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Front garden lily pond in full bloom in summer - Lily Nymphaea 'James Brydon'
The lily pond in full bloom

- summer

You've completed your preparations so let's proceed to the next stage of the project - excavating your cottage garden pond.

Work Plan

  1. Excavate the soil: Let's dig a hole -
    1. Lay the two long planks over the plant shelf areas on either side of the hole you are about to dig - you'll be able to climb in and out as the hole gets deeper without damaging the newly excavated sides of the pond;Digging 1 - two work planks
    2. Start digging the hole with the spade inside the second planting level you marked out (or first level if you only plan one);
    3. Dig the hole at a slight angle - say 30° - till you reach a depth of 100 / 110 cm (3¼ / 3½ feet).Digging 2 - 30° slope
      Why 30°?
      If you dig straight down - 90° - and come across a bad patch of rubbish, how do you think you'll clear it without damaging the side of the pond?
      By digging at a slight angle you can remove any rubbish you find without running the risk of damaging the pond wall(s).
      It's happened to us once in the past and as the saying goes: Once is definitely enough - never again!
    4. As you dig, remove any sharp objects, old roots, stones, etc. that you come across, using a separate bin liner by type of rubbish for pre-sorted rubbish removal and/or recycling in the garden;
    5. Tips:
      1. If you want a hill next to your pond, start by throwing the earth as far from you as possible - as you dig steadily deeper, you'll automatically throw the soil closer to your digging point and you'll only need to rake it a little to get the right shape;
      2. If you don't want a hill next to your pond, place the wheelbarrow close at hand, fill it up with your spade, transport it to where you want to use the soil, dump it there and carry on digging;
      3. If you strike problem clumps - lots of stones, glass, old coal chute (found one here too, hell of a mess to clear out) while using the spade, use the pitchfork to break them up and remove the ALL the rubble.
    6. Once you arrive at the correct depth - 100 / 110 cm (3¼ / 3½ feet):;Digging - 5° incline

      Digging - clear two plant shelves

      Digging - clear one plant shelf
      1. Carefully clear away most of the 30° slope, leaving a gentle incline of roughly 5°.
      2. NB: Skip this stage if you only plan one plant shelf.
        Dig out the second planting shelf at a depth of 50 cm (18 inches) inside the boundary of the first plant shelf without disturbing it's soil and go to the next step;
      3. Remove the earth to a depth of 30 cm (1 foot 3 inches) within the area designated for the first plant shelf;
      4. While shaping the plant shelves, you'll have dropped some earth in the bottom of the hole - remove it now;
      5. Very important 1: Check that ALL pointed objects, roots, twigs and any other rubbish has been removed - this is your last chance and you don't want next winter's frost in the ground pushing up ma sharp stone through the bottom of your lovely new pond, do you?
      6. Very important 2: Check that ALL flat surfaces are horizontal with the spirit level - nothing more disturbing to the eye than a pond where one side is higher or lower than the other sides and this is your final opportunity to get all flat surfaces perfectly level.
      7. Done! No more digging and scraping!

Right, that's the hole dug out!

Let's go to the final stage and construct the pond! - a Gardener's Practical Guide to Natural Cottage Gardening

Gardening Guide

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