As a young child, there is one thing that sticks in my mind that I always wanted in our back garden, but never got. For many children that may have been grand ideas of a swimming pool or elaborate play area, for me, it was a pond!
I can remember enviously looking into the depths of school friends ponds, being transfixed at Tadpoles or little fish, living their seemingly carefree lives below the surface of the water. I can also remember digging many a hole in my own back garden and filling them with water carefully transported in a bucket or watering can from the garden tap, only to be disappointed when, minutes later, the water would sink away into the earth, leaving nothing but a slightly boggy mess!
As I grew older, I still yearned to have a little wildlife pond all of my own. When I took over my allotment plot, my dreams of a pond resurfaced, but I didn’t hold out much hope. I knew that many council plots did not allow ponds and I didn’t dare dream that perhaps I may finally be allowed one.
It was one day, while chatting to my plot neighbour, that everything changed. He casually mentioned that he was thinking of putting in a pond! My ears instantly pricked up and my first reaction was to question if he was sure we were allowed to. He confirmed that we were and even pointed out that one of the other plot holders had, unbeknown to me, already actually got a pond. I still couldn’t quite believe my luck, so went home and scoured every inch of my allotment contract. He was correct, we WERE allowed ponds!
Now that I knew I could finally have my pond, I had a more pressing problem to deal with. Although I had always wanted a pond, I had absolutely no idea how on earth to go about creating one! I spent hours researching through my allotment and gardening handbooks as well as watching videos online and tutorials on how to create a wildlife pond. The one thing I knew was that I didn’t want fish, which was a bonus as it meant that I would probably get away with not having to install any costly or confusing filters! I wanted to attract wildlife, Frogs, toads, Dragonfly and all other kinds of creatures to my pond and I had learned that having fish would hinder that.
After a good few months of reading and learning, I was finally ready to create my pond. I took a lot of time researching how to do it, as I knew that it would be a permanent fixture. I also made sure I was 100% certain on the location I chose for my pond, as it was not like I was going to be able to pick it up and move it if I changed my mind!
Once I had everything firmly mapped out in my mind, it was time to begin. I chose a pvc pond liner sheet, rather than a rigid, plastic liner as I wanted to be able to design the pond to my own chosen shape. I purchased the pond liner online and from memory it was about £20 and I believe it measured 3m by 4m. You can purchase a similar liner from Amazon here (affiliate link). I had decided to make my pond approximately 1m by 1.5m but I wanted to make absolutely sure that I had enough liner. The pond needed to be at least 60cm deep at its deepest point to ensure that in freezing weather any creatures living in my pond would have a safe area well below the frozen ice to survive.
The second thing I needed to purchase was some kind of underlay. This is a layer that you place between the earth and your pond liner to ensure a smooth surface for the pond liner to sit on. If you place the liner directly onto the earth you run the risk of it being punctured by any small rocks, weeds or debris that is within the earth. Underlay can be a variety of different materials. Old carpet can be used or you can purchase specifically designed pond underlays. However, the option that I went with was silver sand. I liked this option as it was fairly cheap and I felt it also gave me the most flexibility in terms of lining my pond how I wanted it lined. I had some areas that were a little rougher and needed more sand and some that were smoother and could get away with a little less.
When it came to actually digging the pond, the first thing that I did was roughly mapped out on the ground where I wanted to dig. I laid out the basic shape of my pond and then I started digging.
When making a pond, there are a few important aspects that should always be included. They are the aforementioned deep water area, which should be at least 60cm deep. As well as this, you should also include some shallower ridge areas, as these are ideal for some pond creatures, such as young Frogs. They also provide a good area to place certain pond plants that prefer shallow water. I included a shallow ridge of approximately 20cm – 30cm around my pond and my deep water area was concentrated in the middle of my pond. The other thing you really need to include in a pond is a sloped area from the ground into your pond – think of it as a “beach” area, gently leading into the water. This is extremely important as it provides an easy way for any creatures, such as Hedgehogs, who accidentally slip into your pond to get themselves out safely.
Once I had dug the basic shape of my pond, with my “beach”, shallow and deep areas, it was time to apply the underlay. I had 3 bags of silver sand and I used them all. I took a great deal of care in applying the sand to the earth, building it up and ensuring that there was absolutely nothing sharp poking through the sand.
Once I was content that the underlay was smooth and complete, it was time to put the liner in. This was fairly tricky to do by myself as it was a big liner! I started by loosely laying it over the pond and then pushing it into the hole to fit the shape of my pond. It is important to get it in as neatly as possible and to try and keep any creases in the liner to a minimum. Once the liner was in place, I used various heavy items from my allotment to hold it in place around the edge as I filled it with water.
When filling a pond, it is always best to use rainwater if possible, however, in my case this wasn’t possible and so I had to use water from our allotment tap. as I filled the pond, I paid attention to the liner and ensured it was pressed firmly into the edges of the pond and that creases were smoothed out as I filled it.
Only once the pond was full did I cut off the excess liner. You must always fill the pond before cutting the liner as while the pond is being filled you may find that the liner is pulled down by the weight of the water or moves a little. The last thing you want is to realise that a liner that was perfect before the pond was filled suddenly becomes too small once you start filling!
I left an overlap of around 15cm of liner on the ground surrounding my pond – you don’t want to cut it too close to the waterline. This overlap is easy to cover with stones or plants, so while you may think it looks ugly to start with, it won’t look that way for long.
The last thing I did, after lining my pond with stones was to add in some plants. However, I waited a week to do this. The reason I waited was because I had filled my pond with tap water. If you use rainwater, you can add in plants straight away. If you use tap water, it is always best to wait at least 3 or 4 days before adding in plants as this allows for chemicals that are present in tap water to evaporate. The chemicals in tap water can be hazardous to some pond plants, which is why waiting before adding plants is advisable.
I added a bunch of oxygenating plants into my pond (and I was lucky enough to be donated another large handful of them from my plot neighbour with the pond) and I also added in a Water Lily. I want to add some more plants in this year, as my pond is a little sparse – I only created my pond last year and at the time could not afford too many plants for it. I also added a couple of rocks into my pond on both the shallow and deep areas. These rocks will provide a safe hiding place for pond creatures, as well as making it look a little more interesting!
I absolutely love my pond now and am so proud of myself for creating it. I haven’t yet had any Frogs visit, but I put that down to the fact that I installed it late in the season last year and missed the Tadpole season! I am hoping to see some this year though. I have, however spotted Dragonflies buzzing around it, which was incredibly exciting to see!
Unfortunately I didn’t take too many pictures while I was creating the pond, just the one I have posted below, but I did document it for one of my Youtube videos. If you would like to watch me creating my pond, then you can find the video here.