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How to make a water feature for wildlife

You can provide a water feature regardless of the size of your garden.

Making a small water feature

Lack of space doesn't need to stop you getting involved.

Even a small planter trough of 70 x 30 cm x 25 cm deep (28 x 12ins x 10ins) will provide refuge for aquatic wildlife within a comparatively short space of time.

  • Large plastic planting pots are excellent for turning into small water features. If there are pre-drilled drainage holes, line the container with butyl liner.
  • Place a layer of gravel in the bottom of the tub. You will need a shallow area or ledge in your feature. This may be created using bricks or inverted plant pot, so that wildlife can get in and out. On top of this, place a planted basket of marginal plants submerged at or below the water surface.
  • You could try linking tubs of different heights together using a pre-cast plastic waterfall which can over flow into another tub below. You may even consider making one of the tubs a bog garden (see below).
  • Because of their small size, containers should be sheltered from prevailing winds, and away from exposure to long periods of direct sun, as evaporation will be high.
  • You may have room to use one of the smaller pre-shaped plastic ponds and surround and support it using other tubs and planters.

Making a bog garden

It is well worth considering creating a boggy area as a feature in your garden, that could form part of a pond. Consider a bog garden instead of a pond if you are concerned about the safety of young children. You will still be helping local wildlife!

Ponds and wetlands created together attract more wildlife than each habitat on its own.

There are plenty of beautiful plants which do not do well in open water, but thrive in a bog garden such as purple loosestrife, marsh marigold and water mint.

Some general hints and tips:

  • Create a reasonably large wetland – otherwise it could dry out too quickly.
  • Make a bog garden in much the same way as you would a pond, but much shallower. Puncture the liner to allow some drainage.
  • If you are limited for space, bog gardens can be created in a container.
Purple loosestrife Lythrum, close up

Making a bird bath

Birds need water in all seasons. They need it to bathe and keep their feathers in tip-top condition for good insulation during the bitter winter nights. They need it to drink, too.

Seed-eating birds in particular need water, as their main food source is very dry. Insect-eaters need more water in the winter because they do not eat as many juicy caterpillars.

  • Use a shallow dish or an upturned dustbin lid sunk into the ground.
  • A small rock in the middle will help the birds reach the water easily.
  • Clean it often, as a layer of algae, dead leaves and bird droppings soon builds up.
  • Site your birdbath carefully - birds need clear visibility, nearby bushes for cover and perches on which to sit and preen.
  • A pond provides water for birds, but make sure that it has at least one shallow side – it will attract plenty of other wildlife to your garden, too.
  • Remember to break the ice on your birdbath in harsh weather.
  • It is important to replenish your birdbath regularly with fresh, clean water.

A variety of birdbaths are available from our mail order catalogue, our online shop and at RSPB shops.