Edging the pond

Getting a good natural edge to a wildlife pond is still one of the most difficult parts of the pond construction process – mainly because we don’t yet have much experience of how to do it.

Stone or slab edging is very much easier.

So it was no surprise to get this cry for help from Janet. I had much the same problems making the ‘New Pond’ last year.

So here’s her mail:

Hello,

I am currently constructing a wildlife pond and have been following your advice (on internet and in the RHS magazine etc).

However, I was planning to have flat stones round the edge of the pond, not grass. (This will hold down the liner with some hard core and sand.)

I cannot understand how putting the turves back on top of liner will allow the grass to grow. Am I missing something?

And I also thought that by putting turves at the edge, there was a danger of soil slipping into the pond which causes problems.

The pond is one and a half metres across, is circular, is in the lawn, in a sunny spot, and is not too deep. (About 12 inches plus I think.)
Thank you for all your help on the website and in articles.

Janet’

Putting tuves back on top of a liner sounds like it won’t work and the grass will die.

Actually as long as you leave a little soil and roots the grass will grow on top of the liner – it will probably go yellow for a while, unless the weather is very wet, but it will recover and grow on top of the plastic.

After I cut the turves to edge the New Pond I knocked off most of the soil just leaving the mass of grass roots and a bit of soil – doing this is probably enough to keep too much soil from falling in the pond. The turves end up about 1 ½ to 2 inches thick.

What I also did was to make a slight rim at the edge of the pond so that water from the turves would not drain straight into the pond – hard to explain in words but shown in the picture below.
Our New Pond has very low nutrient concentrations still so it seems to have worked so far.
Hope that helps.

Pond edge design - click to enlarge

Here are before and after photos of the New Pond edge turves. It works pretty well.

Here are the turves cut and ready to lay on the liner once it is in place. You can just about make out the low bank of soil in places that stops the water running back into the pond.

Next you can see the turves laid on top of the liner – the finished job.

Both these pictures were taken in April 2009 when the pond was made.

The ‘after’ picture below is from 4 Jan 2010 – the turves are growing well and holding down the liner.

So for the edge of the pond we’ve worked out a reasonable solution.

But inside the pond is still a bit of a mess – we haven’t rushed to cover it in plants (one way of hiding the liner) but we haven’t quite yet worked out a good way to get sand and gravel to stay in place on the gently sloping smooth butyl. Of course this isn’t a problem when you dig into natural clay, sand or gravel – but it’s a key issue with a synthetic liner: how to get a natural substrate anywhere except where the liner is absolutely level.

Any ideas much appreciated!

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22 Responses to “Edging the pond”

  1. Kieran Madden Says:

    What about glueing something like artificial grass to the liner? Obviously a chemically inert grass and glue (once set) would have to be used, but I’d have thought that fake grass or similar would provide enough traction for soil to sit on top.

  2. Joe Berry Says:

    Something I’ve tried with my new pond is to press clay on top of the liner on the sloping ‘beach’ section. We have very sticky clay here in Birmingham and so far it seems to have stayed in place. I’ve sprinkled some sandstone gravel on top and it looks great in the sunshine – beautiful colours.

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Neat ideas guys!

      Somebody else has suggested using hessian sacking too as the ‘sticky’ base on which sand and or gravel could be retained.

      Jeremy

  3. Colin Wavell Says:

    You will remember that I built a pond to your spec towards the end of last year. It came through the winter OK and the edges seem to have worked out quite well using play sand and some old aquarium gravel I had. Frogs and Newts are back but no spawn yet. The birds have been using the beaches to gather nesting material and to drink and bath. I’ve seen wasps and bees drinking from the edges. If you go to

    http://colinandelaine.smugmug.com/Garden/Pond/10753278_7YMc2#749504114_nQ7Xz

    you can find pictures that I would be flattered if you might use on the site.

  4. Judith Hathrill Says:

    I used black underlay from Fawcetts (not the fluffy white stuff that some aquatic centres sell) both underneath and on top of the liner so sand or gravel should stick to that well in a gradually sloping shallow pond

  5. Paul Caden Says:

    I am in the planning phase for my wildlife pond. It will be fairly large (in my mind!) at about 4.5m x 2.5m. As the pond will be in the middle of a normal soil bed i.e. not a lawn, I have been thinking about what to do with the edges.

    One end of the pond will have a sloping pebble beach, but for the rest of the edging, I have thinking about using turf turned upside down and laying them over the liner and into the pond down to about the level of the first marginal shelf. The other end of the turf will be buried in a shallow trench on top of the trimmed pond liner.

    Any thoughts?

  6. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Paul

    I’d not put any turves in the pond – they’ll almost certainly add unwanted nutrients. We haven’t got any turves in our ponds.

    As you’ve got soil around the pond, I would try to make a small lip all around the pond edge so that water can’t run from the soil (which has probably been fertilised over the years) into the pond.

    Better to use something completely clean and neutral – play sand or well-washed gravel (even so-called washed gravel needs washing).

    It’s difficult to over-emphasise how important getting a clean water supply is, and how hard it is to get pollutants out once they are in.

    If there’s anything else we can help with – let us know.

    I expect you’ve looked at all the stuff on the Pond Conservation web-site.

    Good luck!

    Jeremy

    BTW The pond doesn’t have to be round!

  7. Perry Says:

    I am in the planning stage of a wildlife pond and have changed my mind on several occasions. I am going to try and put some concrete posts in the middle section, maybe cemented down, to hold the aquatic soil on the sloping side and then cover them with sand, newspaper and an old carpet before putting the pond lining over, to make a kind of step/line between the shallow end and the deeper end. Also I was thinking about the lining coming over the edges of the pond, can’t the end of the lining be buried into the soil then the turf put back? What do you think, will it work?

    Perry

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Perry

      To be absolutely honest, I can’t quite visualise exactly what you’re suggesting – can you do a quick rough sketch – nothing fancy, back of the envelope kind of thing – of what you had in mind? – you could either post it to me at Pond Conservation or take a photo and e-mail it.

      I’ll be able to give a more sensible answer that way.

      Jeremy

      • Perry Says:

        Hi Jeremy

        Thanks for your reply. I will post you a rough drawing as I’m not sure how to send a photo through email. Could you please give me your address.

        Thanks

        Perry

      • Jeremy Biggs Says:

        Pond Conservation
        c/o Oxford Brookes University
        Gipsy Lane
        Headington
        Oxford OX3 0BP

        This is our main office address.

        Jeremy

  8. Perry Says:

    Hi Jeremy

    Hope you have received my pictures by now as you can see I’ve changed my mind AGAIN! Love your blog, it’s been an enormous help, thanks.

    Perry

  9. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Perry

    Got the drawings yesterday.

    Shall I still go ahead and make suggestions?

    Jeremy

  10. Perry Says:

    Hi Jeremy

    Yes please.

  11. Sandie Says:

    Hi Jeremy
    I am so glad we found this site. We have just dug a wildlife pond and put the underlay and liner down. We plan to edge it with turf but are wondering whether we should bring the edge of the liner up between the edging turves and the lawn and cut just below the surface. Is that being too fussy?
    Your idea of a small rim seems a good idea – we haven’t done that but I might lift the liner and make that adjustment before going much further.
    How is your pond looking now?

  12. James Guariglia Says:

    Has anyone thought of using silicon to attach pebbles to hide the liner? This is used (aquatic version) for fish tanks and provided it is allowed to dry before adding water should be harmless! It would work even on a sharp gradient.

  13. E Says:

    Large rocks built up will hold smaller rocks and then gravel in place no?

  14. David Says:

    Have built a small raised pond, the width of the wall is 8inches which I shall cement slabs onto.
    My questions are as follows………

    How much liner overlap shall I allow ?

    If I am correct I shall sandwich the liner between morter, my concern is that it will adhere to the morter ?

    Thanks in anticipation.

  15. Robert Vickery Says:

    We dug a pond a few years ago and surrounded it with a row of paving slabs between it and the lawn, but I was horrified to find tiny frogs emerging onto the paving and getting stuck in hot weather. It seems that it is a real hazard as their feet dry out too quickly and they dry onto the paving. I spent a lot of time using a watering can to cool it down and removed some slabs, Where plants grow over the edge of the pond it helps them the frogs to climb out, and I have let that happen for most of one edge.

  16. John. Says:

    Is artificial Grass suitable to stick or lay on sloping sides of garden pond to held natralize and prevent Sun damage to liner?

  17. Ilse Says:

    Hi we have an existing big pond that we just cleaned entirely and refilled the sides with big rocks of all kind of shapes and sizes. We want the grass to come as close as possible to the edges. Would you suggest anything special for the edges? Artificial grass? Sand? Thanks heaps for your help.

    • Colin Wavell Says:

      I made my pond in a lawn. Around the edge I just lifted turfs and brought the pond liner under them. it gives a natural mossy edge. See the pictures in my archive

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