How Can I Improve My Water Feature?

by Ben Bowen

If you have a water feature built in the last 10-15 years (during the water feature bubble) there is about a 90% chance that it needs some help.  It's probably not your fault.

As the pond and water feature market started to heat up everyone and there mother decided to build them. They may have only taken a weekend course at a supplier or watched a couple of videos, but they were ready to create "amazing" koi ponds!

Not all of those ponds are great.

Now you are ready to fix it. Let's bring that water feature up to snuff. What can you do to improve an existing water feature?

First, decide if the water feature is worth improving.

Does it leak? Is it always green? Has a professional told you it was poorly built? If so it may be wise to spend resources on your feature. There a times when I have to tell a potential client that I can not fix their water feature. Not because I don't know what's wrong, but because they have something so fundamentally flawed that it doesn't make sense.

Let's assume that your pond is basically sound- just ugly. What now? 

How To Improve An Existing Water Feature:

  • Plants. Without plants most streams look like a pile of rocks. Plants soften the stones and naturalize your feature. The plants in and around the pond are a transition to the rest of your softscape. Have small pockets between rocks along the stream? Cram an ornamental grass or fern in there! Focus on plants that look like the varieties we naturally find by bodies of water.
  • Small Rock. If your stream and pond edge are finished with river rock you can probably see the liner underneath. Get a few bags of small rock- like drain rock or pea gravel- and cover those spots. Use it judiciously along the edges and in the bottom of the stream. Did you just plant a grass by the stream? Cover the base of it with rock. Get that liner covered and add variety and texture with this simple solution.
  • Big Rock. Many water features look like a pile of rocks- all the same size. Adding a couple larger rocks around your water feature can help. How large? As large as you and your buddies can move! Just be aware of the pond liner. And don't squash yourself.
  • Soil. Yep, dirt may be what you need. If you have more than enough rock, but still have liner showing, use soil or bark dust to cover it.
  • More Water! A stream that looks kind of blah at 3000 gph (gallons per hour) might look great at 5500 gph. Increased water flow can make your falls robust and interesting. But, if your stream can't handle more water you will just be sending it into the landscape. Consider this one carefully.

Whatever you do, don't try to add on a new stream or fall to your water feature. It is really difficult to scab a fresh element on to an existing feature. Most likely it will still look bad, just bigger. And it will leak. And it won't match. And then we will have an awkward consultation.

If you have a pond that needs help- don't despair. You can greatly improve with simple materials and your bare hands. Sounds like a good summer project, right?

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