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Small Water Features

Simple Building Instructions for a Cheap, Low-Maintenance Fountain

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My picture shows a small water feature with a cheap fountain and statuary.

End result, with water fountain statuary, decorative rocks, and plants along the perimeter. A nice addition to my side yard.

David Beaulieu

You've seen them on TV: huge, complex water features, with high-cost fountains, installed by skilled landscape designers. Rather daunting, aren't they? You want something cool and soothing for your own landscaping, but just a small water feature, you say? A cheap, low-maintenance garden fountain whose gurgling sound will soothe those frayed nerves when you pull into the driveway after a hard day at work? Well, that is exactly what these simple instructions show you how to build.

Note: Learn more about small water features and other landscaping components with my weekly Landscaping Newsletter.

Shopping for Small Water Features: Garden Pond and Fountain Supply

You'll spend more time shopping for supplies in this small water feature project than on the landscaping work, itself. For supplies you'll need the following, which you should be able to buy at major hardware chains and/or nurseries:

  1. Small water garden pump. The one shown in my mini-photo gallery (to open which, click photo above) happens to be a "Little Giant" submersible pump, with a 6' cord. It's a 120 GPH pump, which means it displaces 120 gallons of water per hour -- sufficient for such a small garden pond.
  2. Small, cheap preformed plastic pond liner. These work well for the "pond in a pot" approach that we're taking here. For ponds too large for preformed liners, you have no choice but to purchase a flexible liner, instead, and form your own walls.
  3. A carpenter's level.
  4. Plastic outdoor fountain statuary and tubing (see Page 3).
  5. Sand. The sand will supply "adjustable flooring" for your preformed water pond liner. This will come in handy when you attempt to get your pond liner to sit level in its hole.

If you stick with a small water feature for this project, you shouldn't have to sweat the choice of pumps that much. Water pump manufacturers recommend that the water in a small pond be turned between 1/2 time per hour and 1 time per hour. The maximum pond, therefore, that my 120 GPH Little Giant pump would be good for is a 240 gallon pond. The rigid pond liner that I selected doesn't come close to being that big. That's good news for my fountain, because you want plenty of pump-power left over to supply you with a good, strong jet for a fountain.

If you get carried away in your pond project and end up buying a bigger pond liner than I did, there are some simple formulas landscape designers use to determine water volume. To calculate cubic feet for rectangular ponds, multiply length in feet x width in feet x depth in feet. For circular ponds, multiply 3.14 (1/2 diameter in feet x 1/2 diameter in feet) x depth in feet. There are 7.5 gallons of water in a cubic foot. Multiply the total number of cubic feet x 7.5 to calculate the total number of gallons that your pond liner holds.

Optional backyard pond supplies include rocks, plants and additional statuary. The rocks would be an ornamental feature, to be placed in and around the artificial pond. This is a supply that's always in stock for me: I tend to pick up decorative rocks whenever I travel. Finally, you can make your small water feature a garden by incorporating plants. Other than floating aquatic plants like water lilies, your options usually are to plant around the edges of your outdoor artificial pond, or else submerge some potted aquatic plants. The latter option can make your water feature less low-maintenance, however, as the pond water will get dirty faster.

On Page 2 we'll trace the steps of this easy do-it-yourself fountain project for beginners, from digging the hole to turning on the water and sitting back to admire your own little piece of serenity....

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