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How To Make A Wildlife Pond

Updated: Apr 2

This post will teach you how to make a wildlife pond for your garden, complete with a diagram to help you out.


Contents:


A poster shows a diagram of a wildlife pond, with suggestions of flowers around the outside, and an annotated drawing of the layers of the pond in the middle
A graphic showing how to create a wildlife pond

STEP 1: MARK OUT YOUR POND


Do you want a curvy pond (we went with a kidney bean shape for a more natural look)? A contemporary square pond? Whatever you're after, mark out the shape and check you're happy with it. I discovered we could get a slightly bigger pond after marking it out.


STEP 2: DIG


Get your shovel ready, it's time to dig!


Wildlife ponds should be around 30-40cm deep, so luckily you don't have to dig too far!


They should also have sloping sides and a couple of 'shelves' or 'steps', that will help any animals that can't swim very well to get in and out (hello little hedgehogs).


We dug in a shallow end, graduating down two steps (about 10cm deep per step) to a deeper end.


We also left a 'shelf' running all the way around the back of the pond to put pond plants on (we dug this about 10-15cm down from the top of the pond).


It's also a good idea to dig a very shallow trench (2-3 cm) all the way around your pond, because the top of the pond lining will sit in the trench and get covered with earth, hiding the lining, but remaining level with the earth around it.


STEP 3: PREPARE GROUND FOR THE LINER


We then pressed and patted down the sides of the pond until it seemed more 'solid', and removed any hard roots or stones, creating a good base for a pond liner. On top of that we added sand (a children's play sand in our case).


STEP 4: ADD THE LINER


Place the pond liner over your prepared hole and push down.


This was quite tricky, as you have to get as many of the folds out as you can and get it as flat as you can before filling. It won't ever lie perfectly flat, so don't worry about any little creases or folds, they'll probably help little animals get a grip/lay eggs anyway.


Adding a little water can also help to weigh the liner down, then when you move one side, the other side won't shift as easily.


When you cut the liner, leave at least 10cm running around the edge of your pond, then place the edges of the liner in the earlier prepared trench and cover with mud.


STEP 5: LAYER UP


This is an optional step. We added a layer of (limestone-free!) gravel to the bottom, which means that any oxygenating plants we put in there have something to grip onto and grow on. You can also add larger stones around edges, creating a ramp up to the higher 'shelves' which will help wildlife get in and out of the pond


STEP 6: FILL YOUR POND


The best thing to fill your pond with is rainwater. If you fill it with tap water, check with your water supplier to see how long you need to leave it to 'off gas', so that the chlorine leaves the water. Ours took 4 days before we could put anything else in.


STEP 7: ADD PLANTS


All good wildlife ponds have three different types of plants: marginal plants, oxygenating plants and floating plants. They provide shelter and food for all sorts of animals, as well as keep the water healthy. We bought ours from wetland-plants.co.uk


Marginal plants go around the edges of the pond. Some of them can be planted in the water, and some of them need to be planted on a soggy/marshy bank. Check the descriptions when you purchase.


We also made sure we bought native, non-invasive plants (this is really important if you don't want a massively overgrown pond!). We chose: water forget-me-not, marsh marigolds, lesser water plantain, watercress, a royal fern (which got planted on the banks) and pink flowering rush.


Oxygenating plants get dropped in the pond itself and will live happily at most depths. They oxygenate the water. We chose willow moss, and I put three in the bottom of our pond.


Floating plants can often grow quite big, so we only bought one for our little pond, but they are important as they will provide shade for the pond below (willow moss likes it dark, for example), and provide somewhere for dragonflies and the like to land. We bought a water soldier, which spends winter at the bottom of the pond and then surfaces for spring.


How to plant your marginal plants:


One thing you can do is purchase plastic pond baskets, fill them with pond plant soil, plant the plants in that, cover with a layer of gravel to keep the soil in, and then just put them on the shelves around your pond.


However, I wanted to try and make this project as eco friendly as possible, so I searched for other ways to do it. Turns out you can dig out clumps of turf, turn the turf upside down (so that the grass is pointing downwards), put that on the shelves in your pond, and then plant the pond plants in the now upright soil.


I guess the theory is that the roots of the grass hold the soil together, so it doesn't float away in your pond. I actually did it this way and it worked fine, but I did muddy up our pond quite a lot and it took quite a few days for it to settle properly. So, if you're after a pristine pond, I suggest going with the baskets.


Oxygenating and floating plants can literally just be thrown in the water.


STEP 8: ADD HABITATS


Finally, add some habitats around the edges. Wildflowers will help to provide shelter and shade, and log piles and piles of rocks can provide a home for frogs and newts to shelter in out of the sun.


Now all you have to do is wait!


If you'd like some more tips for being sustainable, have a read of my post on carbon offsetting, here!


As always, thanks for reading!

Nx

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