Building a wildlife pond

Greengage TeamGreengage interests



Ponds are a fantastic way of increasing biodiversity in your garden. It is not just aquatic species that benefit but also other species as they provide water during dry spells and shelter amongst the plants. They are really important for insect life. Many species use ponds as nursery grounds for their larvae and provide food for predators. They can be a great educational opportunity for children and can be both incredibly relaxing but also a great hobby.

How we created our pond.

The ground was covered in different sized stones and quite shaded. We dug out as much soil and stones as possible to create a shallow pond. We don’t intend having fish, but do want plants and want a filter system so the pond needed to be deep enough to cover the filter box. There were still layers of stone, so after removing as many as possible, we laid a thick layer of sand over the ground to prevent them from piercing the lining. We placed an underlay over the sand and then added the lining.

We began filling the lining with water before siting the stones around the pond as it often moves and stretches. We then finished filling the pond and added the plants. Rain water is best as it doesn’t have the nutrients tap water has that create blanket weed. If you do need to use tap water allow it to stand in a water butt for a few days before hand.

Building sand and underlay

Adding water before the edging stones.

Siting your pond

  • Try and avoid deciduous trees nearby to reduce leaf litter.
  • Think about slopes – they will aid water features such as waterfalls but lower areas will more easily become flooded with water.
  • Do you need access to water and electricity for pumps, lighting etc?
  • It is a good idea to site in a sunny or dappled spot so the water doesn’t become stagnant when the pond plants don’t get enough sunlight to provide oxygen to the pond.
  • Think about where you are going to get the most appreciation from our pond, what will be reflecting on the surface, where will it look the best.
  • Make sure there is cover nearby for amphibians to hibernate and to shelter small animals coming for a drink.

Solar pump as access to electricity was impossible.

Animals and wildlife you might see near ponds

Frogs, toads, newts, caddis flies, mayflies, damselflies, dragonflies, pond skaters, snails and water beetles, leeches

Plants you can add to ponds

Alba water lily, brandy bottle, common bulrush, curly pond weed, frog bit, fringed water lily, ivy leaved crowsfoot, marsh marigold, reed canary grass,

Top tips

  • For larger ponds, hire an excavator it will save so much time as well as being great fun!
  • Pre formed ponds are an easy and speedy way to create your pond. They can be easier to clean and are much less likely to get pierced by sharp stones.
  • If you don’t have the space, build a bucket pond. Select a large trug and fill with rainwater and plant up. It can still be a great water source for birds, dragonflies etc.
  • A minimum depth of 20-30cm is needed for planting but a deeper area of 60cm or more will ensure the water doesn’t freeze over completely and create a haven for pond life even in the coldest times.
  • Float a tennis ball in the winter to prevent the pond from icing over completely. Remove it to allow a hole, alternatively put a pan of hot water on the ice to create a hole. Don’t smash the ice or change the water temperature too quickly though as this can be harmful.
  • Think about the current users of your garden, bubble fountains and birdbaths are still great ways to attract wildlife but safer for younger children. If you have a pond, there are plenty of ways of making it safe for young children but do be water safe.
  • Don’t forget to have a shallow slope or some sort of exit plan for wildlife to get in and out!
  • Wildlife ponds without fish tend to have a more diverse set of wildlife as the fish tend to eat everything. Goldfish may look pretty but eat water snails and tadpoles. Let the animals arrive at your pond naturally.
  • If you do get over run with duck weed and blanket weed. Always leave any weed next to the pond before adding it to your compost to allow animals to get back into the pond.
  • Take care to use the correct plants to oxygenate your pond or set up a filtration and pump system.
  • Solar systems have come a long way and are now a viable options for lighting and water features.

Words: Jennie Eastick, Amateur gardener and admin officer