Turn A Garden Bed Into A Rock Pool

  • Turn A Garden Bed Into A Rock Pool, After
  • Turn A Garden Bed Into A Rock Pool, Before

In this project we show you how to turn a dried out garden bed into a lush, spring-fed rock pool. 

Build an eye-catching, yet serene, artesian-style water feature for your garden in just a weekend. 

This pond was designed to mimic a small bush waterfall. It has two large feature stones with 16mm holes drilled right through them to allow water from the pump to spill through. The water then flows over the stones, trickling down to the pool below. 

Two large lidded buckets and a pebble-filled reservoir collect the cascade of water for reticulation. 

Since no sunlight can reach the reservoir and support the growth of algae, the water stays clear. Using buckets also reduces the amount of pebbles required to fill the reservoir.

For nighttime ambience, position underwater lights among the pond pebbles to illuminate the miniature waterfall from below. We used a pack of three Aquapro underwater lights, costing about $60. 

Planning the pond  

Select a shaded, protected location such as under a deck. Dig a water catchment hole deep enough to conceal the buckets you choose for the reservoir, and with an edge beam on which to place the perimeter stones. 

Use buckets big enough to provide a reasonably large volume of water and a protected location for the pump. Elevate the pump bucket so the lid is just below the surface for easy access.

For the perimeter and fountain stones, visit your local landscape centre. We chose sandstone, a soft sedimentary rock that’s easy to shape and drill, because of its natural look. 

Choose stone with a basin-like shape if your want the water to seem as though it is gurgling up from a spring in the ground. 

Select stone that’s less than 200mm thick at the fountain hole position if you’re going to drill the holes yourself, otherwise you’ll have to buy extra-long drill bits. 

The types of stone available will vary according to your location.

TIP Our hole was about 600mm deep and housed two 20 litre buckets. 

Cutting and drilling stone 

To achieve a natural look some shaping of the stones will be required so they fit together, and holes for the pump tubing need to be drilled.

TIP Don’t force the drill, just apply consistent pressure and let the percussive action do the work.

Step 1. Cut the stone  

Cut the stone to size or shape using an angle grinder with a segmented diamond blade, continuing the cut around all sides of the stone if possible.

use an angle grinder to cut stone, handyman magazine,

Step 2. Finish the cut  

Finish the cut with a bolster and lump hammer. Move the bolster along the cut line, tapping with the hammer using increasing force until the stone breaks.

finish cutting a stone with a bolster and lump hammer, handyman magazine,

Step 3. Make a hole  

Make a hole using the hammer function on an SDS rotary hammer drill and a 16mm masonry bit. Pull the bit out regularly to clear the hole of waste and check the tubing fits.

make a hole in stone using a rotary hammer, handyman magazine,

Connect the pump 

This spring uses a mains-powered Aquapro pump, $40, with a flow rate of 1050 litres per hour and head operating height of 1200mm. 

It’s connected to 12mm anti-kink tubing, $10 for 3m, that is run through the holes drilled in the stones, with a T connector directing the stream two ways.

Have a weatherproof power point installed for the pump. The power supply must be connected to a residual-current device (RCD) and properly grounded.


Easy-install waterfall diagram
Use this diagram to build your own easy-install waterfall 

How to install a waterfall 

Step 1. Excavate the hole

Select an area with no more than 50mm of fall over the length and width of the water feature. Dig the reservoir hole about 150mm deeper than the bucket height, using a straightedge across the hole to measure the depth.

Step 2. Prepare the buckets

Drill six columns of four 10mm diameter holes around each bucket then secure the lids. Cut the rim off the pump bucket to make access to the pump easier and cut out a 40 x 40mm notch at the top for the pump tubing and electrical cable.

Step 3. Position the liner

To prevent potential damage to the pond liner, cut off tree roots and remove sharp stones then position old carpet as padding. Unfold and install the pond liner material, pushing it carefully into all corners and folding neatly where needed.

Step 4. Add buckets and gravel

Position the buckets raising the pump bucket to about 50mm below surface level. Backfill around the buckets using large pebbles or use 20mm recycled concrete aggregate that has had all sharp edges removed during the crushing process.

Step 5. Bed perimeter stones

Arrange the perimeter stones to resemble a natural formation then mix mortar in a wheelbarrow to a creamy consistency. Lay a 20mm thick bed around the perimeter using a trowel, ease the stones gently into position and fill the joints with mortar.

Step 6. Connect the pump

Attach the anti-kink tubing to the pump and clamp in position. Lower the pump into the bucket, fill with water and run the tubing to the position of the feature stones. Cut the tubing, using a T connector to split the stream to the two rocks.

Step 7. Add feature stones

Drill holes through the feature stones. Run the tubing and position the stones for best runoff, adjusting them to achieve the desired waterfall effect. Remove the stones, lay a mortar bed and replace the stones, feeding the tubing through the holes.

Step 8. Seal the tubing

Apply a bead of wet-area silicone between the tubing and stone at the exit point of the tubing. Leave it to set then test-run the pump, adjusting the flow control for the optimal waterfall effect. Cover the pump bucket with extra pebbles and add feature plants.

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