How to build a garden pond

How to build a garden pond

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With spring rapidly turning into summer as the longest, lightest days of the year approach, now is certainly a great time for getting out into the garden.

While the plants and flowers are flourishing, you will also be able to enjoy seeing lots of wildlife, as you watch the butterflies flutter by, hear the birds sing and get the occasional visit from a squirrel.

However, there is a whole range of fauna and flora that may be missing from your garden if it lacks a pond. From water lilies to dragonflies, duckweed to frogs, a pond is a haven of wildlife and can be a great focal point for a garden. It is also very attractive to kids, although, of course, very young ones should be supervised to make sure they don't fall in - or jump!  

Getting started

The first thing to do is pick a good spot in the garden and work out just how large the pond will be. That will be chiefly dictated by the size of the garden, which may also influence the shape. However, in the latter case you may wish to go for anything from an oblong to something roughly circular. After all, pond life exists in pools of various shapes and sizes.

To be self-sustaining, a pond should be at least five square metres in surface area, while the deepest section should reach 60 cm, with the depth gradually becoming shallower but including a shelf below the surface near the edges. This allows more varied underwater habitat for all sorts of creatures.  

Once the pond has been dug, the next step is to lay down a liner. Butyl rubber is a good material, but others prefer PVC. Whichever you choose, make sure you smooth the edges on the lip of the pond and then trim the excess off. Weigh this down with rocks, stones or bricks to hold it in place. You can then lay turf over this if you wish.  


Once this is done, you can add some soil. This only needs to be a fairly thin layer - you want the water to be clear, after all - but this is necessary for planting any plants you want to have. Different species will need to be rooted more deeply than others, with some being entirely underwater kinds, rather than emergent vegetation. Others need to be situated on the shallow shelves.  

The plants you can add include submerged vegetation like curly pondweed, hornweed and water starwort. Emergent plants include bogbean, greater spearwort, water forget-me-not, flowering rush and water violet, and don't forget to add a few floating plants like frog bit or water lilies to prevent the pond overheating in summer.

Animal life

The animal life will usually turn up of its own accord, so it is not necessary to deliberately introduce it. Bugs and beetles will find their own way there, as will dragonflies and damselflies.

Of course, having some frogs or toads is part of the fun of having a pond, from the writhing, passionate scrum of croaking, mating creatures in spring and the mass of spawn that emerges from these efforts, followed by the teeming mass of tadpoles and the little froglets they turn into. It's all great fun, especially for the fascinated kids.

Frogs and toads habitually return to the same ponds to mate each year, but if these dry up or are deliberately filled in, they will have to look elsewhere. As a result, they will probably find your pond of their own accord.

Once established, your pond should soon be teeming with life - and provide endless interest.