A ruddy darter dragonfly rests on a stem

Just add water

No matter how big or small your space is, whether it's a blank canvas or well-established, if you’ve got loads of experience or none whatsoever – anyone can do this, and our nature needs you. It’s easy to help the nature on your doorstep.

Water – the magic way to bring your outside space to life

Don’t we love to be next to water! Whether it's a beach, lake or riverbank, there’s something deeply calming about it – the ripples, the reflections, the glimpse into another world.

It’s no wonder lots of people want to bring a bit of that magic into their outside spaces. Adding water is also a sure-fire way of helping lots of wildlife. Birds will drink and bathe there; colourful dragonflies and damselflies will flit above; frogs and newts may breed. It's a nature magnet like no other feature you can add.

A close up of a frog with its head just above the water
Wildlife gardening expert Adrian Thomas sits by a body of water with the text "Just add water" overlayed

Adrian looks at making a splash with water

Watch as our wildlife gardening guru, Adrian Thomas, guides you through how to turn your patch into paradise, bring you great pleasure and boost the wildlife you’ll see and hear. And you don’t even have to be green-fingered to achieve it!

A person watches a blackbird bathe

Start simple: add a bird bath

Birds are looking for something that’s effectively a wide, shallow puddle, somewhere to grab a quick drink and spruce up their feathers.


We’ve got a great idea for upcycling an old metal dustbin lid that will do the trick and only takes five minutes to put together. Or you could always (ahem!) ‘splash out’ and buy one.

Two people creating a mini pond from a washing-up basin

Install a pond and take things to a whole new level

If you’re up for the challenge that is. Now you have the chance to add pond plants, which creates the essential habitat for all sorts of pond life.

 

But I know people can be daunted by the thought of creating a large pond, especially if they have never made one before. Perhaps it sounds like it might be a lot of back-breaking work to dig one out. But a little planning goes a long way.

 

Luckily, I can tell you that most mini ponds can be dug in just half an hour. If you don’t have the energy, I bet you know someone who does! You do need to think about where the soil you dig out is going to go, but in many cases, you can just create a shallow mound at the back of the pond and sow it with wildflower seed.

A hedgehog forages for food by a pond

Wash away your worries

Some people worry that a pond is expensive. But there are simple cheap options. You could use 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, but for a small back garden pond, it's surprisingly cheap if you use a flexible liner. That’s why we created an RSPB starter kit with instructions to make it all as easy as possible for you, including an underlay fleece to help protect the pond from being snagged by rocks from below.

A common frog sits among a field of daisies

What about pond maintenance

Is it a lot of work? Having created many ponds in my life, I can tell you that they pretty much look after themselves. They are much less work than any lawn or flowerbed. They might need a top-up with rainwater from a water butt in hot, dry weather, or to fish out some leaves in autumn, or to reduce the amount of pondweed once in a while, but that’s about it.

A man and two boys looking into a roped-off pond

Safety and young children

There is also a valid concern about safety if you have very young children. Don’t imagine, however, that this means you can’t have a pond. It can be easy to partition it off from the rest of the space with a picket fence, or it can be made safe with a strong metal grille placed over the top. In that way, it can become a special place that young children learn they can only go into when accompanied.

A few handy hints

  • Make sure the hole you dig has level edges or part of the liner will always stick out of the water
  • Don’t introduce fish if you want lots of wildlife – they gobble up pretty much everything in sight
  • Create the pond in a sunny or partly shaded position rather than in the shade
  • Make sure the pond has shallow margins – your very own beach! – so that any creature that falls in can get out, and so that birds can bathe
  • And remember that the larger your pond, the more wildlife you are likely to attract.

So, go on, dip your toe into the world of water!

A kitchen sink pond in a summer garden
Wellies planted with flowers

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