagger potted house plants among the rocks for the summer.
  • Native Plants: Ferns, mosses, wildflowers. Gather native ferns (with roots) and mosses and tuck into rock cracks and crevices. Native plants may take on a life of there own- self propagating year after year.

Instructions for winterizing your backyard pond and rock garden:

When leaves start to cover the pond surface and stain the water dark, it is time to close up the pond for the winter. Unplug the extension cord and roll it up. Store in a dry place. Remove the pump/filter box system and rinse everything thoroughly with water. Let the parts air dry and before storing in a shed or basement out of the elements. Cover the pond with a tarp if desired. In the spring use the pump to remove any remaining water.

  • Thank you for your comment. You can choose the size of the container you want for your water garden, from very small to medium to large. Many sizes are available to purchase at home improvement stores. You may even choose to place a large container in the ground and surround it by rocks of your size choice instead. It’s all up to you!

  • Thanks Shelley Wigglesworth for sharing. It’s nice and really clearly instruction. I like it. But somehow can we setup a smaller one for a smaller garden. Should we reduce size of pool or just remove some stones (compare to the one in image). Thanks for your advice.


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