I’ve always loved water. Whether it’s camping by the river or spending a small fortune to buy a home in a beach community, I find that my mind and soul are more at peace when I’m near the sound of moving water. Even as I write this, I am sitting on the sand at my neighborhood beach enjoying the ocean breeze and sound of the surf.
So, I wanted to find a way to bring the sound of water to my own backyard. I love water features, but always thought the whole mechanical/plumbing/electrical components would be beyond my skill set. Friends of mine have lovely fountains and ponds, but when I asked them for advice, they all said their hubbies did the mechanical part and the heavy lifting – their jobs were primarily design and planting. So, I thought I might have to wait to have a man in my life before I could build one, too.
Boy, was I wrong! Have I learned nothing from writing this blog and hosting this series?!? A little research, a little reading, and a whole lotta trial and error, and I was able to install what I think is a kick-ass water feature in my backyard all by myself. Now I can hear the soothing sounds of water anytime I want. Here’s how I did it.
First I laid out the approximate area of my planter/fountain area. I’m a visual person, so number measurements are helpful, but I can’t really tell if I’ll like something until I see it. I placed my fountain in the center to make sure there was enough of a “splash zone” around its base, added a PVC pipe to house the pump’s electrical cord, and stepped back to look at the skeleton to make sure I liked it enough to make it all permanent.
I used a galvanized metal tub as a water basin. Galvanized metal does not rust as fast as other metals. I could also have used a plastic or composite basin, or lined a basin with heavy-duty pond liner. But I knew my fountain was very heavy, and needed the sturdiness of the metal to hold its weight.
I purchased a TotalPond submersible pump. Pond/fountain pumps are usually rated by pumping height – how much water they can pump vertically. The height of my fountain, plus the depth of the water basin, was a total of 4 feet. So I purchased a pump that was rated up to 5 feet vertical pump capacity. I placed the pump in the bottom of the basin, and let the cord hang over its edge. Later, I will add supports to the top of this basin which will protect the cord and keep it from getting squished. If you are not building your fountain with the same kind of supports, you may need to cut a notch in your basin to provide a place for the cord to rest without getting squished.
I added heavy-duty metal supports to the top of the basin. These will hold the weight of my fountain. They also provide a little space for the pump’s electrical cord. I drilled holes in the side of the basin, and secured the supports to the basin with a heavy-gauge wire so they won’t slide or shift.
I covered the whole contraption with some sturdy metal mesh. This will hold the decorative rocks, so you can’t see into the basin, but will allow the water to flow back into the reservoir. Be sure you cut a trap door in the mesh so you can service the pump whenever needed.
I placed my fountain on its supports, then attached the fountain’s tubing to the pump. The pump came with adapters to fit a variety of standard fountain tubing. Also, I threaded the power cord through the PVC pipe. (I don’t have a picture of this step, so you’ll have to use your imagination here.) The pump is designed to go outside, so I knew the power cord would be OK exposed to the elements. But I wanted to protect it as much as possible, and also prevent it from becoming a trip hazard.
Finally it was time to test the whole contraption to make sure it worked. And it did! I had to do some adjusting to get the fountain flow to the level I wanted, but other than that, it worked like a dream.
Once I was satisfied with the flow rate, and the fact that the fountain and basin were both secure and not easily tipped over, it was time to make the planter permanent. I used construction adhesive to secure the paving stones to each other. Since this is not a true retaining wall, and is not tall enough to be a bench, I didn’t worry about using larger blocks. The lower level is only 8 inches high, and the top tier is only about 12 inches high, and they only needed to be strong enough to hold the planter soil, so I used inexpensive pavers and bricks.
I surrounded the planter with decorative gravel, which covered the electrical cord inside the PVC pipe. I then planted flowers, added some solar lights and drip irrigation, and voila! A beautiful planter and fountain that will provide me with years of blissful enjoyment.
Here is the finished product…