Action 264: Build a garden pond

pondDate: 21 September
Action: 264
Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL


Caring for ecosystems starts right at home!

Today’s action is a project for the garden.

It won’t be possible for everyone of course, but if you have space, enjoy gardening, and you have time to give to a project, creating a pond is a great way of enhancing your environment and providing for biodiversity.

Today’s action is based on advice from The Wildlife Trusts.

What to do

A wildlife pond is one of the single best features for attracting new wildlife to any garden.

According to The Wildlife Trusts, it is even thought that some amphibians, such as frogs, are now more common in garden ponds than in the countryside.

You can build a pond at any time during the year, but if you start in autumn or late winter, it will get established much quicker.

You will need:

  • a big (ish) patch of garden
  • a plank of wood
  • a pond liner (preferably butyl rubber, which is durable, flexible, cheap and easy to work with)
  • a variety of pond plants
  • some large rocks
  • a spirit level
  • builder’s sand
  • a good spade
  • or a mini-digger depending on how big your pond will be!
  • water (rainwater is best)

Ready to dig?

Choose your pond location. It is better for wildlife if you put the pond in a warm, sunny area – tadpoles, dragonflies and plants will thrive in these conditions. Mark out your pond on the ground with a rope or hosepipe, and then get digging!

Ensure that the sides are level as you dig by placing a plank across the pond’s hole with a spirit level on top. Remember to include some shallow areas in your pond, to suit the different plants you want to use.

When you have made your hole (and found a home for all the soil!) remove any sharp stones from the bottom of it. Put down a 5cm layer of sand to line the hole. This is used because the sand is sterile and will not harbour any undesirable seeds or microbes. Hold some sand back for later.

Now dig a trench around the edge of the pond for the overhanging pond liner to drop into. Place the liner carefully in the hole and tuck the edge into the trench; weigh it down all round with the rocks and  snipped off any excess with scissors.

Once you are satisfied that everything is in place, line the bottom of the pond with the remaining sand.


Now you can add the essential ingredient.

Filling the pond up may take longer than you think. If possible, use collected rainwater to fill your pond, or alternatively use a hosepipe. To stop the sand in the bottom dispersing, rest the nozzle of the hose on a plastic bag or sheet initially to cushion the flow.

If you do fill your pond with tap water then leave it so stand for a few days extra before adding your plants.

As the pond fills up, the liner will stretch and be pushed by the weight of the water to the nooks and crannies of the hole. Once the pond liner has settled, back fill the trench around the edge of the pond with soil. As the pond is filling, place turf, soil or flagstones over the exposed liner at the pond edges. Your liner might degrade in sunlight so try not to leave areas of the rubber uncovered.


Plants can be introduced to your pond a week after the initial filling with water. Carefully selected native species will support your local wildlife.

If plants are well chosen, and the pond is kept in a balanced ecological state, it shouldn’t need much maintenance at all. However, do keep an eye out for a build-up of dead organic matter or encroaching vegetation.

There are four ‘zones’ in which pond plants may be grown; try to have plants in each zone.

  • totally submerged (in deeper water) oxygenating plants
  • submerged but with floating leaves (also in deep water) oxygenating plants
  • emergent (in shallower area)
  • marginal (growing in the pond edge)


Watch and see what wildlife visits!

Place stones, logs and plants around the edges to create habitats for pond-visiting creatures, and consider adding a plank of wood as a ramp to help any wildlife that might fall in.

pondTake action

If you have space, a garden pond is a great project and will support our environment:

  • encourages biodiversity
  • provides habitat
  • enhances your garden
  • fascinates children

For more information about creating your pond’s mini eco-system, please download the free Wild About Garden Ponds booklet from The Wildlife Trusts, available in PDF format at …. Ponds.pdf