Edging a Garden Pond

A backyard pond edges with natural stone slabs.
  • 1-8 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-300
What You'll Need
Stone and gravel
Wood, turf and plantings
Protective matting
Polythylene layers
Plastic containers
Soil tamper

You have installed your pond—preformed or concrete, sunken or raised—but your work is not complete! For your pond to blend into its surroundings it must be landscaped according to taste, but also to suit your level of maintenance. There are several ways to edge a garden pond that include stone, brickwork, turf, plantings, and more. Each requires a different kind of installation and maintenance routine on the part of the gardener. This article discusses ways to beautify your garden pond with edgings that suit the look of the setting as well as the lifestyle of the gardener.

Before selecting edging material for your pond, decide how much traffic the area is likely to have from children, animals, or visitors. Most ponds with frequent traffic construct fixed edgings instead of a simple positioning of materials. For example, a remote cottage pond with few visitors might do fine with a border of rocks, but a suburban backyard where children play should install pavement.

In all cases, reinforcement is necessary around the pond's edge to keep water and soil separate, for the overall health of the pond. Also, whatever the edging, be sure to leave a few gaps for electrical cables or hoses that may be required at some point (for pond cleaning, jet or fountain installation, water lights, etc.).

1. Pavement

Choosing to pave around your pond has many advantages, but the installation must be done with great care. First, pavement as an edging provides a neat appearance and helps to showcase the pond as a focal point of the landscape. There are many pavings to choose from and many designs to incorporate to give your pond an original stamp. Another great benefit is how well it separates plant growth from the pond water. Many water-loving plants are aggressive, so paving will remove the threat of invasive plant growth and allow the gardener more leisure time to enjoy the pond.

The tricky part about installing paving, especially around a preformed pond, is that that slabs must not rest on any part of the pool itself, as the material has a tendency to buckle or even crack. Be sure to tamp down the earth before placing the slabs on the surrounding area—not on the pool material itself. Even with a concrete pond, resist the temptation to place slabs on top of the pond walls; this makes for a neater appearance, but it can create serious problems down the road. After a few seasons, this adds stress to the pond walls. Instead, place a few layers of polythylene over the top of the walls before mortaring the paving material.

2. Bricks

Laid brick edging

Incorporating brickwork is another low-maintenance pond edging with warm appeal suggestive of old-world beauty. A single row of brickwork will suffice to edge your pond, but an expanse of brickwork acts like a paving and can be very attractive to place containers of water plants. If you like the look of brickwork or paving, but find it too stark without any plant life, consider adding creeping thyme to grow in the cracks of the paving material. Before adding bricks, be sure that the pond's surrounding area can support and keep them stable.

Some ponds feature a brick wall that forms the edge of one side of the pond. This feature requires a sturdy foundation and the installation of a concrete collar at least four inches deep. Such walls provide a decorative backdrop and may be fitted with a wall fountain to further ornament the pond. Baskets of trailing plants may be set on the wall ledge which may also double as seating for the enjoyment of the pond and its surroundings. Again, be sure that the wall does not sit on the pond material itself in order to prevent any damage from occurring to the liner.

3. Stone and Gravel

Informal ponds or those opting for a more natural blend with the landscape tend to use stone for edging material. From attractive river rocks to larger boulders, stone is often chosen for pond edgings. When installing an edging of rocks, place your stones on a shelf set below the water's surface so that the rocks are half above and half under water. Be sure to choose solid rocks as softer ones will release minerals into the water and upset the chemistry of the pond, which must be carefully maintained for the health of the water and the life there. It's also a good idea to use cement to keep loose rocks in place, or animals and even inclement weather might upset your edging.

Pebble and gravel beaches also make attractive and natural-looking pond edgings. Protective matting should be used both on top and under the pond's liner and the beach itself should ideally be set on a wide and shallow shelf. This works well for a wildlife pond, but again, the pebbles work best when cemented into place. When choosing gravel, be sure to select a type without any sharp angles.

4. Wood, Turf, and Plants

Watering plants

Wood, turf, and plantings may also be used to edge a pond, though they require more regular maintenance and inspection on the part of the gardener. For instance, wood or railroad ties are visually attractive, but as they are exposed to water, are likely to warp and rot. Wood preservatives should not be used as they may be harmful to the life of the pond.

Turf is best suited to rustic and wildlife ponds and is very pleasing, but also very demanding; it should not be treated with chemicals and must be cut by hand at the pond's edge so no clippings fall into the pond. Also, when installing turf, be sure to incorporate a drainage channel to avoid any future problems on that score.

Yet another way to edge your pond, and one of the most delightful for gardeners, is with plants. As mentioned earlier, water-loving plants need a high degree of maintenance; these can easily overtake an area and must be held in check. Gardeners can use marginal plants or bog plants to disguise pond edges, or place plants in plastic containers to be set on a pond shelf. If you're going to use plants, make sure to give the pond regular cleanings to rid it of excess detritus like fallen leaves or petals.

However you choose to edge your pond, pay careful attention to the material's installation and care requirements in order to maintain the look and health of your garden’s focal point.