South Texas Backyard Oasis


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I've been planning a pond for about 5 years and I've finally gotten things together so I can make it a reality.

It started with a plan

I don't have a lot of room to work with, so I have to make the best out of what I have.

Due to utilities and easements, this is the only location on my property I could dig. Not ideal, but not too shabby either. We can make it work.

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I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do, but this was the concept moving forward until I start moving dirt. Roughly 6x7 main pond and a 3x6 partially raised bog with a spillway. Skimmer opposite of waterfall.

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To achieve victory, we must move the Earth

Well, maybe just a small portion of it localized to my backyard, but the Earth we will move.

It finally dried up enough here that I could start digging the pond, so I'm not wasting anytime. Last weekend I built a small retaining wall opposite corner of the yard and it was sloshy! I ruined part of my yard in the process but that was going to get covered with the pond dirt anyways. My yard has some low spots so I plan to use the dirt excavated from the pond dig to level things out. And so the time has come to dig. I've never really dug a big hole before, so I honestly don't know what to expect. There is a chance I could hit bedrock too, I sure hope not.

Day 1

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Well, that wasn't too bad. I know it's not very big, but it's a start. Pretty easy to work around the edges of the soil too.

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Now we're making progress. Finding a few roots, but nothing too bad. I have to remove a few sprinkler heads that are in the way. I'm going to be covering this side of the yard with river rock so no need for irrigation. There is one in the corner near the patio and one that sits where the bog is going. There is another one near the fence but I just may bury that, no need to dig the pipe up, it will be disconnected.

Getting ready to dig out the area for the skimmer. This thing is bigger than I expected, but that's not a bad thing. Digging the hole will be though.

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Why is the first layer so much easier than the next? That was a lot of work.

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I wanted to dig a little more, but my arm started seizing up spreading the soil around the yard. I'm drinking plenty of water but it's hot and humid down here in Texas. I have to call it a day.

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Okay, we're moving the Earth, but to where?

I didn't expect for there to be so much soil. I mean, obviously we're digging a big hole, but it sure does go a long way. I had a lot of soil to spread around. That might have been harder than the actual digging.

Here's the retaining wall I noted. This is the first of a few that will line the back of the fence. It's too shady to grow much grass back there, so I'll fill it in with shade loving plants. That will come after the pond is done though. This project really started as a landscaping project. The yard may be small, but I'm gonna make something of it.

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Day 2

I slept well last night. I guess digging a hole will do that to you. I couldn't help but think about that book Holes while digging. Now I could fully understand why it was a form of punishment. Yet here I am doing it out of my own free will. I might even be enjoying it. Weird.

I ordered a liner and underlayment last night. Since I knew how big the pond was going to be. I bought a little oversize to be sure. I think I could have gotten away with a 15x20 but it was going to be very close, so I went with a 15x25. 45mil of course. EPDM. I wanted to have the entire hole dug, but the size of liner covers any possible overdigging that can happen.

I wanted to get to the bog today, but realistically, I still made good progress. Layers 2 and 3 are complete. I finally got over to the sprinklers. Supply line was cut and capped.

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Bog area outlined with blocks. I am going to dig 8-10" inside this area. I think I am going to use one block and a cap for the spillway, the rest of the blocks will have 2 caps. Not sure yet, but that's my thought process. I might just do 1 cap all around and no cap for the spillway. Sprinklers were cut and capped, now I can fill that area in to finish laying the blocks.

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There is rain predicted all week. Slight chance they say. I'm not sure what that means but I'd like to get all this digging out of the way sooner rather than later.
 
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Loving your step by step, day by day narration, rrasco! I can sure see everything taking shape. It will be wonderful when it is finished, but the digging part is so rewarding, too. You are doing a fantastic job, love how you have "sculped" the sides. I think anyone that uses a backhoe to dig a pond is crazy. It's a labor of love and sculpture. :) Enjoying watching your dream become a reality.
 

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What an awesome job you're doing! I think you're pix and narrative tell a nice story, and you'll be glad you have those in a few years when it's time to build your NEXT pond (it's inevitable....). It looks like you've put a lot of thought and planning into the project and I can't wait to see more!

You may have mentioned it and I missed it, but how many gallons, and what are you going to stock?

Your soil must be easy to dig..... We have almost pure clay [NW Louisiana, so can identify with your heat & humidity situation] and had to rent machinery -- but that was some of the most fun Hubby & I have had, and fought (not literally) over whose turn it was to operate it :))
 
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Thanks guys!

You may have mentioned it and I missed it, but how many gallons, and what are you going to stock?

Your soil must be easy to dig..... We have almost pure clay [NW Louisiana, so can identify with your heat & humidity situation] and had to rent machinery -- but that was some of the most fun Hubby & I have had, and fought (not literally) over whose turn it was to operate it :))

The main pond will be somewhere around 600 gallons. I wasn't sure how deep I was going to go, where the shelves were going, etc. Maybe before I fill it I'll get more precise dimensions so I know how big it is. I'm digging in clay too. I chose to dig now while it was dry enough to work with but moist enough to not be a big pain in the butt. Getting the initial hole started is a little difficult, but once it has a shape it's easy to slice out an inch or two around the edges so that did make things easier. Luckily I didn't hit any rock!
 
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Question time: I was curious how am I supposed to dig out in front of the skimmer? Should I make it connect to the deepest layer? Would it function okay the way it is now? I was thinking it would be easier to clean out the pond (no BD) if the lowest section is in the center as opposed to in front of the skimmer, but I'm not sure what's best practice or if there is any concern around the issue.
 
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The skimmer will connect to the pond at the pond's surface, so doesn't matter if the deepest part is directly in front of the skimmer. The skimmer pulls water only from the surface.
To clean out the deepest part, you can net it from the edge, so doesn't matter how you have it, as long as you can reach it to net out any gunk that will settle down there. I net my ponds about 3 times a year. I have a small skimmer in each pond, both skimmers are actually on the inside of the liner, no hole in the liner for them. :) Most skimmers are on the outside of the liner, as you have yours dug, with just the opening meeting up with the edge of the liner. Can you post a pic of your skimmer box?
 
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LOVE your narrative! Your pond is coming along beautifully and quickly! I feel like such a slacker since we are a month in and aren't finished yet, lol!

One tip I have: we bought this cheapie water flow meter to measure exactly how much water we put in to the pond: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0058EOC5M (I have amazon prime for free shipping but you can likely find it elsewhere as well.) Works great for the initial fill but also for topping off.

Can't wait to see your oasis evolve!
 
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Enjoying seeing the build. Looking great. Looking forward to more pics as you progress. :)
 
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Agreed...fun to watch your progress. I am nowhere near an expert on ponds - just built mine last month. I placed my skimmer filter, which is made by another manufacturer yet similar to yours, on the opposite side of the waterfall. I figured this would create more of a natural flow of water to the skimmer to keep surface materials going toward the skimmer. Hoping this also create more water movement overall. Your Day 2 post seems to show the hole for the skimmer in a good location.

I am curious as to how you will create a berm to prevent water overflowing toward your house. As we were digging our pond, we decided to make the berm much taller than originally planned. I created enough space for the pond to take on up to 3" of rain. But, not overflow yet.

Also, one tip that I received was to create a 4"x4" coping shelf around the permitter of the pond. After laying the liner in the hole will 2' of overhang, this 4"x4" coping shelf allowed me to add 3-4" stones across the perimeter that do a good job of hiding the liner. You can see it on one side of my pond in the attached pics. The coping shelf is across the entire perimeter, except by the waterfall opening and skimmer opening.
 

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one tip that I received was to create a 4"x4"

Just to add on to this tip - your top shelf dimensions should be adjusted to the size stone you plan to use. We used large (two man) boulders around the perimeter of our pond,so our shelf is much wider than 4 inches.
 

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