Creating a pond is one of the best ways to encourage wildlife into your garden. As natural habitats are lost due to development and the impacts of climate change, helping to create new habitats for wildlife is becoming more important than ever. There's no need to feel intimidated about creating a pond though, just jump right in!

The value of gardens for wildlife is becoming increasingly clear. As traditional habitat continues to be lost due to changes in management, development or due to impacts such as climate change, more and more species are coming to rely upon the habitat we create or set aside for wildlife in our gardens.

Sharing your garden with wildlife can be hugely rewarding. As more and more species take up residence you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the habits and characteristics of different creatures and get a chance to experience wildlife at close quarters. Some wildlife can be quite tolerant of human presence and in a garden setting even quite timid species can become accustomed to having an audience; giving us exclusive ‘front row’ seats for a regular spot of wildlife watching.

Cath's pond work in progress with plants and bench

Cath Lovatt

One of the best things you can do to encourage wildlife into your garden and to replace lost habitat is to create a wildlife pond. It doesn’t have to be a grand affair to be of value to wildlife but if you have got room for a decent sized pond you have an opportunity to create a really valuable wildlife habitat – and a space that will provide you with endless wildlife watching opportunities.

Once you’ve made the decisions to ‘dive in’ and create a pond (sorry, you’ll have to excuse the puns) the first thing you’ll have to think about is size and location. The pond will need some sunlight and ideally shouldn’t be complete shaded by overhanging trees – otherwise you’ll face a constant battle to prevent the pond silting up and becoming smelly as a result of the falling leaves.

Cath's pond work in progress, digging

Cath Lovatt

Once you’ve chosen your spot it’s probably best to mark out the area using a length of old hosepipe or rope – this will enable you to tweak the shape until you’re happy with. Once you’re happy with the shape you’ll need to start digging out the area. If you’re digging in an area of lawn, you should strip off the turf first as this will come in handy to lay under the liner to prevent any stones bursting through.

You’ll need at least one area that’s at least two feet deep to ensure that the pond cannot become completely frozen but most of the pond can be shallower and a variety of depths and even a very shallow boggy area at one edge will increase the range of habitat.

Image of a garden pond in progress, no water or lining installed

Cath Lovatt

You should also create a couple of flat shelved areas where it will be easy to rest planters full of marginal and oxygenating plants. If kept nice and wide, these shelves will also be helpful in future years when it comes to wading in to clear out the pond or if you simply fancy changing up the planting. You’ll need to make sure that the top edge of your pond is level – you don’t want water constantly overflowing from one end!

Next you’ll need to line the hole – if you’ve been able to save turves then you can simply place these on the soil to cover any stones. Alternatives include old woollen blankets, a layer of sand or even a thick layer of newspapers. You can of course pay for a specialist underlay when buying your liner but a pond shouldn’t have to be too expensive – but the last thing you want is a leak within days or weeks of creating your watery wildlife haven.

When it comes to choice of liner the options can be somewhat baffling. The very best rubber liners will probably outlast you or I and very cheap liners tend to rip more easily, but there are many robust mid-priced options out there.

 

Cath's pond work in progress, lining down, filling with water

Cath Lovatt

Once you’re happy that no sharp stones are likely to pierce your liner under the weight of the water you’ll need to drape in the pond liner and then gradually start to fill with water. Any large wrinkles can be folded and overlapped as the water is slowly filling up.

Once the water is at the level you need and you are happy with how the liner is siting you will need to trim off any excess and then cover the edge of the liner with more turf, rockery stones or even bits of broken concrete slab – as they say, reuse is better than recycling!

Once everything is tucked away neatly you can start planting – you’ll need some submerged oxygenators and some marginal plants around the edges to provide structure and places for dragonflies to cling to.

As for timing, there are pros and cons about the ideal time of year to create a pond. A pond created in the early autumn might well provide an extra place for frogs to hibernate over winter and the planting will be well established by spring. A pond created in spring could see frog spawn in its first season but I would say the best time to create a pond is now - if you put it off until the ideal time you may never get around to it. So, if you’ve got an urge to build a pond – jump right in and get on with it!

Cath's pond work in progress with plants

Cath Lovatt

Wild about Gardens, Wild about Ponds

Ponds are the focus of this year’s Wild About Gardens campaign with the Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Wild About Gardens was established to celebrate wildlife gardening and to encourage people to use their gardens to take action to help support nature. Many common garden visitors such as house sparrows, hedgehogs and starlings are under ever increasing threat, but by acting together we can make a real difference.

By getting involved you can help us turn as many of the 24 million gardens into a thriving network of mini nature reserves as possible - helping to invite back the wildlife that has been pushed out of so many areas.

This year the Wild About Gardens partners are going Wild About Ponds and every pond we can encourage people to create becomes part of a much bigger picture – a network of habitats to help support a range of threatened freshwater species as well as the birds, mammals and insects that also rely upon ponds.

To help you make the most of your garden and to create the best habitat possible we’ve created a new downloadable Wild About Ponds booklet packed with useful information of about how to create a pond and the wildlife that you’ll be helping.

Get involved!

You can download your Wild About Ponds Booklet and add you pond or pond pledge to our special map at www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk. You can also sign up online to receive a free monthly newsletter.

Cath Lovatt