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How to make your own wildlife pond: from start to finish - TNK Green

How to make your own wildlife pond: from start to finish

How to make your own wildlife pond: from start to finish

Building your own pond might seem like a daunting task. How large should it be? How deep and how do I maintain it and not end up with an algae and mosquito-infested mess?

A well-designed and planted wildlife pond can have many benefits for your garden. Regardless of its size any amount of water will invite birds, amphibians,  insects, and even mammals into your garden adding to its health and biodiversity. With more birds and insects to prey on pests it can directly affect the health of your plants, increase soil health, and above all bring some peace and tranquility into your life.


How to start

For a pumpless pond with minimal maintenance, it is important to look at your garden and Identify a spot that gets filtered sun for at least 3 – 4 hours a day. A pond in deep shade could be more difficult to maintain, since fewer plants will grow in full shade, and a pond in full sun might promote unwanted algae blooms and might require the addition of a pump and filter.

Once you have located the ideal spot it helps to assess the soil. Is the soil hard and difficult to dig? Are there excessive stones that need to be excavated and removed? Knowing your soil can help you develop a proper shopping list and streamline your installation on the day.

What you will need

A garden fork and a spade.

Pond liner (at least twice the size of the proposed pond)

A couple of bags of soft sand and/or felt

A hose and access to water

A couple of large stones (to edge you’re your pond and secure your liner)

Water plants (discussed in more detail later)

A couple of hours of your time and

Some helping hands

Optional extras:

Several bags of various sized River stones

Companion or edge plants

Step 1:

Dig a hole for your pond. While you dig remove all debris like large stones and chop roots to ensure a proper bowl. There is no minimum depth to a pond but most larger waterplants like to stand in at least 20 to 30cm of water. Next, create a ‘shelf’ on the perimeter half as deep as the deepest point of the pond. This will allow amphibians and insects better access to the shallow water and allow for planting close to the edge of the pond. Smooth out any bumps and compact soil where necessary.

Step 2:

Once you are happy with the size and depth of your pond use the sand to create a bedding layer at the bottom of the pond. This layer is necessary to protect your pond liner from any remaining sharp stones that might perforate the plastic barrier. For extra protection on larger digs, it is also advisable to add felt or wool lining over the sand to add an additional buffer. Ensure that you push the sand into all the nooks and crannies and pat it down.

Step 3:

Carefully lower your pond liner into the hole, ensuring that your liner has at least 30 – 50cm of excess liner on all sides of the pond. Using your hose slowly fill up the pond with water allowing the liner to set naturally into the hole. Once filled you can carefully smooth out or tuck in any folds and bubbles that might have formed. But don’t fuss about it and allow the liner enough time to settle before trimming off the excess.

Step 4:

Once you have trimmed off all excess liner tuck in the edges and bury them with a bit of soil. Use some of the large stones to edge your pond to create a natural edge and if so desired add some of the river stones in and around the edges. We prefer to use natural stone rather than more formalized pavers since it gives a more naturalistic look and makes it easier for wildlife to enter and exit the pond. Finally, you can start to plant up your pond.


For most ponds, you will need at least 3 types of plants: Submerged plants to act as an aerator; a floating plant, and an emergent plant.

Submerged plants grow below the surface of the water as the name suggests. These plants play an essential role in aerating the water, keeping it from becoming stagnant, and keeping your water clean and healthy.

A floating plant floats on the surface of the water and provides shade that suppresses algae blooms. They can be free-floating or rooted with the leaves supported by the water surface. It is advisable for a healthy ecosystem to cover approximately  30 – 40% of the pond surface to be truly effective.

An emergent plant can be any array of plants, from papyrus to Arum Lilies or water reeds, irises, or grasses. These plants don’t mind having their roots constantly wet but emerge high above the water surface adding height and interest. They also give nymph the ability to crawl up out of the water and transform into their final form (an essential part of dragonflies’ lifecycle) which are positive insect predators and important for controlling mosquitos during the warmer months of the year.

For advice on what plants to buy ask your local nursery for advice and what will do well in your size pond. Ask about the growth habits and adult size of the plant and keep that in consideration when making your final selection.


In Conclusion

No matter the size of your pond, adding a bit of water to your garden could be a great addition for wildlife and owners alike.

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