Create a mini-pond
Water brings a magical quality to your garden and is the key to life for so many creatures that live in it. Create a very small pond out of something like an old washing up bowl. It's exciting to watch pond skaters, water lice (like long-legged underwater woodlice), freshwater shrimps, and if you’re lucky, a few damselflies darting around the water. You might even see a bird having a bath. Spring is a lovely time to create a mini-pond because you'll see it quickly develop over the next few months. But you can make it at any time of year.
Find or buy a large container.
It will need to be watertight, like a half-barrel, an old water tank or even a large washing-up bowl. It needs to be able to withstand the rigours of being outside, especially frosts.
Put your container into your chosen place while it’s empty.
Once it’s full of water, it will be difficult to move. Ideally, 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 on the surface, but if the edges are level with the ground, more creatures can get in and out.
If above ground, make a ramp or use bricks, rocks or logs to create stepping stones in and out of the pond.
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.
Put a layer of clean gravel in the bottom. Don't use soil, as it will make your pond go green.
At last, you can fill your pond!
Whenever possible, use rainwater. Tapwater contains too many chemicals to be good for a pond.
Plant up your pond.
It is best to put plants 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. Be careful to only use plants that 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.
For the first few months, don’t worry if you get algae or blanket weed (which is like strings of green gloop), get children to remove it by winding it around a stick – it’s 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.
And now see what arrives!
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 corridors of cover next to a pond, and add a frog and toad abode nearby.