Relaxing to the soft sounds of trickling water from a fountain is an excellent way to improve your mood and backyard space. With a little imagination, budgeting, and sweat, you can turn your backyard into a mini paradise.
Gotta start somewhere
It all began with an idea as I sat outside chatting with my cousin, Hil.
"You know what I need?" I proclaimed thoughtfully.
"Oh no, what might that be?" she replied.
"Seriously? Here we go"
She knows me well enough to know that once I have an idea, I will run with it and it will happen. Maybe not exactly at that moment, but it will happen. You have to start somewhere. I don't have the budget to do things instantly but, in my mind, I have already pictured the end result. What I want is a jar fountain where the water flows over the sides into an underground basin. With that image in mind, I make a mental list of what I will need and develop a strategy.
This project was implemented over a period of a couple of years due to budgeting and working around the weather. I set aside a little money each month and obtained what I would need gradually with the biggest expense being the basin itself. Patiently waiting for sales and deals. At the time, I managed to budget the whole project for less than $550. Today prices are different. Honestly, I am glad I was able to start this when I did because with the prices out there today, it wouldn't be in my realm of financial ability. That's all I was willing to spend on a project like this, any more than that, I don't see it as being something that would be worth it to me. Finding excellent deals was the key. Wait for the right deal and don't spend more than you should. Hard times don't last forever though, it would likely still happen, just not anytime soon.
Things to consider
What type or style of a fountain - Decide whether you want a small jar with a pump inside or perhaps a larger jar or urn that sits over a basin. You could add a fountain to an existing pond or maybe a combination of a couple of containers with a spillover. The options are endless.
Choosing a location - My rule of thumb is the larger the fountain, the further away from your house. Meaning a small jar fountain, self-contained, could be set on your balcony, porch, or patio. A larger fountain over a basin should be off in the yard area. Also, it will need to be level and if using solar power, will need as much access to sunlight as possible.
Decide whether you want to run off of an outlet or solar power with a battery backup.
Things you will need
Jar or urn (or another container) - * With a hole in the bottom
Digging tools - shovel, hand tiller, tamper, pickaxe
* For this project, you'll need a container with a hole in the bottom. There are other ways to create fountains where this is not necessary. If this is the type of fountain you want to do but your container doesn't have a hole, you can create one with the proper tools.
Winter Storage Supplies
Bleach and Dawn dish soap
Buster really liked having a new thing to sit on
Let's Get to Work
After looking at some of the prices on large jars and urns I had all but decided this project was never going to happen. That was an eye-opener, then I ran across a very large jar/urn for less than $50 and jumped on it. This one is roughly 36" tall. Of course, I have no illusions that it will last as long as the fancy ones. But hey, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. With proper waterproofing and storage, it should last a good while.
I also knew I wanted a large basin. Thinking of the future here. If a hole must be dug, I want to make it count. A large basin will allow for some additional fountains at some point, maybe even a larger one. These things aren't cheap though, so I waited for the right deal at the right time of year and was able to score a discount. This one is an Aquascape Aquabasin 45 that holds about 98 gallons of water with an access panel for easy access to the pump. It can withstand 1,500 pounds of weight. It is 16" deep and about 44.5" square. *Again, I receive no compensation for the mention of any products on my sight. I am not trying to promote any one thing. If I mention it, it's only because it's something I found useful and worthy of mentioning.
For the pump, I spoke to a representative at Siliconsolar who was extremely helpful. I told him about my project and he advised me on exactly what I would need and gave me a discounted price. I opted for a solar fountain with a battery backup. It is a 9-volt AquaJet Pro kit.
Here we go
This thing is gonna need a good-sized hole. I'm not gonna lie to ya, this part was TOUGH. I started the digging in April, I knew I wasn't going to be able to actually install the fountain yet, my goal was to get the hole dug so it would be ready the following Spring. With other projects I was also trying to complete, I knew this would be something that would take some time. As long as I had it done before September, that was the plan.
Dirt is surprisingly not that easy to dig, at least mine isn't. My initial thought was to hire a landscaper for this part. After all, I am not as young as I used to be, plus, I have asthma. However, the first one I called was rude and the second one didn't answer at all. Well...now what? My cousin Hil, and I got to it. We measured out the digging area and took off the top layer of dirt. Then for a couple of weeks, I dug out a little each day the sun was out. Let me tell you, it was slow going. I didn't feel like I was making a lot of progress and time was running out.
It got to be up in the summer, and right before school was about to start when I was speaking to Hil on the phone, she suggested her son would be willing to help with the digging. I have to admit, I was skeptical, he was 13 after all. She seemed serious but I wasn't confident this would be a good idea. I figured it would be a day of dilly-dallying, well, you know. This is a most unusual boy though, or should I say, young man. This is the kind of thing that interests him and I am here to tell you, he's no slouch. I couldn't have been more wrong.
She brought him over one afternoon and he came equipped with his own measuring tape. After measuring out the hole I had going, he stepped back and declared a matter of factly "Yeah, this is shouldn't be any problem. I'll bring my shovel and pickaxe. I'm available on Friday, you'll need to pick me up about 11:00, I'll be ready".
Well, alright then...
Jay's on the scene
So, Friday morning happened and I headed to pick up Jay. He gathered his tools and we headed back to my place and went to work. This boy is a worker, and the energy he has is amazing, I could barely keep up. I had to force him to take breaks every 30 minutes or so providing lots of water and Gatorade. About 1:00 we headed to Bella's for his choice of pizza. Then we worked for another couple of hours stopping at about 3:30 when his arm was bothering him some. Not an emergency situation but enough to where we decided to call it day. We had worked hard enough and made a huge dent in the project. I gave him some cash for his trouble and me and Hil dug out some more later that evening.
Finishing the hole
I worked on it a few more days and when I felt like it was about done, Hil came back over. Using the level across the basin in all directions to make sure it was level, we took the tamper and flattened it all down and covered the bottom with sand, and placed the basin in the hole. Then used the level again in the same way, we leveled it and then placed the basin in the hole. The remaining sand, we used to fill in at the sides.
Ready for Winter
With the hard part done, it's time to put this baby to bed until the coming Spring. After checking out what it will look like, we flipped the jar/urn over, covered it with a tarp, and placed a paver stone on top. We fastened the tarp to the ground a little wider than necessary to give me room to mow and keep the weeds down until next year. I placed the end with the access panel on the lower end of the basin. You can tell from the photos, that the end with the access panel doesn't look as deep in the ground as the opposing side. This is because I placed it in an area where the ground has a slight slope. I wanted the access panel to be nearest to the bank for when it came time to drain the basin. It is level, that's the main thing. A little dirt and some plants will hide it nicely.
Winter came and went
I couldn't wait for winter to be over so I could put this together. I wanted to set it up in April but my cousin kept telling me I had to wait for the May 10th cold spell to be over. So, on May 11, I got right on it. Grabbing the pump, plumbers' putty, and my wagon loaded with rocks, I headed out to the basin. I uncovered the tarp and put that away then laid the jar on its side, emptied the contents of the box with the pump, and made myself comfortable while I studied the instructions.
The box contained a solar panel, battery pack, fountain pipe with accessories (extra nozzles), pump, 2 cords, and a control box. The instructions were extremely vague, all it told me was how to assemble the cords and battery, which was self-explanatory. The battery was easy, red to red, black to black then plug the cords where they go and screw the box together.
Setting up the Fountain
I realized right away that what came with the box was not going to accomplish what I wanted. The fountain pipe was only about 8" long and this was not going to be long enough to reach the top of my jar/urn nor was there a hose included. So, I headed to my local Lowe's store and found what I would need. Spending less than $10, I got a flexible hose and a plastic pipe. The hole in the bottom of my jar is approximately 1" so the pipe I purchased is slightly smaller, barely, and the hose is 3 quarters of an inch.
I cut the pipe to about 3 feet and pushed it through the jar. The pipe comes out the bottom a few inches and a little over halfway up the jar. Now I sealed around the hole at the bottom of the jar, both inside and out, with plumbers' putty. I ran the flexible hose thru the piping to come out of both ends of the jar. At the upper end of the hose, I attached the length of the fountain pipe containing the head to the hose. It was a tight fit. Carefully I set the jar over the hole in the center of the basin placing the pipe with the hose down the center through the hole. Reaching through the access panel of the basin, I carefully pulled the hose through the panel. Now, I cut the hose to length and attached the end to the pump using a little bit of plumber's putty to seal it. I placed the pump inside the basin, it has suction cups to hold it in place.
Now it was time to fill the basin with water, I also filled the jar more than halfway. After filling it mostly with water and checking the putty to ensure there were no leaks/bubbles, I filled it the rest of the way. I didn't fill it up completely, I left some space in the basin should a storm move through the area. Given the size of the basin, it will have more than enough water to operate adequately with some space left over.
You want to make sure the water is level in the jar. You may need to place some coins underneath until you can achieve it.
Let's turn it on!
Turning my attention to the solar panel, I positioned it toward the sun and turned on the pump via the control panel. There are two buttons on the control panel; 1 power button and 1 timer button. The fountain will primarily run off solar power and the battery pack will kick in during hours there is little or no sunlight. If you don't charge the batteries in advance to running the fountain (like I did), using the timer is a great way to start. This way, the fountain will run for so many minutes and then rest a while allowing the batteries to charge up in the meantime.
It worked great right off the bat! All I needed to do was straighten the pipe (inside the jar) a little toward the center and set it to the height I wanted. Using the hose through the center of the pipe allows me to adjust the height to my preference. Once it was at the desired height, I added some more plumber's putty around it to seal it and hold it in place. Next, I rinsed off the rocks and placed them around the base of the jar. *You will need to check the water levels in your fountain every day or so and add water as needed.
The Control Box
The control box is built to be outside and is mostly waterproof. This means, that it will be ok outside but you may want to protect it from severe weather conditions and heat from the sun as much as possible. I set mine on top of the paver stone I used to hold the tarp down. I found a partial metal box that would cover the top and 2 sides and I placed a few bricks around the remaining sides.
Check it Out
By the end of September, I will need to turn off the pump and drain the basin and jar. I will grab a brush and scrub the jar with bleach and dawn and allow it to dry. The solar panel, control box, pump, etc. I will wipe it down and store it inside for the winter. When the jar is dry, I will place it upside down on the basin and cover it with a tarp until next Spring.
All that remained was to plant some flowers. Done. Eventually, I plan on starting some Irish moss around the basin area and I will also add some larger rocks and plants. For now, I am gonna grab my hammock and call it a day. I hope you enjoy this project as much as I am glad it is (mostly) completed.
Take care and have a blessed day. Thanks for reading!