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Making a wildlife pond

Hello all!

I'm a relative newbie to gardening and since we've been here I've just concentrated on digging borders on the heavy clay we have.  I've recently got a greenhouse so I've been sewing lots of seeds and extending my borders planning to grow flowers and veggies together this year.

Having a wildlife pond was always part of the grand plan, and I envisaged when we did this, we'd use a pond liner.  However we've just kindly been given a preformed pond.  It's bigger than I would have probably chosen but just happy to have got it for free!!

I've been googling like mad, but it seems that all the wildlife ponds are made using a liner.  Is it possible to have one with a preformed pond?

I'll post a photo tomorrow, but I just wondered for now if anybody has any tips before we start digging it out.  I'm a bit worried that I won't be able to do it as it's hard enough digging out the borders and I'm worried that there might be hardcore underneath.

I've always had really helpful advice from this forum, am really grateful for any comments and maybe photos of existing ponds?  I've tried doing a search on this forum for previous threads but for some reason computer won't let me.

Sorry for the essay!



  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,555

    When making a wildlife pond it is essential to have at least one part of it with a gentle, sloping side so wildlife can access and, more importantly, escape.  Even frogs and toads can drown if they can't get out.   Pre-formed ponds usually lack this feature but you can get round it by adding stones they can climb up.

    You need to excavate a hole shaped like your pond and a bit deeper and then line it with ordinary builders' sand and back fill and generally fiddle with that until your pond form sits level.  Once happy, start filling with water and then leave it for a fortnight so any chemicals in the tap water dissipate. 

    You can then add your chosen plants making sure you have a mix of broad leved and spiky leaved plants as these will suit and attract a wider variety of insects.  If you can, beg a jar of water form an established pond so you get some of the microbes that keep it balanced.  

    Make sure you edge your pond liner with slabs or stones that hide the liner form direct sun a,d also make sure there is a pile of stones on one of the marginal shelves that can acta s a beach to give escape routes to any hedgehogs that fall in and amphibians that want a spell on dry land.

    Do not add fish if you want to attract newts, frogs and toads as they eat the eggs.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Sandra100Sandra100 Posts: 130

    Thanks Obelixx for that helpful information.  I'll make sure that we make a 'beach' effect so that wildlife can get in and out.

    I wasn't going to buy fish as I've read that they are harmful to frogs etc.  My neighbour has a pond so it shouldn't be a problem getting a jar of water from her.

    Feel a bit 'overfaced' at the minute as it is quite large and worried that we won't do a decent job (OH has a bad back and son's got muscle but isn't at all interested, so it's just me really!!).

    Thanks again


  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,851

    Preformed is OK for a wildlife pond, it doesn't make any difference what holds the water. I've never installed one but a friend came to grief by not supporting it properly all round and it split. You need to pack in the soil all round, no gaps.

  • OnopordumOnopordum Posts: 390
    Obelixx says:
    Once happy, start filling with water and then leave it for a fortnight so any chemicals in the tap water dissipate.
    See original post

    Most tapwater is very polluted with nitrates, which will encourage a lot of excess algal and plant growth. These don't evaporate like chlorine so ideally you want to fill the pond with rainwater, e.g. from a water butt or downpipe from the roof. Use tapwater if that's not possible.

    There's no need for slabs all round the pond - plants/grasses overhanging the sides are better although some slabs for access e.g. on one side are a good idea. Obviously need to be completely secure, not wobbly.

    For plants the best species are ones with lots of complex structure underwater and at around surface level. Irises and water lilies not so much - the sword-shaped leaves of the former provide little habitat and the latter just shade out everything underneath (especially the larger varieties).

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,555

    Pebbles and assorted rocks can be used to disguise and protect edges to continue the beach effect.   Irises are attractive and allow emerging insects such as dragon and damsel flies to leave the pond and dry out their new wings before they take flight.   Avoid iris pseudacorus tho as it's a thug and will take over.

    You need some plants to cover the water surface to reduce algae bloom and blanket weed but a bundle of barley straw weighted down will also help.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • AWBAWB Posts: 421

    I find day lillies disguise the edge of the pond , and their floppy foliage makes a great hiding space for the frogs.

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 49,010

    Some of the ornamental grasses are good for disguising edges - carexes in particular - but avoid the invasive one, who's name I've instantly forgotten  image

    I'm sure someone will mention it. 

    I think most people use liners simply because it's easier. The others have described some of the issues with preformed ones, not least the levels, and getting the hole dug and supported. The planting and surroundings are the easiest bit really. You'll get plenty of advice with various plant suggestions to suit your site. 

    Do you absolutely have to use the pond you've got Sandra? I know it's good to get something for free, but if you don't have help to get it properly in place, is it worth the struggle? I'm saying that because I've recently done a cold frame with some windows a friend was having replaced, and it's been more trouble than it's worth! Gift horses and all that...image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Sandra100Sandra100 Posts: 130

    Thanks all for your helpful posts.  I've printed them off, otherwise I'd forget!

    You're absolutely right though Fairygirl.  I don't need to use this pond, well not this year anyway.  I've decided to wait until next year, I've got tons of seeds coming through at the minute and have dug massive borders to accommodate them all.

    Still need to do a plan of what to put where, so I think I've got enough to be getting on with at the minute without starting to dig a pond!  Feel better now I've made that decision!


  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,555

    Good decision.  It needs thinking about and doing well to succeed and not need constant tweaking afterwards.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 49,010

    I think you're doing the right thing too, Sandra. It's really about priorities, and what your needs (and capabilities) are. it can be a bit deflating when you try to do everything you'd like and it doesn't come together quickly. Bit at a time image

    Once you have a better feel  for the garden, it will be easier to fit your pond in - preformed or otherwise image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

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