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Wildlife pond digging out

Work has started on getting my pond dug out.  I have a couple of questions to ask before I go any further regarding shelves and slops.  I did say I'd be back with more questionsimage Although I hadn't suspected quite so soon! 

After marking out I started removing the soil.  Currently around 2/3 done as you can see from my picture.  However it occurs to my that if I want to have a gradual slop/beach effect with stones and pebble at one end I need to address this now before I remove any more soil.  Am I right?  If so, how much of a slop should there be? I hope I am explaining myself right!


I've marked the area where I want the slop to be with canes. I think this end of the pond would be best as I can eventually blend the surrounding planting in with what's already there. Here's a look from another angle.


I have another question(s) if I may?  Regarding shelves.  How deep should they be?  I would like a water lily, Hortum-cretae suggested a couple of small lilies and am incluned to agree. How deep do I need to dig to have them survive? Should the deepest section be in the middle?  What depth should other shelves be?  Is one spade depth enough for any plants I choose to plant around the pond edge/margin.

Again, thanks for all you advice.  I realy want to get this right first time and all your expertise is worth it's weight in gold!



  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 33,322

    if you've got room, I'd make it bigger. It's amazing how they seem to shrink once they're finished.

  • True!  It's amazing how they shrink. The small lilies require 8 - 10 inches of water, that's all, larger ones will easily cope with up to 4ft or more.  A note; planting can be done in hessian sacks (like sandbag ones) full of soil, then slotted and planted into (like using a growbag). They can be positioned anywhere without toppling or sliding and there's loads more room in them than in a pot.  The hessian soon gets covered over and by the time the plants have rooted well into the soil, the hessian starts to rot away anyway. 


  • AngieRAngieR Posts: 347

    I'm not sure I can afford much more space Hostafan1 - I need to leave room for a path to the shed and greenhouse and as you can see from this picture - I need somewhere to have the whirlygig for the washing. As much as I'd love to do away with the washing, I'm not sure the family would be amenable to wearing dirty clothes for weeks on end! image 


    Thank you H-C.  Those sacks sound like just the thing I need in case I can get the shelves perfectly level. Would you recommend a stockist please?  They are not something I've seen readily available. 

  • AngieRAngieR Posts: 347

    That should read can't get the shelves perfectly level.

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 33,322

    Sorry Angi. I couldn't tell from the first photos. Wildlife will find your pond and fill it no matter how small. 

    In my last garden, my wildlife pond was a central heating header tank. 24" x18" x 18" deep. Frogs and hedghogs managed to find it.

    Enjoy it.image

    I was given some hessian " sand bag" sacks from a friend. I'm going to use them when I split my lilies and weight them with a house brick and use them in our lake.

  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 4,053

    Please give a thought also on how you are going to finish the edges of the pond. Liner is an ugly beast and the edges need to be well hidden. 

    The way I made the 'beach' in my pond was: the pond is three feet deep and about nine feet by nine feet. At one side I made a very deep shelf at about two feet deep. Then I put a line of big rockery type stones along it on the edge away from the edge Of the pond. I then filled up from the stones to the edge of the pond and more with cobbles - round stones about the size of your fist - and littler ones so it turned into a graded beach Sloping gently up to the side. You'll just need to play about until you get it right but better to think about it now before you do too much digging out. 

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 6,335

    To (not really) answer a couple of your questions: The slope just needs to be climable for an animal - think hedgehog, maybe, or toad - who falls in or gets in and then needs to get out again. If the sides are too straight, it won't be able to get out, so you're making a ramp. Doesn't need to be a regulation gradient. The more stones and pebbles you have going down into the water, the easier it'll be for creatures to scramble out.

    The depth of shelves depends what sort of plants you want, so you'll need to do a bit of research on your favourites and work to that, or do what you can and then you'll have to find plants that'll cope. Water lilies, according to the RHS, want 6 to 10 inches of water over the crown. But you can always put a pile of bricks or an upturned bucket or something similar to raise the pot up from the bottom of the pond to get it to the right depth.

    I'm just making a wildlife pond too. Dug it out a couple of weeks ago, But we have to wait for it to fill with rain (too far away for a hose to reach) so it'll be the spring before we're doing the edges and planting it up.

    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • I made my first wildlife pond earlier this year. I changed my mind on the size about 4 times whilst I was digging. I also found a lot of boulders in the hole and when I'd removed them it made the hole much bigger than I'd originally intended. The pond is now approx 3.5m x 1.5m. And I WISH I'D DONE IT BIGGER!!!! It's true what everyone says. You will look at it and wish you'd done it bigger. So, if you can fit in a bridge or stepping stones to allow access to the rest of the garden and for it to be bigger, then do it.

    I have 3 levels on mine. Mostly it's between 4-6 inches deep. The second level is about 10 inches and the deepest bit is about 2.5 feet, roughly. That's where my lily is. 

    I didn't dig much of a slope, but I have placed quite a few small boulders and gravel in the pond to make a ramp

    I have put in a lot of plants and I haven't used a pot or container of any kind on any of them. I have taken every plant out of the pot it came in, removed as much of the soil as I can with my fingers, without damaging the roots, and put the plants in the water. I've placed rocks on top of the roots where I can and they are all doing great. I want the roots to work to get the nutrients out of the pond. This helps to keep the pond clear (although that took a while, so don't panic).

    I also had an early attack of pink algae because I'd filled it with tap water and the nutrients in that causes an algae bloom. Don't panic though. The plants will sort that out.

    Last edited: 04 October 2016 13:00:18

  • Oh, and I also have 2 frogs, a toad, tons of snails and diving beetles already. It's great.

  • RedwingRedwing SussexPosts: 1,315

    Lots of good advice already.  It should be 3' deep at least; the water should not freeze solidly or you will kill all the invertebrates.  Too shallow and it will freeze to the bottom. Good project.  Hope it goes well. Try to plant as many native plants as you can to increase the biodiversity. It is tempting to plant showy things but sometimes the quiet plants attract the most wildlife.  Suggestions: water mint, water forget-me-nots, marsh marigolds, purple loosestrife. Yellow flag iris is nice but will take over a small pond so beware of that.

    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
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