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Digging a wildlife pond

I’m digging a wildlife pond and i’m finding so much conflicting advice on the net and in books. 

So far I have dug the pond in a rough, rounded L shape. It slopes from no depth at all at one end, down to 35cm at the other. Some sides are steep and some are sloping. There is a long, gentle slope down at one end. 

I haven’t put in any shelves and have kept it shallow as this was something I read on one site and my ground is like concrete!

The pond is something like 7’ by 8’ and because I have young children i’m going to put a wire mesh over the deeper parts and leave the really shallow areas uncovered. 

It’s in a sunny area and once lined, I was going to let it fill up naturally with rainwater and perhaps let plants colonise naturally too, if I have the patience.

So, is my pond any good or do I need to adapt it? I’m after any wildlife as I know water in a garden is very important to lots of animals. 

Any my advice would be gratefully received.



  • A couple of pics
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,165
    Hi @joe.shimmin. Great to see you making a pond, and your children will really enjoy it  :)
    I'd say try and dig out your deeper bit by another 6 inches [15cm] if you can. It will help prevent the whole thing freezing. If you live in an area where you don't get lots of frosts/snow/ice, it might be ok. You may have the opposite problem though, in that it will heat up quickly, so you'll find you'll probably get a problem with algae/blanketweed. Nothing to really worry about, and you'll get plenty of help with tackling it on the forum.

    The other thing to do is make sure you have plenty of cover for wildlife. Planting some evergreens and things like hostas and grasses etc, will ensure they have somewhere to hide. The garden looks a little empty from that view in your pix, but that may be deceptive. If you can tie planting into the rest of the garden, that usually works best, rather than having it too isolated. It all takes a bit of time, but it's surprising how quickly a few plants will establish and look mature, and you can always put some logs and rocks [if you have them] with a few plants in pots grouped together, to offer some hiding places until you get it all finished  :)

    Good luck with it - and I hope you and your family enjoy watching the birds and other wildlife using it  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,053
    I agree with @Fairygirl, a bit of time and effort to make it a bit deeper will help a lot once it's filled.
    The shallow side will warm up very quickly on sunny days but also freeze quickly in winter. If it's deeper the water temperature is a lot more stable.
    Fairy is also quite correct when she suggests HOSTAS for cover.  ;)
  • If you are after a wildlife pond, as opposed to a fish pond, then what you have done sounds good to me. It sounds like you might have read some of the same advice that I did before digging our pond last winter - e.g. The guy that wrote that article, Dr Jeremy Biggs, seems very knowledgable on the topic and also has his own blog. He is very against wildlife ponds that are too deep!
    Our pond is actually shallower than yours, at about 30cm in the deepest part, which is only over a very small area of the pond. The rest is very shallow (0-10 cm) and, although we've only had one season, the wildlife it has attracted has been amazing. Lots of frogs, dragonflies of at least three sorts, damselflies etc and the birds absolutely love the shallow edges. Although we didn't have the coldest winter last year, the pond did freeze but never more than a centimetre or so.

    Before and after pics of ours, from Dec last year until last week. The transformation has been amazing although I must admit I did wonder what I had done initially as it looked so awful!

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,165
    That's the proof @matt_fender - they don't take long to establish if you do the right things  :)
    The issue with freezing is the reason for having it deeper in part of it, but it largely depends on whereabouts in the country you are. Plenty of shallow areas is fine, and is great for all sorts of wildlife, but if it freezes regularly in your area, it's difficult to do much about it after you build it  ;)
    I keep a piece of coated polystyrene in mine over winter, which has a concave section underneath to keep an open area of water.  It's a necessity here. Once the water starts freezing, it easily gets compounded if temps are low over the course of a week or more :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • matt_fendermatt_fender Posts: 169
    edited September 2019
    @Fairygirl I think if I was up in Scotland I would definitely go deeper too! We are on the south coast, and although we typically get some freezing nights I'd be surprised if ever got to the point of freezing to the bottom - fingers crossed.
    Yes the transformation has been amazing - new ponds really do look pretty grim for a while, but thankfully not for too long. I didn't have the patience to let plants naturally colonise though, and put quite a lot of effort into disguising the edges with hessian, gravel etc - which has all grown in very nicely now.
  • +1 for deeper, that is make the rest of the pond a little deeper, the deepest bit is an acceptable depth for a wildlife pond.
    It's not just frost that you should worry about, evaporation in the summer may have a significant effect on a shallow pond (both aesthetically and functionally).
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,165
    I meant to say that too @BobFlannigon - evaporation is rapid in shallow areas in warm weather.
    Mine is probably 15 - 18 inches at the deepest part - but it's only a tiny part as it's only a tiny pond  ;)
    Quite  unlike the last one, which was several feet deep in the middle. No danger of it freezing though, as it was spring fed.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Brilliant, thanks so much for your replies. I have lots of rocks that I am going to use to make a rockery with lots of planting and plenty of nooks and crannies in for animals. I’m going to hide a few frog and toad homes around and plan to plant up the area more.

    I’ll see what I can do to connect the front garden with the back and the long hedge I have there to make a bit of a wildlife corridor. 

    I live in kent and I don’t think I’ve gets thicker than an inch or so but I may dig a bit deeper in general. 

    Once again, thanks. I’ll post some more pics when i’ve done more.
  • We have a very small wildlife pond and it was amazing how quickly it was used and the frogs moved in.  I think anyone adding a pond is doing a wonderful thing for wildlife.  We sited ours in a rockery and just surrounded it with plants and it has been a fantastic addition to our garden.
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