Before You Begin:

Lesson 2

You do need to do some homework and calculations before you begin. 

You know you have a liner of a given size. In my case, 12’ x 17’. However, you must 
remember that some of that liner will be used going up and down the SIDES of the pond 
so you must subtract that from the overall length and width of your pond. The deeper your
pond, the more liner is used going vertically up and down the sides of the pond. Also, you
want the liner to extent about 1 foot past the edge of the hole that you dig for the pond. 
This not only helps to anchor the liner, it helps water run into the pond when it rains. 
It is recommended to build a little “burm”, or raised area around your pond to help control 
the amount of water running in, or out, of your pond in heavy rain. This extra few inches 
must also be calculated into your liner dimensions. If I have confused you, the instructions 
that come with a pond kit explain how to calculate the dimensions and you can also find 
this information at several web sites. 

You will want to build a little shelf around the inside edge of pond for setting water plants 
on. I decided to build this shelf all the around the inside of my pond and to vary the depth 
of the shelf from 11” to 18” to accommodate different types of plants. The shelf is 12” wide 
all of the way around. 

You also need to decide on the depth of the pond. If you plan to have fish (which I highly 
recommend), and you live in an area with cold winters, you will need to make at least part 
of your pond at least 30” deep. This will allow your fish go down deep enough so survive the
winter even if the pond freezes over. Yes, your fish will survive the winter with some help. 
More about that later. 

READ. There is a lot of very good information available in books and on the Internet about 
how big, and how deep you make your pond and how to calculate how many fish a pond of 
a given size and depth will support. One of my favorite Web sites for information and 
guidance is . Remember, you don’t have to make the pond a uniform 
depth or width. 

I spent a considerable amount of time planning, drawing and calculating. It was time well 
spent. When I finally put my plan into action, it worked out perfectly. I really stress that you 
need to take the time to figure out your size, shape, and depth and make sure your liner is 
big enough before you begin digging. 

Here are the basic dimensions that I came up with to make the most use of my 12’ x 17” 


As you can see, I decided to make half of my pond deeper but narrower, and the other half 
not as deep but wider. This gave me a nice shape and a deep pool for fish to winter-over. 
I also wanted a waterfall so I planned to put it at the wider, shallower end of the pond. 
I allowed room to stack rocks to make my waterfall. 

Here in Louisville, Kentucky, our winters are not too severe so I designed a portion of my 
pond approximately 42” long, 36” wide, and 30” deep for the fish to spend the winter. 
The other half of the pond is approximately 66” long, 57” wide, and 21” deep. 

IMPORTANT: You will need to dig a second narrow and shallow shelf around the pond if you 
plan to line the edge of you pond with rocks or paving stones as I did (see drawing). 
This helps to anchor AND hide your liner. I edged my pond with square cut granite blocks set 
at a depth that allowed the water level to go about halfway up the stones and the top of the 
stones would be even with the top of my “burm”.   

Location: There are a couple of things to consider about the location of your pond. 
A pond that is in full sun will grow more algae than one that is in the shade. This can be 
controlled by water lilies, good filtration, and other methods. I had several water hyacinth 
last year and noticed that mine did not grow nearly as big as ones that were in shady ponds. 
However, I had more blooms on my water lilies than those in shady ponds. Water lilies also 
help to control algae by providing shade to the bottom of the pond. If you put your pond near 
a tree for the shade, you will have to deal with leaves and twigs getting into it. 

If you are in a suburban area as I am, your pond should be in a fenced-in yard. You must be 
extremely careful if you, or your neighbors, have small children. A child can drown in just a 
few inches of water and a pond, especially one with pretty flowers or fish, is a natural 
attraction for children.

I don’t see any special hazard posed to pets as dogs and cats seem to have no problem 
around ponds. I have had a couple of birds and an opossum drown in my pond.

You should also be aware that I have been told that in some areas, your homeowners and/or 
liability rates may go up. I can’t verify this but you may want to ask your insurance company. 
They tend to use any excuse to raise rates. 

OK. Now that all of the responsible stuff is out of the way, lets get started!

Next: Get Started


[Home] [Up] [Water Garden] [Introduction] [Planning] [Before You Begin] [Get Started] [Dig In] [Finishing Touches] [In The Pond] [Around The Pond] [Fish] [Enjoy] [Care and Maintenance] [Winterizing] [Summary] [Before and After] [Update]