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Installing a Water Feature

By Bonnie Ursprung-White

Installing a water feature as a For Sale By Owner in your yard is a great way to both increase the value of your property and to increase your enjoyment of your yard.  There are numerous types of water features that you can install yourself: water garden, fish pond, water fall or a simple waterscape with a gazing ball.  Regardless of which type you choose there are certain preparations you need to make to have a successful water feature.

Once you have decided what feature you are going to install and what type of plants or ornamentation will be used you need to prepare the site for the feature.  The first step you will need to do is to measure out the entire area that the feature will need and add six to twelve inches around the entire area.  These additional inches will allow for a buffer zone between your feature and the existing landscape.

Begin by removing all existing landscape from the feature area.  This includes all weeds, existing plants, rocks and any other debris from the surface.  The type of landscape you have will dictate what methods you will need to use to remove it.  Grass, weeds and rocks will be a simple removal whereas bushes, rock landscapes and trees will require more aggressive action.

Next you will need to dig out the area where your feature will be.  Many kits that you can buy will include a water basin to catch and/or hold the water for your feature.  This makes the installation much easier as you do not have to build the water retainer yourself.  Measure how deep your basin is and this will tell you how far down you have to dig.  All soil, roots, rocks and other debris needs to be removed from the hole to prevent damaging the basin.

After digging the hole for the basin you will need to till where any new landscaping will be around your feature.  For any new plants you will need to clear out any and all roots, rocks and debris.  For other types of decoration you will still want to clear out any existing roots and rocks however you will not need to dig as deep.

Once you have the entire area dug, tilled and cleared you are ready to begin installation of the feature.  You can prepare the hole for the basin one of two ways. You can either have the bottom of the hole six inches deeper than the depth of the basin, filling the bottom with four inches of large gravel and two inches of sand or soil, or dig exactly the depth of the basin and set the basin directly on the existing compacted soil.  The latter of the two can cause either the basin to be slightly higher than the surrounding ground (which would be fine for any over-flow from heavy rains) or an un-even base for the basin.

Once you have placed the basin in the ground, fill in around the sides with some of the soil you had removed from the hole.  Pack this soil in fairly firm to keep it from shifting and allowing the side of your basin to sag.  Remember to leave room just below the edge of the basin if you are planning on using decorative stone, gravel, pavers or mulch.  Also, keep in mind that any flowing water feature needs room for the power cord and pump (if an external pump) to move the water.

Finally, with your basin set and ready to fill with water, you can finish your kit or finish building your FSBO waterscape.