Just add water

A Ruddy starter dragonfly rests on a stem

Water can help bring your garden to life. Not only will it be calming for you and your human visitors, it’s a sure fire way to help wildlife too. Water is a nature magnet like nothing else. You don’t need lots of space. Even the smallest pond of water feature can be a haven for the wildlife on your doorstep.

A Ruddy starter dragonfly rests on a stem
Wildlife gardening expert Adrian Thomas sits by a body of water with the text "Just add water" overlayed

Start simple: add a bird bath

Birds are looking for something wide, shallow and safe. Somewhere to grab a quick drink and spruce up their feathers.

We’ve got some great advice for making your own bird bath. Or you could always splash out and buy one.

Install a pond

If you’re up for the challenge, most mini ponds can be dug in just half an hour.

This will take a bit of planning. You will need somewhere safe, level and ideally located in some sunshine as this will encourage dragon flies. Avoid areas which get lots of plant food - such as your veg beds - as high nutrient rain water can run off into your pond and make it green. You can help prevent water going stagnant by putting submerged oxygenating plants into your pond.

The soil you dig out will need to go somewhere, but in many cases you can create a shallow mound at the back of the pond and sow it with wildflower seed.

For a bigger challenge, create a large pond.

Once you have your pond, you can add pond plants to create the essential habitat for all sorts of pond life.

Wash away your worries

Ponds don’t have to be expensive. You can go for simple and cheap options, like making a DIY pond using an old container such as a washing-up bowl.

For a larger pond you will almost certainly need a liner, and for a very big pond that can be more pricey. For a small back garden pond, it's surprisingly cheap if you use a flexible liner. We have created an RSPB starter kit with instructions to make it as easy as possible.

Pond maintenance

You might think a pond would be a lot of work, but happily they tend to look after themselves. In warm weather, top up your pond with rain water from a water butt. Remove fallen leaves in Autumn. Use a rubber rake to remove any pondweed, but be sure to leave it on the edge for a while so critters can get back into the water before putting it on the compost heap.

Safety and young children

It’s important that your pond is safe. It can be partitioned from the rest of the space with a picket fence, or it can be covered with a metal grid to keep it safe for young children.

A few handy hints

  • When installing your pond, make sure it is level
  • Don’t introduce fish if you want lots of wildlife – they eat pretty much everything in sight
  • A sunny spot is the best place for your pond
  • Make sure the pond has shallow margins so any creature that falls in can get out, and so birds can bathe
  • Leave it undisturbed as much as possible
  • The larger your pond, the more wildlife you are likely to attract.