How to Make a Small Waterfall

Bog plants will thrive in your homemade waterfall.
Bog plants will thrive in your homemade waterfall. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A small waterfall in a backyard can be an attractive addition that provides an interesting and relaxing focal point to even a very small yard. All of the supplies are inexpensive, and once you have all of them, a small waterfall project only takes an hour or two to complete. While waterfall kits limit the size of your waterfall, purchasing the elements separately allows you to make a deeper base, which benefits the plants and animals and reduces the likelihood of algae growth.

Things You'll Need

  • 20-gallon blue or black handled tub/muck bucket
  • Scissors
  • Shovel
  • 1 landscaping brick
  • Small watercourse piece
  • 1 small fountain pump
  • 3 feet of tubing in the diameter of your pump
  • 1 to 2 bags black mulch
  • Approximately 10 flagstones or other irregular flat paving stones
  • 2 small flat rocks, about 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • Hammer
  • Small potted plant and/or other heavy, flat-bottomed garden ornament
  • Small bottle of water decholorinator
  • Disposable plastic 1-gallon pot
  • Outdoor extension cord (if needed)

Choose a location for your waterfall. For this small one, it is easy to create a surrounding landscape if it is against a wall or fence. If you want to have water plants in it, which will help with algae, then you will want it in a fairly sunny place.

Cut each rope handle on your inexpensive tub through the middle and pull the ends out.

Dig a level hole that is slightly wider than the tub and place the tub in the hole. Backfill the hole around the tub so that the dirt is packed and exactly level with the rim.

About 6 inches to the right or left of the tub/hole, make sure the ground is packed firmly and place the landscaping brick lengthwise on the dirt. This will be a level base for the watercourse, which is the top layer of the waterfall.

Set the watercourse piece on top of the brick so that the spout end extends about 4 inches over the tub. Carefully and firmly pack dirt around the brick and bottom of the watercourse so that only the rim is showing in the side facing you -- away from the fence or wall. Only cover part of the spout underside and the back. Use enough to hold it in place but not so much so the dirt will be high or loose and erode easily from water splashed out from the waterfall or rain.

Cut open the fountain pump package. Attach the tubing. Fill the tub with water using a hose and put the plastic pot upside down in the tub of water letting it fill so that it sinks. The pot is for the pump to set on so that is not hanging, which is bad for it.

Place the pump on the pot and feed the tubing around the back of the watercourse piece, hiding it between the course and the fence or wall. Cut the tubing so that the end extends into the watercourse from the back corner about 6 to 8 inches. Use dirt and some mulch to make the surface next to the watercourse where the tubing rests flat.

Place the two stones on either side of the tubing and a flagstone across the top of them. This will keep the tubing from flattening and allow the water to flow freely, keeping your waterfall running well. If the tubing is restricted, it will put strain on the pump, which will burn out. Place a potted plant and/or garden ornament on top of the paving stone for decoration.

Run the cord from the pump between the watercourse and the fence as well. Plug it into an outlet or outdoor extension cord. Let the pump begin to run. Watch the water in the watercourse. Make sure it is level and that the water falls into an appropriate place in the tub.

Use mulch to finish the hill around the watercourse and taper off to the right or left side of the small waterfall and down to the little pond. Blend in with the surrounding landscape.

Pull paving stones off of mesh if needed. Fit them together like puzzle pieces around the rim of the tub to hide the edge. Break them into smaller pieces with a hammer if necessary.

Carefully plant a few small plants around your waterfall and into the hill to create a pleasant effect. Add the appropriate amount of dechlorinator, following package directions. After a few days, try adding a few water plants, especially oxygenators like hornwort and abovewater plants that shade to help keep the water clear.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use some waterlilies to provide shade underwater and help prevent algae
  • Since the tub is deep, water plants might have to be placed on turned over pots like the pump
  • Plant crawling plants like sweet potato vine near the small waterfall. These will grow roots down into the mulch and soil helping hold it in place.
  • Check for erosion and add more dirt or mulch if necessary
  • Select a location with sun if you want water plants
  • Buy your supplies in the winter to keep them even more inexpensive

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