Every wild garden benefits from having a pond. Make a splash for nature near you by creating your own!
Birds bathe in it, dragonflies lay their eggs there, and the lifecycles of amphibians (frogs, newts and toads) also rely on watery habitats. Ponds are a fantastic addition to any garden and a great way to give nature a home.
You don't have to have a huge outdoor space to make a pond. If you do have a big garden, you can try your hand at a large pond, but a mini-pond is something nearly anyone can provide.
It doesn't matter whether you've got a small balcony or a tiny backyard, you can bring a little bit of water into the lives of the wildlife around you!
It's a fun activity that the whole family can get involved with and can be the start of many more garden adventures to come!
Are you doing this activity as part of your Wild Challenge? Find out how you are progressing – are you getting closer to gold?
Did you know: frogs lay their spawn in big clumps and toads lay their spawn in long chains?
What you will need
- A large watertight container, like an old sink or big washing up bowl, or even a purpose-built rigid liner.
- Pond plants. Here's a selection that's perfect for a mini-pond:
- To go under the water - rigid hornwort, whorled water-milfoil
- To poke out of the water: water forget-me-not, lesser spearwort and marsh marigold
- The base of the pond should have a bit of sand or gravel.
Find or buy a large container. It could be a half-barrel, an old Belfast butler sink, or even an old washing-up bowl! (Although we can't promise this will get you out of doing the washing up!)
It needs to be strong if it's going to go outside, especially during frosts.
You could use something that isn't watertight but is strong, such as a large plant pot, although you will need to line it with pond liner – otherwise, the water will leak out and you'll end up with a pond with no water!
- Put your container into your chosen place while it’s empty. Once it’s full of water, it will be very hard to move without spilling it all over the floor!
Ideally, you’ll put it somewhere that gets a good amount of light but isn't in full sunlight all day.
You can sink it into the ground or leave it proud of the surface, but if the edges are level with the ground, more creatures can get in and out.
- Even a mini-pond can be a hazard for small children, so position it where it will be safe.
- Prepare your pond. Seal any drainage holes. After all, a pond with holes isn't going to be a very good pond!
If you’re using an old sink, an adult will need to help silicon a plug into the plughole. If you’re using a large plant pot, line it with butyl pond-liner, although be aware that folding it around right-angle corners is tricky - like a difficult origami!
Put a layer of clean gravel in the bottom if you wish. Don't use soil – it is too full of nutrients and it will help slimy-green algae to take over!
Imagine you're an animal! Shrink down to the size of a frog or newt and think about how you might get in and out of the pond. Use bricks, rocks or logs to create little steppingstones and ladders in and out of the pond!
- At last, you can fill your pond! Whenever possible, use rainwater. Tap water contains too many chemicals to be good for a pond. Maybe your family have got a water-butt to use? Or perhaps you can let it fill up naturally on a stormy day!
- Plant up your pond with native aquatic plants, ideally in special aquatic plant pots (which have mesh sides). Use a very low nutrient soil (you can buy special soil for ponds), mixed with grit.
Submerged pondweed is vital to help the pond stay clear. Always use native plants in ponds – rigid hornwort and whorled water-milfoil are recommended. You can buy these from garden centres or specialist pond suppliers.
Include native marginal plants around the edge, poking clear of the surface to give perches and cover to wildlife. Just be very careful to only use plants which won't grow too large for such a small space. Two or three plants is the maximum for a pond this size. Try plants such as water forget-me-not, lesser spearwort and marsh marigold.
- Aftercare. For the first few months, don’t worry if you get algae or blanket weed (which is like strings of green gloop!), it's easy to get out by winding it around a stick and great fun!
As your mini-pond matures, all the pond creatures you’ve attracted will help keep the water clear. You may need to top the pond up in hot weather – try to use rainwater from a water butt.
- Be patient and observant as different creatures discover your pond and choose to make it their home. Don't be tempted to bring in buckets of pond life from elsewhere. Pond creatures are great at finding ponds themselves. Toads tend to like larger ponds, but there is every chance a frog or newt will find your mini-pond, especially if you provide little patches of cover next to a pond, and maybe add a frog and toad abode nearby. After a while, your pond should slowly become home to a host of amazing pond creatures. Why not take another step towards your Wild Challenge and try pond dipping?
- Don't forget to tell us when you have completed the activity! When you mark the activity as complete, you will be asked to upload a photo, drawing or painting to help earn your award.
Completing the activity
Use the 'Mark as complete' button at the top of this page to tell us you've completed your activity. You'll need to show us what you did by uploading a photo of your mini-pond, either complete or your family making it or some images of creatures using it, perhaps a frog or two will move in? You can send us some artwork instead if you wish.