How to Make a Dry Pond




Introduction: How to Make a Dry Pond

About: Garden Instructor, Landscape Consultant, Certified Square Foot Garden Instructor, Organic Gardener, Garden coach

You may have heard of a dry creek as part of a landscape.  It gives the feel of a water feature without actually using water.  Some are designed to fill when there is sufficient rain.  Others are strickly for appearance.  I installed a dry pond instead of a creek which takes less space and time but gives a similar feel.

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Step 1: Determine a Location and Size

Do you want your pond to fill with rainwater?  Are there other features nearby which could cause problems such as falling leaves filling your pond? Would it look like it fits or would it look out of place in the chosen location? Will it be a trip hazard or in any way a problem in the location you have chosen?

How large is appropriate for the spot?  You will need rocks to fill it and plants and larger rocks to surround it.  The larger your pond the more time involved and the expense. 

Is the chosen area away from tree roots?  Digging around tree roots can be difficult and harmful to the tree.

Step 2: Preparing the Spot

Once you have determined a location and size it is time to prepare the area.
Mark the area for digging with a piece of hose, rope, or other flexible items so you can picture the size and shape and so you will be digging in the correct area.
Remove plants, rocks, and other items away from the area so desirable plants are not damaged during the process and so you have some space to work.

Step 3: Dig Out Your Pond

Dig out the pond area to your chosen depth.  Slop the sides instead of digging straight down.  Keep in mind that if it is too deep it is more of a danger if someone steps into it.  Also, a deep pond will require more rock for filling. 

My dry pond is about 2' wide and 3 1/2" deep in the center.

Step 4: Line Your Pond

Once you have removed all the soil from the hole, line the hole with landscape fabric or if  you want it to fill with rainwater at times line it with pond liner.  Pond liner can be purchased by the foot from pond supply stores or home improvement centers.
I used landscape fabric for mine.  The main purpose was to keep weeds out of my pond.
Fasten down the edges of your fabric or liner with rocks or landscape fabric pins. 

Step 5: Fill Your Pond With Rocks

Purchase rocks either by the bag or in quantity from gravel companies or home improvement centers.  You also may be able to gather enough rocks from your property.  Do not gather rocks from public lands without permission.
You will want to use river rock or pond rocks so the smooth look of them gives the feel of being worn by water. 

I was able to gather the larger rocks and some of the smaller rocks from my property.

Step 6: Place Some Large Rocks Around Your Pond

Placing large rocks around your pond can give a more natural look and give the feel that the water source to your pond is hidden.  Two or three strategically placed should be plenty.

Step 7: Plant Around Your Pond

Choose plants appropriate for the growing conditions of your climate and the area you chose.  My pond is in partial shade so I chose plants that looked like they could be around a pond and that could handle the shade.  Plants with a variety of leaf shapes, leaf colors, and mature sizes including some flowering and non flowering will add to the attractiveness of the pond.   I like the look of a few reed or grassy type plants around water features.
Check the tag for the mature size of the plants so they will be in proportion to your pond.

I chose a brunnera, dwarf mugo pine, spiderwort, sweet woodruff, elfin thyme, creeping veronicas, blue star creeper, fern, forget-me-not, wintergreen, columbine, camas, dwarf boxwood, coral bells (Heuchera), violets, and Irish moss.  On the sunnier side I have Siberian Iris,  a low growing dianthus, creeping thyme, and wooly thyme.   Some types of ornamental grasses, scotch moss, and hostas would also have been good choices.
The creeping plants will fill in around the edges and hide the edges of the landscape fabric.
If your pond will be filling with water be sure that the plants you are using can handle the moisture.

If you do want your pond to fill with water I would recommend using Mosquito Dunks near the edge to prevent mosquito breeding.  Stick something through the center hole to fasten it near the edge under a plant or rock.  Mosquito Dunks contain a bacteria that is only harmful to mosquito larvae.

I have drip irrigation line around my pond which will be covered with bark for now and plants as they fill in.

Step 8: Maintenance

Maintaining this dry pond is much easier than a water filled pond.  Mine is under trees and quickly fills with leaves in the fall or after a wind.  I just use a broom to gently sweep out the leaves. 
This photo was taken before cleaning.

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    3 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Great DIY! Thank u!

    Hey that looks great. I have a small pond base that was in the house(yard) when we arrived.10 years ago, I am in the process of prettying it up. I want water and plants, no fish.So hope it pans out as good as your idea.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    It would be trivial to incorporate this idea into a larger swale.