Water Gardening and Water Features – Repairing Water Garden Ponds
Of all the features that a garden can boast, water andis probably the most versatile and the most fascinating . . . the reflective tranquillity of still water draws us to it with an almost mystical pull, while the froth and sparkle of entrances and imbues us with some of its energy. The few who are fortunate enough to have natural water on their land are indeed blessed. They can spend delightful hours just contemplating the stuff, speculating idly on future improvements and refinements – a bridge here, a small dam there, etc.
Some of us, when moving to a new property (and by that I mean new to us and not necessarily a newly built house) will inherit artificial pools and water-courses or water features installed by the previous owners; these may or may not be blessings. No-one could be anything but grateful to have all the hard work of excavation and construction involved in the preparation fordone for them, if the water garden ponds are well-sited and pleasing, but more often they sits on the highest and most unlikely spot in the garden, lined in virulent blue plastic, encrusted with cement rocks and surmounted by fishing gnomes. It is rare indeed to inherit a well-designed pool, still sound and watertight, that has been constructed and placed in such a way that it sits happily and harmoniously with house and garden.
Sometimes, however, these existing horrors can be improved. If the pool is in the right place but is leaking or ugly, it can be repaired and given a face-lift. Most manufacturers of liner pools supply repair kits, and water garden centres should be able to advise you about these. If the liners are beyond repair, it will not be too expensive to replace them. If you do not want to remove the existing coping, cut away the old liner, fit the new one in its place, and stick it to the walls with a suitable adhesive, then run a sealing compound round the join. This is only possible if the liner is placed over a solid support, and it is not as satisfactory a method as running the overlap under the coping.
If the leaking liner is fitted over sand or earth, you will have to remove the coping and fit a new liner; it is not really satisfactory to fit one flexible liner over another, as there will be a double set of folds and creases. Make sure that the base and wall of the garden ponds are smooth and free from sharp stones, etc., before fitting the new liner. To make doubly sure, add a layer of damp sand or newspaper at the bottom and up the sides. If the sides are vertical, you could lay another layer of plastic on them under the new liner as protection. Dustbin liners would do, and the tough plastic sheeting which can often be found on skips would be admirable.
Having smoothed the surface in this way, fit the new liner in the manner described by the manufacturers. It is very important to make sure that the liner is in complete contact with the base and side of the pool, as weaknesses will be caused if it pulls away from the side before filling. For this reason, fill slowly, before fitting the coping, so that the water can pull the liner down and press it against the sides of the water garden pond by its own weight. It is absolutely vital to make sure that the sides of the pool are level before fitting the liner. If this is not done, the water will appear to tilt and will drive you mad quite quickly. Place a spirit-level on a plank across the pool and move this plank all round the pool, checking and levelling firmly as you go.
If the water garden ponds or water features are sound, but is a startling blue or an anaemic beige, paint it over with a non-toxic, black waterproof paint. This is not possible with flexible liner pools, but you could revamp these with cheap black liners or even with black polythene sheeting. Alternatively, if you plant the pool thickly enough, not much of the liner below the waterline will be visible; you will just have to disguise the bit between the surface of the water and the coping. Overlapping the coping by about 5cm (2″) over the water garden ponds will help to do this. If the pool is straight-sided, you could place lengths of timber just below the coping, or, if there is a ledge, a course or two of bricks could be placed on this. If the garden pool has a shallow, sloping edge, you could lay shingle or pebbles upon it, and then plant thickly with marginals to overhang the edge, to complete the disguise.
If the leaking pool is concrete, the best solution would be to fit it with a liner. Fill the cracks so that there are no sharp edges to damage the liner. Remove all loose materials and place a 2.5cm (1″) layer of sand at the bottom of the pool as an added precaution, then fit the new liner (this could be performed or flexible) and replace the coping. It is possible to repair concrete pools but it is a tricky job and not always successful. The cracks must be enlarged sufficiently to take a suitable filler (your builder’s merchant will advise you), all loose material must be removed and the water garden pond screened over and then coated with a sealing compound.
Water gardening can be messy and for any of these methods, you will have to empty the pool, either in whole or in part. If there is no outlet, and no fall away from the pond, you will have to bale it out, a dirty and smelly job. The last couple of inches will have to be mopped up with old towels. If there is a fall away from the pool, you can syphon out the water with a length of hose-pipe. The way to do this is to fill the hose from a tap, sealing both ends with your thumbs, corks, what you will. Then place one end of the hose at the bottom of the garden pool, holding it in place with a stone or a brick (this, of course, is easier if you have not used your thumbs). It is wise to protect this end of the hose with some fine gauze; a leg cut from a pair of tights will do very well, held in place with a couple of elastic bands. This will ensure that the hose is not blocked with dead leaves, gunge and any wildlife you have been unable to scoop out and remove to safety.
Place the other end of the hose as far down the slope away from the garden pond as possible, preferably into a ditch or drain-trap. If you are doing this single-handed, remove the cork from the pool-end of the hose and run like hell to the other end to remove that cork, too. With luck, the water will then syphon out and away, but do make sure that it is disposed of within your own boundaries; your neighbours will not be amused if they are engulfed and their treasured plants swept away. It may take you a couple of tries to get the syphon working, and you will probably have to scrape gunge and gunk away from the nylon sock from time to time. The whole thing is much easier with two people. You will still have to mop up the bottom of the pond and, if it is to be repainted, give the whole thing a good scrub with detergent and water, then rub down with wet and dry paper to give the paint a key.