The ideal site for a garden pond is a sunny spot, but if you only have space in a shaded area, it’s still worth doing. Even a small pond will benefit animals visiting your garden, although you may have more success with permanent residents like frogs and newts in a larger one. One thing’s for sure, once your pond is established, you will wish you’d gone bigger!
You can buy a rigid pond liner, or use a flexible butyl or rubber sheet. If you choose a pre-formed rigid pond, remember you will have to dig the hole the right shape, which can be tricky. However, a pre-formed pond is easier to make neat at the edges. I chose a flexible liner because I thought it would look more natural.
Use the following calculation to work out how much liner you will need:
- Length of liner = Length of finished pond + 2 x greatest depth of finished pond
- Width of liner = Width of finished pond + 2 x greatest depth of finished pond
For example, if you want your finished pond to be 5m x 3m and 0.75m deep you would calculate:
- Length of liner = 5 + 1.5 = 6.5m long
- Width of liner = 3 + 1.5 = 4.5m wide
- Dig a hole. Ideally the pond should be at least 60cm deep at the deepest point, to provide a safe haven for amphibians and ensure the temperature of your pond is more stable. Make sure there are very shallow areas at the sides, so that animals can safely get to the water to drink and bathe, and can scramble out again if they do fall in.
- Remove any sharp stones from the bottom of the pond, and line the hole with sand, old carpet or pond underlay fabric. This is important, as it will prevent your expensive pond-liner being pierced by sharp stones or roots.
- Lay the rubber liner, or place the pre-formed one, in the hole. If you need to stand on the liner, take your shoes off first. If you are using a flexible liner, you can dig a trench around the pond to tuck the edges into. Don’t worry too much if it doesn’t look neat at first – once the grass and other plants grow around the edges, it will look more natural.
- You can put sand, gravel and pebbles in your pond to provide nooks and crannies for invertebrates to hide in. Don’t add soil – this will encourage excessive algae growth.
- Now add your water! Ideally this should come from natural rainfall and water butts, but otherwise tap water will do.
- Allow one to two weeks for the pond to settle if you’ve used tap water, and then add a few plants. They can be grown in pots.
You will find that wildlife makes its way to your pond of its own accord, if you are patient, and bear in mind that transferring wildlife from another pond could bring unwanted disease or fragments of invasive plants.
You may be tempted to add fish to your pond, and that’s fine if it’s big enough. However, studies have shown that ponds with fish in have fewer other animals, so if you want to encourage maximum wildlife, leave your pond fish-free.
If you have small children or pets, you might want to install a metal grill over the pond or fence it off.
Finally, if all this seems like too much hard work – although, I would argue it’s well worth it to see newts every day – try a water feature like a pond in an old sink or baby bath.
Here is the pond I dug about two years ago. It is home to many newts, dragonfly larvae (which become dragonflies in the summer, of course) and other invertebrates. In the summer, the starlings and goldfinches do a lot of bathing in the shallow areas. I’m very happy with it, but I wish I’d made it twice the size, and as extending an existing pond is almost impossible, I’d say make sure you don’t go too small.
You can see that we’ve installed wire netting across half of it, that’s because when we got a young dog last year, she thought it was a paddling pool!