Forum home Wildlife gardening

Argh - pond help please! And maybe a little rant :)

I've been spending my lockdown hours creating a medium sized wildlife pond from scratch - about 5 x 4 m in an oval shape. Hardest thing I've ever done! I've got to the stage where the underliner, liner and then underliner again is laid down. I'm planning, as the books I've read advised, to cover the entire thing with a layer of approx 10-15cm of compacted subsoil to plant the plants directly into, rather than using plastic baskets.

First problem - I got the first lot of subsoil in and realised I didn't have enough - so more is on order from a supplier which (after sending me the wrong product the first time) is now arriving tomorrow. So the current status is it's fully lined and with a half soil filled pond.

Second problem - THE RAINS CAME! The pond is now full in the deepest part, before I've even had a chance to either add in the rest of the soil. I think it's fine soil-depth wise in the bit that's full, but it does mean that with the section I have left for pebbles for the sloping beach, I am going to have to "lob" them into the lowest part of the pond and hope that they settle in the right place to complete the slope at its bottom part.

Third problem - I'm ordering the oxygenating plants from a different supplier to the marginals because each didn't have the other of what I wanted. The marginals are now arriving tomorrow but the oxygenators not for another week or so, due to delivery problems at their side. This means I have no choice but to get the rest of the subsoil in there tomorrow as soon as it arrives so that I can start planting the marginals plug plants tomorrow when they arrive too - I assuming they won't survive for days out of water? I'm hoping that it will be ok when the bunched oxygenators arrive in another week or so to throw them into the pond rather than plant in the soil.

Final problem / question (there is a question!!). My three deep water plants also arrive tomorrow and I'm reading lots of conflicting information about how to plant them. The wildlife pond book I have (by Jenny Steele) says to remove them from the pot they arrive in, wrap and tie in hessian and lower to deepest part of the pond. There's no mention of either using a basket or planting direct into the soil within my pond. But everywhere else (including Monty) talks about using baskets. Has anyone else used the method of wrapping and tieing in hessian - does it work?

After putting in so much back breaking effort into this pond I'm now completely stressed out that it's all going to get ruined at the last minute because of a combination of the weather and all the delivery problems at the moment! Thanks for any advice on any matters :)


  • Butterfly66Butterfly66 Posts: 933
    Hi Gilla
    Oxygenators are fine you can just throw those into the pond and they will sort themselves out.
    I would follow what your wildlife book says. I think baskets have just become the easy default. I used hessian to ‘plant’ some marsh marigold and just placed it into position in the pond. It was quite a big clump (not bought but from the original pond we were replacing) so was quite stable. If some of your marginals are smaller you might need some stones in the hessian bag (or a bigger amount of compost than in the pot) so they have some weight and base to be stable. They will soon root down and out inti your soil. We also put some of our flag iris back in without any compost/hessian/basket and they soon rooted themselves.

    Also don’t feel rushed - you could temporarily house your new plants in a bucket or bowl with some rainwater (you could scoop some out of your pond if no water butts). We transferred the plants and wildlife from our old pond into a paddling pool whilst we enlarged and relined it. Everything was quite happy for about three weeks until we were ready to transfer them back. 

    Any additional soil you out in will settle down and a natural silt will develop across the base of the pond so don’t worry about not being able to know if you are covering the whole area.

    sounds an exciting project x
     If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
    East facing, top of a hill clay-loam, cultivated for centuries (7 years by me). Birmingham
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,743
    Firstly , don't be stressed about it. 

    There are as many "right ways" as there are gardeners.
    I've lobbed waterlilies into our lake with lump of brick tied to the roots and they've found their way in life . 

    I'd say wither hessian or baskets are fine. With hessian, I'd gather it up and tie around it with jute twine, ( not nylon ) . I'd not tie the hessian around itself by the corners as it'll take ages to break down and might constrict the plants. I'd add some heavy stones into baskets / hessian to weigh them down and they'll send roots out and find the soil. 

    Plants want to live, they don't want to die. 
  • debs64debs64 Posts: 5,045
    I kept pond plants in plastic boxes in the garden ( very difficult relocation and house move) for 18 months. When time came to plant up pond they were all fine and we had newts living in the boxes! Try not to stress plants are a lot tougher than you think sometimes! Pond sounds lovely what a fantastic project! 
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353
    Don't overthink it.
    There's no real need to put soil in the bottom either. It'll find it's way in, as well as the wildlife  :)
    Of course, in and ideal world, we wouldn't have plastic baskets, but just do what suits you. If you have ordinary pots, just cut loads of holes in the sides. You can split them with a Stanley knife.
    Any plants arriving will be perfectly happy in a bucket or container for now  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Thank you all so much for your reassuring comments. As a complete beginner I want to get everything right (as you can probably imagine I've read about 7 books on the subject and then driven myself bananas with all the different methods talked about and trying to work it all out!). It's also involved so many hours of hard graft that I felt a bit devastated at potentially falling at the last hurdle, so the reassurance really helps - thank you!

    Brilliant to hear that the bunched oxygenators are ok thrown in, and that the other plants could be ok if kept damp for a couple of days - that gives me time to calm down a bit and think about where I want things to go visually rather than panicking and rushing it!

    I've already bought some jute string and hessian so glad to know I got that right, and today I also managed to order on next day delivery a couple of pond baskets and aquatic compost, so now I have both options to choose from  :D

    I have a tendency to want everything to perfect and forget in the process that the critters won't care if you can see a bit of the pond liner through the mud etc. 

    Plants really do want to live don't they - I'm amazed at the amount of times I've hacked something out of the ground (or so i've thought) only to find it's survived through the tiniest little stem left!

    Thanks again all
  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286
    If you can find a hire place open, you can hire a pump and just pump out the water. You probably wouldn't need to, but is an option. 

    The up side is it is far better half filled with fresh rain water, than if it had not rained and you ended up filling it up with a hose.
  • GreenbirdGreenbird Posts: 237
    Sounds nice. Have you got any pictures.
  • @GemmaJF - yes that's exactly what I thought - the silver lining is that at least rain water is better for the pond!

    @Greenbird - pic below, although it really is just one big ugly, muddy mess at the moment. The water line will be just below the highest set of bricks that you can see. Then there is a shelf below for planting on which will be filled with low fertility soil (when more of it arrives tomorrow) as well as planting in the sub soil you can already see, depending on what depth that turns out to be. Soil will also go around the rim and I plan to plant grasses etc in that to hopefully (eventually) have a natural looking transition between the lawn and the pond. Today I just started filling it with pebbles for the sloped beach area which will go all the way to the top and over. The deepest part is where the water has gathered - about 90cm deep in that part.

    Once finished I'll show pics although I suspect it look like a big, muddy mess for a little while, as my plants (except the lilies) are plug plants for cost saving so will take a while to grow!

  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286
    edited April 2020
    Looking good, it won't take all that long for it to look natural. I personally think adding soil to a wildlife pond is by far the best way to get it up and running, will look murky for a while, but when it clears, it will be full of life. 
  • GreenbirdGreenbird Posts: 237
    I'm very interested in seeing the finished thing. As I'll be starting my own soon of a similar size and want it to look natural without planting baskets

Sign In or Register to comment.