How to Create a Wildlife Friendly Garden Pond: Building a Natural Pond, Choosing Suitable Plants and Planting

A wildlife friendly pond can be as small as an old water tank, but a decent sized pond with an adjacent marshy or boggy area will attract and support a wider range of birds, amphibians and insects.



The sight of a bat, or a swallow swooping down for midges above the water on a balmy summer’s evening makes the effort involved in the creation and maintenance of a wildlife pond worthwhile.

Key Points When Choosing a Place for the Pond

  • Choose an open site away from overhanging, deciduous trees.
  • Put it where it will receive sun for most of the day.
  • Avoid waterlogged areas and places with a high water table.

How to Make the Pond Watertight

Flexible sheet liners offer the best means for making a pond watertight as they fit any shape you make. With a bit of manipulation they can be used to create bogs and marshes as well. Calculate the size of liner required by measuring the longest side of the hole at its widest point and adding twice the maximum depth to this measurement. Then measure the shortest side of the hole at its widest point and add twice the maximum depth to this measurement.

Top Tips for Pond Building

  • Lay a rope or hose pipe on the ground in the desired shape of the pond.
  • Remove a small trench around the perimeter.
  • Dig out the centre to a depth of 70-100cm.
  • Create wide, shallow sloping shelves 15-20cm deep around the edge.
  • Use the excavated soil to make a bank with logs and rocks for sheltering frogs, toads and newts.
  • Remove all stones and sharp objects from the hole.
  • Ensure that the rim of the hole is level.
  • Line the hole with sharp sand and pond underlay.
  • Place the liner over the hole and put some weights at each corner.
  • Put a hose pipe in the centre of the sheet and turn on the water.
  • The liner will stretch and mould itself to the shape of the hole.
  • Let the grass grow long and rough up to the edge of the pond.

Don’t Panic if the Water Goes Green

Tap water is full of nutrients so green algae will soon grow and your new pond look like pea soup. Whatever you do don’t panic and empty the pond. It will settle as the nutrient levels fall. Leave the pond for 2-3 weeks before planting. If you have the patience let the pond fill gradually with rain water. Do this and green water will not be a problem.

Planting the Natural Pond

Stone-free soil may be thrown in the bottom of the pond for planting into, but planting into plastic baskets filled with aquatic compost restricts plant growth making future pond care much easier. The mass of tangled growth and matted roots which result from plants which are given the freedom of the pond floor means that frequent lifting, dividing and replanting is necessary.

Suitable Plants for Wildlife Ponds

Plants are very important features in a natural pond. They provide food and shelter for many creatures and look attractive. The pond should include examples from each of the following groups:


  • Oxygenating plants (submerged) such as Water Milfoil, and Curly pondweed.
  • Floating leaved types including Frogbit or Water lilies.
  • Marginal plants like Water mint and Marsh marigold.

Do not plant the following alien invasive species in your pond: Floating pennywort, Parrots feather and Australian swamp stonecrop. Their rapid growth smothers native plants and chokes the water.

Complete The Project With an Adjacent Bog Garden

All kinds of creatures including damselfly larvae, waterboatmen, frogs, tadpoles, dragonflies, pondskaters and pondsnails will spend part of their life cycle in the water. To provide more creature comforts for the wildlife in your garden make a boggy area next to the pond by taking out the soil to a depth of 30-40cm. Line the hole with punctured polythene and replace the soil. Plant the area with moisture-loving plants including purple loosestrife, marsh marigolds and meadow sweet to provide an attractive habitat for shy residents such as frogs, toads and newts.