Making a small pond in your garden

Create a mini-pond

Activity time:
More than 2 hours
Difficulty level:
Suitable for:
Small garden, Large garden, Medium garden
To help:
Frogs, toads & newts, Dragonflies & damselflies, Birds, Pond creatures

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.

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What you will need

  • A large container that will hold water
  • Some gravel and rocks
  • Some small pond plants
  • Optional: some pond liner or silicon

Step-by-step guide

  1. Find or buy a large container. It could be a half-barrel, an old Belfast butler sink, or even a large washing-up bowl. It needs to be strong to withstand the rigours of being outside, especially frosts.

    You could use something that isn't watertight but is strong, such as a large plant pot, but making sure that it doesn't leak can be challenging. If you do use a pot, you may want to consider lining it with pond liner.

  2. Put your container into your chosen place while it’s empty. Once it’s full of water, it will be difficult to move! 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.
  3. Even a mini-pond can be a hazard for small children, so position it where it will be safe.
  4. Make sure that wildlife can get in and out, by using bricks rocks or logs to create stepping stones in and out of the pond. It is vital that the pond is not a trap for creature such as hedgehogs.
  5. Prepare your pond. Seal any drainage holes. If you’re using an old sink, silicon a plug into the plughole. If using a large plant pot line it with butyl pond liner, although be aware that folding it around right-angle corners is challenging!

    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 prompt blooms of unsightly algae to form.

    Make sure that wildlife can get in and out, by using bricks, rocks or logs to create stepping stones in and out of the pond.

  6. At last, you can fill your pond! Whenever possible, use rainwater. Tapwater contains too many chemicals to be good for a pond.
  7. Plant up your pond. It is best to put in 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. Just be very 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.

    Now take a picture to share your beautiful pond with others who have pledged, particularly in your area.
  8. Aftercare. 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.
  9. 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.

Small pond
Small rigid liner pond

Watch our video on making a pond

You don't need an elaborate pond for it to be a home for nature. Even with a small water feature, you could have dragonflies whizzing over the surface within no time.

Make a wildlife pond You'll need: A kitchen bowl, a few rocks and aquatic plants like water forget-me-not and watercress. 1. Dig a hole a bit bigger than you need 2. Pop in the bowl 3. Make sure it's level 4. Use stones or small logs for edging 5. Put in some gravel to secure the plants 6. Larger rocks allow frogs and newts to get in and out easily 7. Just add some water, rain water is best Wildlife will love its new home!

Making a pond video screenshot

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