Building a small garden pond in a raised garden bed is a good solution when you need better accessibility or cannot dig into the ground.
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Garden Pond In A Raised Bed
I originally built this small pond in a raised bed at our old house because I wanted a water feature in a narrow strip of garden by the front of our house. We could not dig the soil there due to underground cables so I opted to build up instead. I ended up liking this arrangement much better than an in-ground pond for a number of reasons.
If you would like a larger garden pond, I recently built one in my garden.
Advantages To Raised Bed Ponds
- The height of the pond makes it very easy to access the pond filter pump for regular maintenance.
- It’s very easy to weed the surrounding flower beds.
- You are much less likely to fall in. I tell you this as the person who has fallen into the in-ground pond. Twice.
Before you install a water feature of any kind, check your local bylaws and, better still, use common sense.
You do not want to have any open water where children might play unattended.
In our case, there were no little kids in the neighborhood and regulations permitted ponds up to two feet deep in open areas. Which is still a danger, really.
Our new neighborhood has a lot of small children so our current pond is protected like a swimming pool with a fully-fenced back garden with a locked gate.
Supplies & Materials
You will need
- A pond form or pond liner. Here’s a 300-Gallon Pond Kit with Lighting. My pond is approximately 400 gallons.
- If you use a pond liner, you’ll also need some flat-bottomed rocks or stepping stones to hold the liner lip down around the edge of the pond.
- A recirculating pond pump made for the size of the pond. A 450 gallon pond needs a 450 gph (gallons per hour) pump. Here’s an example of a 400 gph Pond Pump. I always buy my pumps new and keep a spare on hand in case of malfunction. If you have fish, you want to keep the water circulating and healthy year round.
- A raised bed built to fit the pond. There are lots of free instructions online.
- Soil to fill in the space between the pond form and the bed. You’ll want good compost and potting soil for the top 8″ (or more) of soil. If you will be growing fruits or vegetables in this bed, make sure you use food-safe soil. General use potting soil often contains harmful chemicals intended to retain moisture in the soil.
- Access to a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interupter) outdoor electrical outlet for running the pump.
- Aquatic water plants. Look for ‘hardy’ ones. Many of the fancy-schmancy ones are annuals and won’t survive the winter.
- Fish! But don’t buy them until your pond is at least two weeks old. I use ‘feeder fish’ which are sold as live food at the pet store for 10 cents each. They will grow into beautiful gold fish.
- Get your pond form or liner first so you know how big the raised bed will need to be.
- Consider the length, width, and height of the raised bed. You want room for plants beside the pond and enough height to fit the depth of the pond.
Plan your raised bed based on the lengths of wood available to avoid wasting off cuts. For example, if you build a 4×8′ bed, you can use eight-foot lengths of wood and have the four-foot pieces cut at the store.
My pond bed was 4×8′ and about 16″ deep. I buried about 8 inches of the pond in the ground, which was as much as I could dig without hitting underground cables. I used the soil I removed for filling in the space around the base of the pond form.
You don’t want a bed much wider than four feet or it becomes very difficult to reach into the pond. Unless you have arms super long arms.
Pond in a Raised Bed DIY Steps
- Build the raised bed. Need to know the best type of wood to choose? See this.
- Insert the pond form.
- Fill in the spaces around the pond form with soil, making sure it fits snugly.
- Figure out how you want to arrange the circulating pump and where the electrical cord will go.
- Remove any soil from the pond.
- Fill with water.
- Wait 2-3 days before adding plants. This allows the chlorine in the water to off-gas (leave the water).
- Wait 2 weeks before adding fish. You want to make sure everything is running properly and allow time for some natural scunge to build up around the inside of the pond. The fish can live off this natural habitat. Nom. Nom. Nom.
- Place plants low down in the pond for the winter.
- So long as you keep the water circulating all winter long, the fish survive. They simply go dormant in cold water. It’s kind of freaky, but cool.
- One year I used a floating pond heater but I found it was too warm and caused some excessive algae growth.
- The next years I just used the regular pond pump and placed it right at the bottom of the pond with the spout aiming up. That worked fine.
For more, I also have this advice on starting a new garden pond including the type of pump you will need.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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