How to Make a Garden Fountain{69}

easy and simple way to build a water fountain for your garden

My fountain built in 2005, algae aged and still running.

Garden Fountain: An Earthly Delight

What’s my sign? (I thought you’d never ask.) As a card-carrying, water-bearing Aquarian, my home is not a home if not within sight or sound of water. In 1888 with the land cleared of towering trees and groomed for farming, the view from my front porch included a sweeping panorama of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier. Thanks to a mild climate and the vigor of Northwest flora, the forests have returned to obscure the once spectacular views.

I may have lost my look at Puget Sound, but I can capture the magic of flowing water on smaller scale in the form of a garden fountain, one that never sleeps but always soothes, as seen and heard in the video below:

How I built my garden fountain


  • Vessel: the handsome container from which the water will overflow
  • Pump: don’t skimp, buy a good pump; they last longer and tend to be very quiet when running. And remember the higher the water has to be pumped vertically, the larger the pump that is needed.
  • Holding pan or basin: the container that houses the pump and the water source that is recirculated up through the fountain vessel.
  • Bricks or stones to cover up, hide and beautify.
  • Flexible tube: one end fits on the pump output and the other end up through a hole in the bottom of the fountain vessel.
  • Water: locate the fountain near a water source since evaporation will require refilling in dry hot months.

wading bulldog in a kiddie pool

Boz had a great idea: use a kiddie wading pool for the holding pan. A standard large fountain basin can run about $200. For  $16, I was able to substitute it for the larger version of Boz’s spa pool.

Step 1: Dig a hole the size of the pool to hold and support the basin pan. Line the sides with bricks and the bottom with flat rocks to hide the cartoon goldfish emblazoned on the kiddie pool’s fine plastic surface.

Step 2: Smooth out the soil surface around the sunken pool and lay brick or stones on outer perimeter of the pool to hid its plastic rim. Plants like ground covers will fill in the gaps in no time.

Step 3: Build a brick platform in the basin to set the vessel on. This provides clearance for the flexible pump tube to move up through the drain hole of the vessel and also creates great sound as the water trickles down from a higher point.

Step 4: Connect the flexible pipe to the pump in the holding basin, and the other end up through the platform to the fountain vessel’s drainage hole. If more than one hole, stop up the remaining ones with wine corks or drain stoppers so the water will fill up the vessel and move over the top rim.

sketch of how to build a fountain

Step 5: Plug in the pump once the basin is full of water. Remember to keep filling as the pump will move water out of the basin and into the vessel until it ultimately flows over the edge and begins to recirculate.

Step 6: (optional) I wanted to hide the electrical cord so I ran it through a hollow PVC pipe  under my brick walkway. My pump had a 16 ft. cord.

Step 7: Keep an eye on the water level. And you want to ensure good water movement to thwart mosquitoes from using the fountain as a breeding ground.

Step 8: In the winter be sure to turn off the pump during long periods of freezing weather, as cascading water will freeze on the outside of the vessel and dry up the holding basin which will burn out your pricey pump.

Alright, this Aquarian’s work is done (for now). Perhaps it’s time for a break in the hammock, where the fountain babble (and mine) is at home and at its best.

When I lived in Seattle, I fashioned this giant Jardiniere into a fountain, but when I moved it to Vashon, some bad handling ended a water tight career. Now it sits retired on a large madrona stump, a lovely relic well suited for a new role as garden sentinel.

Filters are also a nice option to help keep the water clear and clean. I use a box filter which the pump fits into like a shoebox and the pumping action creates a suction which draws all the water through the filter.