To Dig or Not To Dig

Adding water into a garden needs to be planned carefully before any work is started. Friends of mine, Julie and Brian, newly wed, had moved into a new home and were just starting to landscape their garden. A neighbor also starting to landscape, had hired the services of a Bobcat, and Brian asked the driver if he had the time to dig a hole for him in his back yard. Although Brian had no plan, the driver obliged, and proceeded to dig a very large and deep hole, ready for Brian's (spur of the moment idea) pond. The back yard was filled with the huge piles of soil that had been removed, but Brian was happy. The hole had been dug, and all he had to do was add a liner, some rocks, and a lovely little waterfall. Ummm …

It was raining the night Julie called and invited me to stay with them the following weekend, and it was raining again during the long drive to their home.
As I dug toward their house, I noticed the neat lawn and new garden beds in the front garden, and congratulated them both on a job well done.

I was then taken to see the pond area.

Shock was quickly followed by concern. I turned to Julie, and saw that she was close to tears, so I said nothing.

The hole in the ground was surrounded by mesh and rope, and the rest of the yard was a lake of mud, caused by the laundry washing down from the loosely packed piles. The hastily added stepping stones leading to the shed were covered in a thick layer of mud, and it was only the beginning of Autumn. But, the bigger shock was the size of the hole. It seemed to fill the entire backyard, and the edge of it was so close to the back door it made the un-nerving feeling that you were about to fall in.

Over lunch they told me the rest of the story. Following the hurried digging of the 'hole' Brian had measured up the entire area eager to start pricing up everything he needed to finish his water feature. As far as I can tell, he did not get far past the liner and rocks before realizing how much this feature was going to cost. Everything was put on hold.

I was asked for advice, and that afternoon I borrowed some rubber boots, and trudged ankle deep in mud around their backyard, trying to assess the situation.

During that weekend I prepared two totally different landscape designs for my friends. Both included a smaller water feature, and recommended that most of the huge hole be filled in. Julie liked the designs, but Brian refused to even consider filling in the hole. I left the designs with him, as well as a list of cost estimates for him to complete the existing hole into a 'water feature', and some of the problems he needed to be aware of.

Eight months later the hole in the ground is still just a hole in the ground.

Brian however, is now considering filling it in, and using one of the designs to create a low maintenance garden.

Both Julie and Brian cave me permission to write this, Julie especially, as she hopes that in telling, she may prevent other wives from;

1. Having to put on rubber boots and paddle around in mud every time they have to hang out the washing.


2. Having to bath the dog each time he sneaks out the door and enjoys a romp in the backyard.


3. The continual frustration of having to mop floors every time some one is brave enough to vent into their mud pit.

Installing a SMALL pool is probably the easiest solution for new gardeners, wanting to introduce water into the landscape. Large, overwhelming features will cause a small backyard to appear even smaller. Your pool can either be formal or informal in design depending upon the style of the garden, and although the actual construction is quite straightforward, you will need some understanding of water flow, laying underground piping and electrical cables. For first time pool builders, consultation with a water garden professional could help you avoid costly mistakes, as well as giving you access to new and cost saving techniques and materials.

Many of the most successful gardens incorporate a pool, fountain, stream, or waterfall. The sound of moving water adds extra dimension to the garden and provides the perfect backdrop for many species of plants that thrive near water. Even a small pool will create visual interest, and can be used for keeping fish or growing aquatic plants.

All the best, and happy gardening,