Down to the subsoil

After procrastinating – well, waiting for the rain to stop – I finally got down to making a hole for the pond.

As you can see, it’s not terribly deep. In fact, it is less than a spade in depth. However, the subsoil is like rock, so I’m pondering whether to leave the hole as it is, rather than damage my back trying to go any deeper.

Any thoughts on this matter would be much appreciated.

About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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26 Responses to Down to the subsoil

  1. Tabula Rasa says:

    How about a raised pond?

  2. Under my thin soil are compacted rock from when we had the terracing done. I have dug out the soil, levered out as many rocks as I can with a crowbar and am now planning to use those rocks to build a low wall round the pond before lining it. Very fiddly and hard work but the only way to get any depth.

  3. We inherited various small ponds made from old cisterns and suchlike – sunk in a few inches of soil

  4. Oh I missed this post… If you’re hitting rock, especially where you can’t get a machine in, a raised pond is a brilliant idea (as Tabula pointed out). If you want a formal square pond, the sleepers are a good idea. If you want a more natural-like look, I would look at creating the raised edge with rocks and the ground you dug up.
    I would say the deeper the better (unless you have safety concerns like for a baby – but they row up so fast anyway…) Deeper water keeps it temperature better, evaporates less, creates a more stable environment, and so on.
    Just take note of what you want to do on the inside and on the edges – if you want to hide the liner. You’ll be surprised at how much “water space” a layer of pebbles or rocks take up. And smooth pebbles don’t stack up and over a too steep edge either – they slip down into the pond (we learnt that the hard way…)

    • Helen says:

      Thanks, Martin, for sharing your experiences. Fortunately, the subsoil is actually some kind of soil. It looks to me like clay but I’m not sure after my various investigations. However, it is extremely compacted.
      The goodness is that the pond is meant for wildlife rather than being formal with straight sides or for fish.

  5. hello Helen,
    the subsoil in some parts of my garden are made up of stones and compacted yellowish soil (clay?), it is very hard but I have managed to get down into it in places, I have found going over it with a strong pronged fork, pushing the fork down a bit then twisting it, it just loosens the compacted soil a bit, I have gone in with the crowbar and the medium to large stones are use and the small stuff has been used for the base of paths,
    a raised pond is what I am planning to as I will not be able to get down the minimal 60cms, I’ve read and heard about, I do not have TV, I have the DVD for the garden revival series and in the Ponds episode Charlie Dimmock demonstrates how to make a pond with sleepers and includes a bog garden one end of it, she only uses one sleeper high, but I’m sure it would work with 2 if needed, oh, and it is a wildlife pond, that’s why I remember it as I want a pond for wildlife,

    • Helen says:

      Hello Frances, I saw on the RHS website that a depth of 20 cm minimum for a wildlife pond was acceptable: So perhaps you don’t need to do anymore digging?

      • thanks Helen,
        I have heard and read that the deeper you can go the better for wildlife, one of the dangers of a shallow pond is that it can freeze solid in winter and so kill all pond life in it, the best to be sure to give wildlife in a pond a chance is 90cm then the bottom of the pond is apparently stable, not too hot in summer or too cold in winter,
        where I live the weather would not get too hot in summer but the way things are going in the future it could get too cold in winter, I have frogs around in the garden and I would love to find frog spawn in my pond and I would not want to risk it freezing in winter,
        so it really depends what it is for, 20cm would be a nice wild bird bath but if it froze then any wee creatures or eggs would die,

        • Helen says:

          Yes, definitely deeper is better. I’m therefore going to dig down a bit more, if I can. But I’m not sure I have the will to go too deep – plus, so close to my house, I might come across pipes I wouldn’t want to disturb.
          Heat is actually more of a concern than the cold in my garden but the new fence with the shade it creates will hopefully mitigate some of the worst of that!

          • hello, yes, posting at the same time, it was heat I was thinking of for where you are, if you are worried about going down building up is the way to go, imo it sounds easier too 🙂

          • Helen says:

            Yes, I see. The evaporation will definitely be more of an issue. However, I want the soil I’m taking out to be used elsewhere in the garden, with my soil being so thin. In other words, though it might be more hard work, going down is my preferred option.

      • hello again Helen,
        I just checked out your link, thank you, did you scroll down the page? the full advice is:
        >>In general, the larger the pond the more wildlife you can expect to attract. A depth of 20-60cm (8in-2ft) varied across the pond will suit the majority of pond flora and fauna <>It’s a good idea to have some water of more than 60 cm deep, so it doesn’t freeze over completely in the winter. <<

        sorry to be the bringer of bad news but I thought it is better to know and decide what to do while constructing the pond than to find out these things after the pond is installed,

        • Helen says:

          Thank you, Frances. You must have been writing at the same time as me 😊

        • hmm, I see the paragraph with a link to a RSPB page has been removed from my comment, I’m not surprised the link has gone but I am surprised wordpress has remove the paragraph, anyway, if you are interested: follow the links – /gardening-for-wildlife/water-for-wildlife/planning-a-pond/
          and it says, second bullet point down: >> It’s a good idea to have some water of more than 60 cm deep, so it doesn’t freeze over completely in the winter.<<

          • Helen says:

            Mm, strange that WP would take out a link! Anyway, thank you for it – I have just taken a look at the RSPB site. My pond is extremely unlikely to have more than a thin layer of ice on the top – something I have noticed from the ponds in the country park just by my house. So, I think I’ll be able to do with less, if I need to. Anyway, over the weekend, I’ll see what I can do in the digging department.

          • think about how large the ponds are in the country park, and how deep they are, I have left a large bowl of water in my garden to see how it is during the winter, the smaller the amount of water the quicker it warms up or freezes,

          • Helen says:

            Actually, yes, that’s a good point! From what I can see, they’re not that deep, but there may be parts which are deeper than I can see.

  6. skyeent says:

    I would try and go a bit deeper if you can to stop it freezing solid. Have you a pick or metal spike you can borrow (or a friend with a bit of muscle a a penchant for cake say)? If you can loosen the rock with a spike and a hammer that will help. You wouldn’t need all the pond to be that deep, as long as you have a fexible liner. Too much of a step at the edges and some wildlife won’t get it, or out.

    • Helen says:

      Thanks your suggestions, Nancy. I don’t have a pick/spike or a friend close by who I could borrow from, but I don’t think it’s rock, fortunately 😊 A screwdriver might help to loosen the soil, though.

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