If you fancy a bit of natural beauty in your garden, with fairly little effort, you might want to consider a building a pond. It can be the perfect way to encourage birds, amphibians, insects and a whole host of mini-beasts into your garden. Perfect for young and old nature enthusiasts alike!
Even if you haven’t got room for a large pond, or you’re worried about safety with young children, a small water feature (even just a bucket dug into a border) makes a huge difference to the number and types of animals that will visit your garden.
Here are the best ways to start your own little aquatic wildlife haven:
When should you start?
There aren’t any rules on when you should start building your pond, but it will establish fastest if you start in late winter. However, it might be a nicer activity if you do it in the sunshine of spring or summer. Depending on the size of your project it can take two or three weekends to complete.
Where should your pond go?
Choose the sunniest site available in your garden to maximise its appeal to wildlife. Dragonflies worship heat, tadpoles are happiest in a warm, sunlit shallow spot and most water plants thrive in a good amount of sunshine. Try to avoid picking a place directly below a large tree to avoid too much leaf litter in autumn.
Mark out the shape you want your pond to fill. Keep in mind that the finished article will appear to be about 70% of this size. So don’t be frightened if it looks huge! Make sure that at least one side slopes to a shallow section and remember a lot of the edge can be given over to dense waterside planting. If you can, pick your shallow edge close to borders, log piles, hedges or other sheltered areas. Come July, your emerging baby frogs will thank you.
Get stuck in!
Your objective is a deep area in the middle – 50-70cm should be ideal – for hibernating creatures, with a gradually sloped shallow shoreline. It will be even better for potted water plants if you can manage a slope in steps which will work as shelves.
Keep the subsoil on a piece of sheeting for later.
Fit your pond liner
Many books recommend butyl rubber for the liner but the latest PVC could be even stronger. Tell the supplier your pond’s maximum length and depth and they can calculate what you need. Fitting your pond liner is made much easier with lots of helpers and no wind, so choose your day wisely. Cut your underlay to size and fit it in the hole to protect against sharp stones. Next, open out the liner and drape it over the pond so that you’re certain there’ll be spare all the way round. Then add water, smoothing, pulling and folding the sheeting neatly as the level rises. Use a few rocks to subdue the bigger pleats. Try to keep the folds as simple as possible as they near the surface.
Sort the edges
Once the pond is full, cut off the excess liner leaving about 30cm extra lying around the water line all the way around. This can be tricky, so be sure to use a sharp blade and take your time.
With the excess removed, you can see how level the surrounding ground is. Ideally the water is pressing the liner outwards onto solid, compacted soil all the way round. If you have to build up any areas, make really sure you really compact the soil down as much as you can. If you don’t, it’ll settle later, and drain some of the water away.
Get creative with your plants!
Wait for the sediment to settle a few days. If you’re getting plants from a friend, you can add them any time – even the scraggy bits left over after a hard winter. Otherwise, May is the ideal buying season.
Take a trip to a garden centre and see what beautiful and interesting plants they have in stock. Take into consideration the types of animals you would like in your pond, for example if you would like frogs and newts you might make different choices to if your pond will house fish.