What can you do with an empty backyard?

|December 19, 2022
What can you do with an empty backyard

One of the most daunting prospects any homeowner faces is the blank slate – a totally empty backyard. It doesn’t matter whether the space is large or small, the same conundrums still confront, where to start, what to include, and how to plan it all. 


As they say, every journey begins with the first step and adding a pond or water feature can be a fantastic starting point. It will become a focal point to shape other garden areas around. Here are our top backyard pond ideas to get you inspired!


Pond or water feature. What’s the difference?


As much as these two phrases are often used interchangeably there are distinct differences between the two and it’s worth knowing this to help you decide which is right for your home. Perhaps first understand that it’s fair to say that all ponds are water features but not all water features are ponds.

  1. A pond is a water feature where the design emphasis, aesthetic, visual and functional, is on the body of water itself – the pond. That doesn’t mean it’s simply a still pool of water. A pond should include elements such as a fountain or cascade run by a quality pump and then plants. When they are added the pond becomes an extension of garden areas, literally a water garden.

  2. A water feature is one where it’s all about how the water is moving and what it is moving through or over. The actual pond component may be downplayed or be all but concealed. So think features such as a large ornate fountain in a small formal pond or a perpetually overflowing pot where water seemingly comes from nowhere and is never-ending. 

You can, of course, have a water feature that is a hybrid of these two – a feature standing in a pond for example. The bottom line is there are no hard and fast rules. It is about what works for your design ideas, space and lifestyle.


Getting started – backyard pond ideas.


The first step is to decide what sort of look you want and how much space you want to dedicate to your pond or water feature. Both are very much a matter of personal taste but something worth bearing in mind is the maintenance involved in looking after a pond or water feature is a lot lower every month than in a typical garden or lawn area. So if you want to relax in your garden rather than be working on it then a pond or water feature is a smart choice.

  • The natural look – This could involve the use of a preformed pond with a rock-like finish or a pond created with flexible liner and the edges are then dressed with natural stone and stone and pebbles are added to the bed.


  • The formal look – Clean, crisp geometric lines and shapes. This may be a square, rectangular or circular preformed pond where the shape is emphasised by adding dressed stone or paver edging. Flexible liner can be used to create formal looks on a larger scale too.


  • The designer look – Here your pond or feature becomes something more like an architectural element. Components such as a waterwall diffuser and spillway are built-in to function as a feature and feed the pond creating a serious impact. Add some underwater lighting beneath the spillway and you’ve nailed it!


  • The eclectic look – With enough ingenuity and the right pumps and fittings just about anything can be converted to function as a water feature or fountain spout of spitter. Take this pathway and you’ll be creating a look that is uniquely yours.


  • The pond-in-a-pot – Often thought of as a small-space solution these type of features can be quite at home in larger garden or on the deck. Simply, a pot that’s either water-proof or has been suitably sealed becomes a reservoir, a pond in miniature, and then by adding a pump and a fountain or spout of your choice you have a unique self-contained water feature. If you are renting, this is a great way to have a water feature that can easily move with you too.


So what parts do I actually need?


Put simply a pond or water feature has three main parts;

  • The reservoir. That’s the actual pond part where the bulk of the water will be. Preformed poly pond liners or rock look ponds are the simplest way to create the reservoir. For larger or more freeform ponds then your best choice will be flexible pond liner.


  • The pump. This is an essential part of ponds and water features of every size. A pump keeps water circulating and healthy. It helps keep water clear and gives your pond water that gorgeous sparkle. It’s also a must if you have plants or fish as it will help to oxygenate the water. And that moving water will make sure you never have mosquito problems!


  • The spout or fountain or another outlet. You might just use the daisy or bell fountain kit that came with your pump or run the pump output, using kink-proof heavy-duty ribbed hose, to a spitter, cascade or another element that suits your look. 


Beyond this, you get into the designer and decorator elements such as stone, plants and more advanced extras such as lighting and external filtration units. This helps to bring all of your backyard pond ideas to life!


Above ground or below?


As a rule, we think of ponds or features as pretty much being in the ground however many features, especially formal styles, can work very well if partially or fully above ground. This could in fact suit your situation as you may not want to be excavating. It also means that you can add a pond or water feature to paved areas or up against a wall where you don’t want to be disturbing footings and structural support. 


From a design perspective, an above-ground pond or water feature adds extra dimensions, volume and texture to a garden space. 


Many preformed poly ponds are suitably rigid for above-ground use however most often they would be given some degree of support such as a timber frame surround or a low block or brick wall.


You can also have your pond half-and-half. Partially in-ground on a flat area or on a sloping site one end may be in the ground while the other is above.


I’m a DIY and gardening novice. How hard is this going to be?


Thanks to the fantastic online resources for backyard pond ideas, the ease of selecting from the huge range of quality products and the fact that the vast majority of the components are effectively plug-and-play, it couldn’t be easier. You may find the hardest part is deciding on your look! 

Build Your Pond has many more inspiring backyard pond ideas to spark creativity and show you how to liven your small or large space.

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