Step 6 - Hiding Pond Liner
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s unsightly pond liner. It makes a pond look completely fake. Luckily, there are some ways of hiding it. I hide my pond liner so that it is both protected from the elements and pleasing to the eye.
When I built my first pond, I had two concerns. The first was choosing a pond liner that was least likely to develop a leak. My second concern was being able to completely hide the liner. There’re many ways of doing this but it’s tricky. You could end up spending more time on it than you first thought. Let’s see if I can help make it easier for you.
First things first
Make certain that the entire pond is level, or, as close to level as possible. Do this with a wooden pole placed in the middle of the hole. Stretch two pieces of rope across the pole to each opposite pond embankment. Then, place a bubble level on the rope to see if it’s necessary to raise or drop any of the edges. The overflow is the only area that falls below the rest of the pond walls. The overflow is two feet wide and 1.5 to 2 inches below the intended waterline. Again, place it below the rest of the pond embankment. Refer to the diagrams below.
Next step in hiding pond liner
Make certain that your slopes are less than a 45-degree angle. This is so the bottom medium you choose won’t slide to the bottom of the basin. Some ways to cover the liner (at the waterline) include sand, rocks, dirt, river pebbles, and gravel. This is very important.
My personal favorite way to cover pond liner is with Bahia sod. I live in Florida and the hardiest type of grass that is both drought and disease resistant is Bahia. Bahia needs two elements to grow, sun and heat. By September, Bahia growth starts to slow down for the season. This grass holds well over winter.
Sod is also great for erosion prevention because it roots down firmly into the ground. A piece of sod is about two inches thick. If you cannot get Bahia sod in your state, you can use whatever alternative that’s available. Go with the hardiest strain of grass you can get.
Due to unavailability, I once had to go with St. Augustine as an alternative to Bahia. Some pieces took well while others didn’t. That’s okay! It doesn’t matter if all pieces take because you still have a thick slab of rooted dirt that other types of grass overtake. Depending on where you live, crabgrass, clovers, and dandelions are all possibilities. While it’s desirable for the sod to take root as soon as possible, it takes a while for a dead piece to deteriorate. This gives you some time.
When the pond is full and the water level is where you want it, it’s time to add the sod. Take each piece and place it just below the waterline. There are a few reasons why it’s placed slightly below the waterline.
First, you won’t have to water the sod in order for it to take. It absorbs water from the pond. If it’s really dry, it may seem like the water level is quickly receding when it’s actually the sod sucking it up. It will even-out after the roots take.
The second reason is that sod is very forgiving. If the edges are not completely level with each other, you still have room to work with. This is because sod is pliable. It easily wraps around tight areas. When placed on a steep angle, use plastic spikes to hold the sod in place until it roots. Avoid metal spikes that rust. Rusted spikes leach metal particles into the pond. Also, be careful not to make any holes with the spikes in the liner below the intended waterline.
When using something loose like river pebbles or stone when hiding pond liner, it becomes more tricky. With sod, you simply hang it over any indescrepencies and the liner is completely covered. Also, stone and river pebbles move easily. You might have to constantly add more pebbles to keep the liner covered. That’s not a problem with sod.
I have a female bullfrog that insists on hiding under the flagstone of the overflow. In doing so, she pushes river pebbles out which exposes a small section of the liner. This causes me to recover the area with more pebbles weekly. At the waterline, bullfrogs and other pond frogs burrow into the sides of the embankment. It’s never a problem because the sod completely conceals their burrows.
These are some of the reasons why I prefer using sod when hiding pond liner. It looks completely natural and you have some room for imperfection if the grade isn’t completely level. Once the sod is in place, you can still add ornamental rocks or plants over top of it. Feel free to use your imagination once you have your liner completely covered. Your options are nearly limitless.
Never leave any part of the liner exposed to the elements
The most important rule when hiding pond liner is as follows,
Absolutely no part of the liner is left exposed to the elements. Do not leave any part of the liner exposed to the sun, or to wild animals such as raccoons. Raccoons and other animals bite exposed liner when it smells of fish. Be sure to cover the liner on both land and water. Sand and pebbles are common bottom mediums for below the waterline. I prefer sand with some river pebbles mixed in.
Keeping it clean
Always clean newly acquired river pebbles with a hose before you add them to your pond. If you don’t, they make the pond water very dirty. A common wheel barrel or large strainer works well for this. Remember that the more coverage of the liner under the waterline, the better.
My largest pond lays covered by a foot of sand. My other ponds only have a few inches because the walls are at a steeper angle. This is why going with less than a 45-degree angle is desirable. I also recommend against planter shelves. If the shelves are too shallow, raccoons and other animals forage through them at night in search of food. Damage easily occurs to vulnerable or exposed pond liner. By keeping the slopes at an angle, destructive animals are less likely to enter the water.