How to design and build a wildlife pond

By Martyn Cox

If you really want to attract a wide range of wildlife to your garden then you need a pond. Not just any pond, but one that has been specially designed and planted to provide habitats, cover, food and perches for a wide range of creatures
Lily pondA pond will encourage biodiversity in your garden

Making a small pond is really quick and easy. A 1m by 1m pond in my own back garden took me less than two hours to build, but obviously the larger the pond, the longer it will take you.

Designing a wildlife pond

Before heading outdoors with a spade, it’s best to sketch out a rough plan of your desired pond on paper. Avoid geometric shapes, going instead for a gently curved outline, which will look more natural.

Once you’re happy with the shape, mark out the pond on the ground with a line of sand. Choose a spot that is in light shade - some sunlight will help plants to grow, but too much will promote the growth of algae.

Digging out the wildlife pond

Dig the pond out. It should be about 90cm deep in the centre to give creatures a place to shelter over winter. Create a flat shelf (30cm wide and 30cm deep) for standing plants on around part of the perimeter, leaving the rest gently sloping to allow pond visitors access in and out of the water. Avoid steep sides as any creature that accidentally topples in may find it hard to escape.

Remove any protruding stones and cover the excavation with a layer of sand. Now lay a flexible butyl or rubber liner. To work out how much you need, double the maximum depth of the pool, than add this to the length of the pool to find the total length of liner needed. Now add double the maximum depth to the width to give the total width of liner needed. Multiply the two figures together to find the total area of liner for your pond.

Carefully place the liner over the hole and push it into place, trying to remove any folds. Slowly fill with water. Cut off the excess liner, leaving about 15cm all around the outside. This edge can then be buried under soil, or covered with pieces of turf or stones.

Make a pebbly beach on the gently sloping sides with a selection of large and small pebbles, and gravel. Use larger stones around the edge of the pond and graduating their size as you work down the slope. Aim to build a ramp with the stones from the outside to the floor of the pond.

Go to page two to find out what pond plants to use and what wildlife your pond could attract.

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