How to build your own wildlife pond

I am particularly excited to write this blog post for 2 reasons, I am an avid wildlife enthusiast and lover of all animals, plus I am keen to build my own pond this summer (update to follow!)  I remember living in a house that had a huge garden with a pond when I was a child.  Every spring the garden would be full of baby frogs and as kids we would have fun catching the tiny frogs, then letting them go again.  I am by no means saying I want to do that now but I do want to welcome wildlife into my garden and a wildlife pond is a great way to do just that.

Garden Pond

What animals can I expect to visit my pond?

Even just building a small pond in your garden will attract a variety of creatures to your garden.  Some of these might include:

Dragonflies

Hedgehogs

Birds

Frogs and toads

Newt

Pond-skaters

Water boatman

Water snails

Leaches and worms

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Due to the loss of almost 70% of the UK's natural ponds, species such as dragonflies, water bugs and great crested newt are declining rapidly.  You can help by providing a new home for them in your garden.

What do I need?

A spade

Plank of wood

Spirit level

Butyl pond liner

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Water (rainwater if possible)

Pond plants

Large rocks

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How to build your pond

The first thing to do is choose the ideal spot for your pond.  Some wildlife like dragonflies, tadpoles and your pond plants will appreciate a nice, sunny area.  Keep in mind that having a bush near by will make other animals such as birds and hedgehogs feel safe and secure.  Avoid having your pond under a tree as you will be forever fishing leaves out of it.

Mark out your pond on the ground with rope or a large hosepipe (you can spray paint long the outline if it makes it easier) and then it's time to start digging!  

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As you dig, place a plank of wood across the hole with a spirit level on it to keep it level.  It is best to have some shallow areas as different plants need to be planted at varying depths.  Include a sloping beach to allow easy access for animals.  

Remove any sharp stones from the bottom then line with building sand (around 5cm deep.)  The sand will level any uneven surfaces and fill in holes.  Sand can also help with drainage if the soil is particularly wet, as you can get problems with water getting under the pond liner itself and lifting it.  

Dig a trench around the edge of the pond for the overhanging pond liner to drop into. Place the liner carefully in the hole and tuck the edge into the trench; weigh it down with large rocks. Any extra excess liner can be snipped off with scissors.  Fill the bottom of your pond with the remaining building sand (this will keep the liner firmly at the bottom as well as protect it from sharp stones.    

Now for the exciting bit!  Time to fill your pond.  Try to use rain water where possible but if not fill from the tap with a hose.  To stop the sand dispersing, rest the nozzle of the hose on a plastic bag to absorb some of the energy. If you do fill your pond with tap water then leave it so stand for a few days before filling it so the sand can settle.

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As you fill the pond the liner will stretch under the water's weight.  Back fill the trench around the pond with soil.  As the pond is filling, place turf, soil or flagstones over the exposed liner at the pond edges. Butyl liner degrades in sunlight, so try not to leave areas of uncovered liner exposed for too long.

1-2 weeks after filling your pond you can start planting pond plants.  Be sure to include some oxygenated pond plants to eliminate the need for a filter and some floating native plants to keep the algae down (around 50% pond coverage.)  When selecting plants do your research as to what will support your local wildlife.

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Finally, surround your pond with rocks, logs and plants for your new visitors to hide in when visiting your pond.  You could also place a piece of wood sloping into your pond to work as an access point for small creatures.  Then sit back, relax and wait and see what new wildlife visits your pond.