To bring a little peace into your own garden, set aside a few hours to build this natural rock fountain. Once you've gathered the right materials and tools, the construction involves only a few simple steps. Call ahead to make sure your local stores have what you need.
• 1 cement-mixing trough (a hard plastic container that's roughly 2 feet by 3 feet and at least 8 inches deep).
• 1 piece of chicken wire, a couple of inches longer than the mixing trough on each side. If you cut it yourself, use a wire snip or grinder.
• 1 piece of hog panel, a couple of inches larger than the plastic mixing trough, available at farm supply stores. It comes in 16-foot pieces, so ask the supplier to cut it to size. If you cut it yourself, use a grinder. Or, enough rebar pieces (available at home improvement stores in precut sizes) to make a grid slightly larger than the plastic mixing trough. Purchase rebar tie-wire and an inexpensive hooking tool to connect the rebar pieces.
• 1 light-colored field stone, about 12 to 14 inches in diameter and 25 to 40 pounds (available at garden centers or aggregate suppliers). Light-colored stones usually weigh less and are easier to drill through.
• 170 gph (gallons per hour) water pump with a 5/8-inch tube (available at nurseries, garden centers, home improvement stores, and hardware stores).
• Hammer drill with 3/4-inch masonry bits (available for rent at farm supply stores and rental shops).
• Hand pruner
• Heavy work gloves
• Medium and small field stones
• Safety goggles
• Spray paint
Choose the right location for the fountain. It should go in a protected area where you can enjoy the sounds of running water, and be near an electrical outlet.
Call an electrician to put in an underground wire that connects the fountain to the outlet. This can run between $75 and $200 (the closer to the outlet, the less expensive the labor, especially if you dig your own trench for the wire). The fountain needs to be connected to an electrical outlet that is protected with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFI).
Prepare the spot for the fountain. Turn the cement mixing trough upside down and place it on the ground where you want to put the fountain. Spray paint around the trough to outline the hole you¹ll be digging. Following the spray-painted lines, dig a hole that¹s the exact size of the trough so the trough fits snugly in the ground.
Use a level to make sure the trough is flush with the ground. Carefully backfill dirt around the edges of the trough with a shovel. Try not to get any dirt in the container.
Fasten chicken wire to hog panel. Place the piece of chicken wire over the hog panel (or rebar grid panel). Bend the wire edges over the short edges of the panel so the chicken wire is securely fastened to the panel (see photo 3). Wear gloves and be careful, the chicken wire is sharp and can scrape your skin.
Place the water pump in the center of the trough with the tube sticking up.Put the combined panel/chicken wire piece over the pump so that the tube goes through one of the wire holes at the center of the panel (see photo 4).
Drill a hole through the rock with the hammer drill or ask your local aggregate supplier to drill the hole. Put the drill in the rotary position (not the up-and-down hammer position) and hold it steady. You may want to lean your chest on the drill to steady it and put pressure on it. (Wear heavy gloves to protect your hands and safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying rock pieces.) Drill until the bit goes through the bottom of the rock. If the drill is hard to pull out, keep the drill running while you extract it.
Lay the rock gently on the panel. Then, leaning on your knees, tilt the rock so you can see the hole in the bottom. Feed the plastic pump tube through this hole. The tube should go in only about 1 inch. If the tube is too long, cut it with a hand pruner to shorten it.
Begin placing medium and smaller rocks around the large rock to create a natural look. Try to get medium rocks with flat undersides so each rock¹s weight is distributed evenly on the hog wire. If a rock is too heavy, the hog panel may bend under the weight.
Fill with water. When you¹ve placed about half the rocks, fill the basin with water from a hose (you will need to move a couple small rocks aside to check the water each week and fill it to the top). To test the pump, plug it in and watch how the water falls over the smaller rocks, then place the remaining rocks as desired.
Hide the post and GFI with plants. The GFI looks like a small box and is mounted on a short post. In warmer climates you may keep the fountain running throughout the year.
Remember to check the water amount weekly and fill as needed. If you live in a climate with freezing temperatures, unplug the cord near the GFI, lift the screen up, and pull out the pump. Replace the screen with the rocks on it and store the pump indoors during winter.
Kerin Redwanz is a landscape designer and the owner of Shades of Green Landscapes in Red Wing, Minnesota. Michelle Leise is a freelance writer in Red Wing.