The soothing sights and sounds of cascading waterfalls have the power to take you away to a place of tranquility, your own backyard oasis. Your waterfall will be the focal point of your backyard, impressing family and friends while adding value to your home. The sound of running water has a wonderfully calming effect, enhancing the time you spend in your backyard unwinding and relaxing.
5 Steps to Creating Your Own Backyard Oasis
This blog will focus on the planning aspect rather than the actual physical construction of your pond. We don’t think you need us to tell you how to dig a hole or how to stack the rocks. Success comes from knowing everything before you start anything.
1. Get Inspired!
Achieving the backyard resort of your dreams starts with inspiration. This inspiration is the foundation of creating a backyard water feature that is uniquely yours. We encourage you to look far, dream big, be different.
Collect ideas anywhere, anytime… the more the better. Some common search tags for outdoor water features are: backyard ponds, koi pond, fish pond, waterfall, outdoor water features and
Gathering inspiration on-line or from magazines exposes you to a wide variety of ideas and interesting concepts, but cannot compare to the experience of seeing and hearing actual samples of waterfalls and ponds.
Recently, a landscaping show in Toronto called Canada Blooms featured many samples of absolutely stunning backyard concepts. These displays were designed by landscape architects and created by professional landscape companies.
They included beautiful decks and patios, outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces, gazebos and trellis, and colourful gardens. While all these displays consisted of different features and designs, the one thing they all had in common was a water feature of some sort.
The number of amazing ideas to transform any backyard was mind blowing. The tranquil, peaceful feeling you got just walking through these displays was inspiring. Many landscape retailers also feature samples of ponds in the stores.
2. Get Smart!
Dreaming is a fun and necessary part of your backyard project, shaping that dream takes you one step closer to reality.
Not every concept and idea is right for your backyard project. Not every concept and idea will fit your budget.
Start defining your dream by identifying the concepts and ideas that are right for you. This requires knowledge.
There have been many backyard ponds built by homeowners, and almost as many ponds have been rebuilt or modified a year or two later. The key ingredient in doing it right the first time is knowledge.
Too often our enthusiasm takes over and we jump from gathering inspiration to digging a hole. Take some time to get properly informed. You can find a lot of information by reading magazines and books, or searching the internet; however, this is usually just general knowledge.
The best way to get specific information about your project is by talking directly to people with experience in designing, planning and building ponds and water features: experienced pond contractors at the garden and landscape shows, experts at pond supply stores, or neighbors that have built their own ponds.
Take pictures of your backyard and share images and/or sketches of your dream, then pick their minds for knowledge.
3. Define the Type of Water Feature that is Right for You
Using the knowledge you have acquired, start shaping your backyard project. The size and shape of your backyard may play a big role in defining the type and scope of your water feature. The following are a few of the options available:
Have you been to a restaurant with a koi pond near the front door?
People can’t help but stand there and watch the fish swim around with a relaxed childish smile on their face.
Fish ponds may require considerable time and effort to properly maintain them, but combine the gentle movement of the fish with the soothing sound of flowing water, and it is almost impossible not to forget about the hectic work day.
Eliminate the fish and you still achieve visual and auditory pleasures, but with a little less work and cost.
Plants not only add beauty and color to your pond, they are essential in helping create and maintain a healthy contained ecosystem.
Plants benefit your pond by:
• Naturally filtering the water
• Increase water oxygen levels
• Blocking sunlight thus reducing algae growth
Dry Creek Bed
If your desire is to enjoy the relaxing sound of a rippling brook or cascading waterfall, but lack the time, money or patience to care for a pond, then a dry creek bed may be the perfect water feature for your backyard.
A dry creek bed is basically a waterfall without the pond. The water flows down the stream and/or waterfall and into a stone filled reservoir where the water is naturally filtered by the stones and pumped back to the top of the waterfall.
Dry creek beds are a perfect option for families with little kids where safety is a concern and throwing rocks into the water is just too tempting.
Basic Waterfall or Fountain
Waterfalls and fountains can also be integrated in a variety of ways into your other backyard features.
With some creativity and planning, waterfalls can be integrated into swimming pools, retaining walls, planter boxes, stone benches, and even into outdoor kitchens.
Small, yet interesting fountains can be integrated into a gardens, a trellis, a statue, a wall ornament, or next to walkways. You are only limited by your imagination and vision.
4. Determine the Size of Your Pond
One of the most common mistakes is making your pond too small.
It is assumed that the larger the pond, the more maintenance required.
Actually, the smaller the volume of water in the pond, the harder it is to maintain water quality and water temperature thus requiring more care and maintenance.
This is especially true if you have fish. Pond owners often wish they made their pond bigger; few wish they made it smaller.
If you are planning to have fish, the type and number of fish you want will determine the size of your pond.
If you are in a cold climate and plan on keeping your fish in the pond all winter, the pond needs to be at least 3 feet deep.
Koi can grow quite large and require a lot more surface area than gold fish. In order to maintain a consistent water quality, the more fish you have the more water volume you need. A good volume for a fish ponds is between 500 and 3000 gallons.
The type of plants you want in your pond also determine the size. The smaller the pond, the fewer possibilities.
The size of your stream and waterfall will also determine the volume of your pond. The upper basin and lower pond needs to be able to hold all the water. A stream 30 inches wide x 3 inches deep contains 5 gallons of water per linear foot. Therefore, the longer and deeper your stream, the bigger your pond needs to be to prevent it from overflowing.
Once you know the size of the pond and stream, you can determine the overall size of the area needed.
• Plan for 12 to 18 inches around the entire perimeter of the pond for a rock boarder and membrane.
• Your stream should be 2 to 3 feet wide and have a 3 feet wide planting area on each side, totalling 8 to 9 feet wide area.
• If you are including a filter box, it will require a 3 feet x 3 feet area at the top of the waterfall/stream, plus plan for 5 feet on each side of the filter box for the dirt build up and plantings. The taller the waterfall the bigger this area should be.
5. Some Other Important Design Considerations
The higher the waterfall, the louder it is. If your house is located outside the city where all is quiet, 2 to 4 inch waterfalls creating the sound of a babbling brook might be perfect.
If you live in the city, 10 to 14 inch waterfalls will help drown out the sounds of passing cars. If your waterfalls are too high, they will produce a lot of splashing possibly resulting in considerable water loss.
When choosing the plants for in and around your pond, make sure you consider the amount of sunlight the area gets. Some plants do better in shaded areas, while others do better in full sun.
Water plants are categorized into four groups: submerged plants, marginal plants, floating plants and deep water plants. Consult your local garden center for advice. Four Types of Functional Pond Plants.
Plan Your Lighting
If you think relaxing by your pond during the day is fun, try it at night—it’s an entirely different experience!
Accent spotlights on focal points such as waterfalls, floral areas, rock formations, or the underside of overhanging trees can be very dramatic.
Underwater spotlights are also available and can turn your waterfall or fountain into a dazzling display. Landscaping Network.
Tasty fish swimming around a small pond make a tempting meal for local wildlife, such as raccoons, skunks, fox, ducks and geese.
Installing stone ledges around the edge of your pond will provide hiding places for your fish; however, covering your pond with netting may be the only way to protect your fish from becoming the catch of the day.