BY: Aquascape

Whether you’re installing a small residential water garden, or a larger one for a commercial project, be sure to include ledges along the perimeter during the excavation process. If someone were to accidentally or purposefully walk into the ponds, you want to avoid a dangerous drop-off. Ledges act as a safe staircase as opposed to a slippery slope. They also add strength and stability to the pond. Terracing is much more stable and less likely to collapse than a steep, tall wall.

Excavating Pond Ledges in an Aquascape Pond

In addition, ledges provide aesthetic appeal. If you create a proper ecosystem pond, the water will be clear and the pond floor is visible. Ledges provide layers and contours, adding interest to the pond’s interior. Pond ledges also provide shelves for aquatic plants; different ledge depths are perfect for planting the many different species that are available:

  • Marginals, for example, require a water depth from one to 12 inches, depending on the type of plant. In general, however, we recommend setting a shelf at 10 inches to take care of most plants in this category.
  • Water lilies thrive in between 12 and 36 inches of water. You can’t go shallower: Even hardy water lilies planted in less than 12 inches of water may not survive over winter.
  • Oxygenators (including Anacharis, Hornwort or Cabomba) also prefer being planted in 12 inches to 36 inches of water.

Aquascape Ecosystem Pond with Plants

The first pond ledge is typically 6 to 10 inches deep and should be dug around the perimeter of the entire pond. Remember, this ledge should be covered in gravel, so a ledge that is six inches deep will become a ledge that’s four inches deep after the gravel is installed. Ledges can vary according to their usage, but they do not have to be perfect. The goal when creating a pond is to copy nature, and natural ponds don’t have perfectly level or symmetrical ledges graduating towards the bottom of the pond. When the first ledge is completed, you can mark out the next area to be excavated.

Remember that the vertical walls of the ledges will be covered with boulders or larger rocks and the flat areas will be covered in gravel. If you will be using all hand-placed stones, make sure you keep your ledges to a maximum of 12 inches tall; otherwise you’ll be stacking multiple rocks on top of each other which will increase the allotted amount of time for stone placement. Ideally, use one or two rocks to cover the vertical walls. If you have equipment on site you’ll have more freedom to use larger boulders to create deeper ponds with taller vertical walls.

The width of the ledges should also vary according to the pond design. Aim to use narrow ledges of 6″-10″ wide in the foreground, and wider ledges 16″-24″ in the background. The reasoning behind it is simple; the foreground area (adjacent to patio/viewing areas) is the area where your clients will be feeding and viewing their fish. This allows ample space for the fish to get up close to their owners.

The background area is the zone where the pond will transition into the surrounding landscape; the wide shallow ledges are perfect for mass plantings of aquatic plants to help with this transition.

As you plan your excavation, always keep primary viewing locations in mind. you might consider eliminating a portion of the near-side planting area altogether. Instead, create an edge where the pond meets up with a hardscape or formal viewing area. Providing a deeper section of plant-free water here will allow fish to come to the side of the pond and greet the owner for feeding.

Pond ledges go a long way to beautifying a pond and shouldn’t be overlooked. In addition, shelves create strength and stability, creating a safer environment for your customers.

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Author: Bobby Kenyon
Bobby Kenyon is the Creative Solutions Guru for C.E. Pontz Sons who has over a decade plus experience in the Landscape & Water Garden industry . He enjoys long walks on the beach and grocery shopping but has a strong dislike for regular cake and off brand paper towels

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