Jeremy Gay creates a kit pond that represents the essence of sunny days and total relaxation. Follow his step-by-step guide to setting one up in under an hour!
Summer time always makes me think of ponds, water gardening — and barbeques of course — and you can’t beat being outside in the sun watching and listening to moving water.
So when Blagdon launched its new Affinity range of feature pools we liked them so much that we set one up.
Mention the words water feature and we all think back to the days of Ground Force with Charlie Dimmock on TV, featuring the ubiquitous pebble pool in almost every programme. Judging by what’s emerged from Blagdon, water features have come a long way since then.
Ideal for fish
These new pools look good, are made from quality materials and, importantly for the PFK reader, you can sensibly keep fish in them.
The problem with keeping a few token goldfish in most sinks or half barrels is that they are too small and won’t really provide an adequate home over winter.
Blagdon says the new Affinity Octagon model we set up holds nearly 500 l/110 gal of water. That’s easily enough to house goldfish and goldfish varieties long term, and, what’s more, it comes with a quality pump with loads of mechanical and biological filter media to boot. This pool definitely earned our full attention!
It’s only when you actually set the thing up that you realise that even more design and technology has gone into it. There are adjustable feet, construction is sturdy and it looks good.
When he isn’t photographing fish Neil Hepworth is taking shots of award-winning gardens at Chelsea for the Royal Horticultural Society and he and I were both eyeing up this pool as a potential purchase for our gardens, to position between our Hosta, bamboos and tree ferns.
Setting up any outdoor pond or water feature is normally a lengthy chore, yet this one was done, from start to finish, in around one hour — and that includes getting everything photographed too. There was no digging, so no backache. Hallelujah! It was so very easy to assemble — and involved no guesswork either.
If I was going to assemble something similar from railway sleepers I would need to cut the timber, calculate the pond liner, buy more liner than needed, fit it, fold it, cut it, select a pump and filter – the list goes on…
These instructions just told me to “assemble panels A and B…place liner inside…fill.” I didn’t even break into a sweat and had the rest of the sunny day to admire my great new creation.
So what’s the catch? Genuinely, there isn’t one. I was a bit dubious about the windows at first, yet once set up you get a view of your pond and its wildlife that you wouldn’t otherwise have, so I liked that too. Happy days!
How to build your pond
1. Everything you’ll need comes included – even a screwdriver. Just add water and any livestock that you want to include. Lay all the bits out so you can familiarise yourself with what goes where.
2. Pre-cut underlay goes down first, helping to protect the liner from sharp objects underneath, although this liner is tough anyway. Choose a flat area of the garden with access to power point and lay it down.
3. Being octagonal this pool comes with eight connectable panels. Screws and brackets are provided, so just fix panel A to B to A and so on. There are three panels with windows to position near the front.
4. One of the best features must be the pre-cut, pre-shaped liner. No calculations, no folds, no off-cuts. Just put it in, fasten it to the panels and you’ve saved yourself hours.
5. The pump comes with filter, light, fountainheads and optional UVC upgrade. Assemble the fountain stem, adjusting the height. You’ll want the fountainhead to stand a few inches above the water.
6. Thread the power cable from the pump between liner and outer panels, feeding it out at the rear, at the bottom. The cable is easily long enough, but the Powersafe extension range is fully compatible.
7. The kit comes with a handy planting basket, which will hold marginals at the surface, where they need to be. Again it can be fastened to the outer panels using a brace and screws supplied
8. Fill the pond with water from the hosepipe. It only takes about ten minutes on average to complete the job and by using a hose you will save yourself any unnecessary backache. Dechlorinate with the bottle of Blagdon Bioactive TapSafe supplied with the kit. This will neutralise any chlorine or chloramine in the tapwater, making it perfectly safe for your fish and visiting wildlife.
9. I’ve chosen the adjustable bell jet fountainhead. After filling check the pump is working and adjust the size and shape of the bell by twisting the top. Turn it off first so you don’t get wet!
10. The first plants go in. I spent £45 on a mix of oxygenators, marginal and deepwater plants. Bunched oxygenators can be dropped in and don’t need to be potted up. Lilies and marginal are next.
11. The volume of this water feature means that it is large enough to hold fish. I start by adding two small, hardy Common goldfish. Float the bag to equalise temperature and mature the filter first.
Costs at a glance
There are two Affinity pools in the range — the Octagon and Half moon. RRPs on both are £399.99.
I spent £45 on pond plants, a good £20 of which was on a nice water lily.
Two Common goldfish or two Comets will set you back about £5.
Plant heavily to avoid algae problems early on and you may want to invest a further £49.99 on the UVC upgrade if the pool is situated in full sun.
Potential outlay: £499.98
In-pond All-in-One pump and filter
LED 0.76 700ltr/hr 154 gal/hr
1.25m (4’1”) max head
10m/33’ low voltage cable
3m/9.8’ HO 5 RN-F cable
Box dimensions: 66 x 44 x 51cm/26 x 17 x 20”
Box weight: 19kg/42lb
Pool dimensions: 60 x 100 x 100cm/ 24 x 40 x 40”
Volume: 492 l/108 gal
Affinity Half Moon
Box dimensions: 6 x 52 x 48cm/26 x 20 x 19”
Box weight: 20kg/44lb
Pool dimensions: 60 x 100 x 70cm/24 x 40 x 28”
Volume: 312 l/69 gal
Approximate build time: Less than one hour.
Fill time: 20-30 minutes average, depending on hose/water pressure.
Name: Common goldfish, (Carassius auratus)
Size: To more than 30cm/12” though usually smaller.
Diet: Algae, soft leaved plants, insect larvae and aquatic invertebrates, but you can just feed them pond sticks, flakes and pellets.
Pond size: As large as possible, with 500 l/110 gal being minimum volume for year-round outdoor care.
Sexing: Females become larger and fuller bodied with eggs. They can look lopsided from above too.
Males are slimmer and develop white dots (tubercles) on their gill covers and white ridges (breeding stars) on their pectoral fins.
Breeding: Males chase females into shallow water and soft leaved plants, where they release eggs and sperm.
Fry need to be fed newly hatched brineshrimp, or be left to their own devices in a mature pond.
Pond mates: Other goldfish varieties such as Comets and Shubunkins, and they will interbreed.
Name: Three-spined stickleback, (Gasterosteus aculeatus aculeatus)
Size: Up to 10cm/4” for males, but normally around half that.
Diet: Aquatic invertebrates, insects and, if you’re lucky, dry foods.
Pond size: About 150 l/ 33 gal upwards.
Sexing: Males become blue with a red breast and blue or green eyes. Females become fuller bodied with eggs.
Breeding: Fascinating breeding behaviour whereby the male becomes very colourful, territorial and builds a nest. The female is enticed into the nest where they spawn. The male then guards the young.
Pond mates: Best kept on its own and not with goldfish or any ornamental varieties.
Name: Elodea, Lagarosiphon and Egeria, curly pond weed, oxygenating plants.
Size: Starting as bunches of single cut stems they can grow several feet in length and usually form a large clump.
Care: Oxygenators need clear, filtered water to take advantage of bright sunlight. Lots of oxygenators help prevent algae and aid water quality, though too many do the reverse at night and consume oxygen. Keep half of the pond surface free of these at all times.
Feeding: Oxygenating plants can grow so quickly they benefit from plant food added to the water. A liquid food can be added weekly.
Pruning: Simply snap off the old, brown stem from the bottom up or use scissors. These hardy plants can be snipped and thrown back in.
Planting area: Anywhere in water up to 90cm/3’ deep, either weighted down or free floating. Potting is not necessary.
Name: Water lily, (Nymphaea spp.)
Size: From 50p-sized leaves and 30cm/12”spread, to more than a 180cm/72” spread with 30cm/12” diameter leaves.
Care: Most have leaves around 15cm/6” diameter and a total spread of about 90cm/36”, though many can grow much larger. There are four flower colours – yellow, white, pink and red — and, depending on species, leaf shape, leaf colour, flower shape and colour also varies greatly. All lilies must be planted in large pots, with plenty of soil, and at depths from 30cm/12” to more than 120cm/48”, depending on species.
Feeding: Water lilies are heavy root feeders, so use good quality aquatic soil and add fertiliser tablets. Use as large a pot as possible.
Pruning: When old leaves turn brown they should be removed at the base of the leaf stem. Large root masses can be divided with a knife and potted up.
Planting area: Usually in the deepest part of the pond, in the middle, and away from waterfalls and fountainheads.
Name: Water hawthorn, (Aponogeton distachyos)
Size: Usually 60cm/24” across and 60cm deep.
Care: Water hawthorn is classed as a deep water plant and should be treated the same way as a water lily. Pot it in a 2 l/3.5 pint pot and larger, in aquatic compost, and dress with lime-free gravel. Then plant 60cm/24” deep.
Feeding: This will feed through roots, via the soil. Fertiliser tablets can be added to the soil, or the plant can be repotted in new soil.
Pruning: This plant stays contained, although dead leaves should be removed at the base.
Planting area: Usually placed in the deepest part of a pond or pool, so 60cm/24” depth is about right.
Name: Water hyacinth, (Eichhornia crassipes)
Size: Up to about 30cm/12” across, but daughter plants will radiate outwards.
Care: A tropical floating plant, this will only survive in British ponds in the hottest summers. Despite this it’s popular for pond displays. Just drop it onto the surface to provide shade and spawning opportunities for egg-scattering fish.
Feeding: It takes nutrients through the floating roots, so a liquid fertiliser can be added directly to the water.
Pruning: Daughter plants can be separated, or over time will separate themselves and float off.
Name: Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
Size: To about 60cm/24” in height and spread.
Care: This native marginal should be planted in a large basket, on a shelf, with water to the top of the pot. It can tolerate shade or full sun.
Feeding: With leaves above the water line, just pot into a nutritious aquatic soil and occasionally offer fertiliser tablets.
Pruning: Doesn’t need much pruning, so just cut back in winter if any leaves start to die off.
Planting area: This should be placed on a shelf, in 15cm/6” of water.
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