How to build a garden pond

How to build a garden pond

Follow our step-by-step guide to building a garden pond, with tips on planting and edging.

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A pond is the perfect way to attract wildlife to your garden, from frogs, toads and newts to hedgehogs, birds and aquatic insects. Ponds are also lovely for us, too, providing a relaxing spot to sit on a sunny afternoon. Ponds are fascinating for children – supervised pond dips are the perfect way to teach them about the lives of amphibians and other animals.

Start your pond by marking out the position on the ground. Use a garden hose for an informal-shaped pond, or canes and string for formal designs, as in our example, below. When calculating the size of liner for your pond, measure the length and multiply it by twice the depth, adding on 15cm for an overlap. Repeat this for the width to get the size required.

Plant your garden pond up with native pond plants such as hornwort, water forget-me-not and brooklime, and fill it with rainwater if possible. You garden wildlife will find it in no time.

More on garden ponds:

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You Will Need

  • Wooden pegs (60cm long)
  • Retaining boards (2mm thick)
  • Timber, for edging
  • Spirit level
  • Protective underlay
  • Butyl pond liner
  • Decking planks (four)
  • Drill
  • Residual current device
  • Long brass screws

Step 1

Dig a hole to 45cm deep. Knock in 60cm-long pegs around the edges and screw 2cm-thick retaining boards to them. Frame the edges with timber, screwed to the top of each peg.

How to build a garden pond - pre-dug pond hole
How to build a garden pond – pre-dug pond hole

Step 2

Use a spirit level and long plank to check that all sides of the hole are level. If they aren’t, the liner will show and spoil the look of your pond.

How to build a garden pond - using a spirit level to check the sides are level
How to build a garden pond – using a spirit level to check the sides are level

Step 3

Add extra soil to one side of the hole to create a long, sloping marginal shelf. Firm this down using your heels to make sure it’s compacted, then rake level.

How to build a garden pond - creating a marginal shelf
How to build a garden pond – creating a marginal shelf

Step 4

Check the depth of your marginal shelf with your potted aquatic plants. The surrounding edge of the pond should be around 2-3cm above the pot’s rim.

How to build a garden pond - checking the depth of the pond using plants
How to build a garden pond – checking the depth of the pond using plants

Step 5

Remove any sharp stones from the soil, then line the hole with protective underlay, such as the geo-textile liner or offcuts of carpet.

How to build a garden pond - adding underlay
How to build a garden pond – adding underlay

Step 6

Lay the pond liner over the hole and, with shoes off, climb in and push the liner into every nook, pleating it for a neater finish. Allow a 15cm overlap at the edges.

How to build a garden pond - adding pond liner
How to build a garden pond – adding pond liner

Step 7

Fill your pond, preferably with rain water from your water butt. If you need to use tap water, leave it to stand for a week before planting up, to allow the chlorine to evaporate.

How to build a garden pond - filling the pond with water
How to build a garden pond – filling the pond with water

Step 8

When filled, trim liner and underlay together leaving 10-15cm of overlap. Fold over the corners ready to fix on the planks.

How to build a garden pond - cutting the liner
How to build a garden pond – cutting the liner

Step 9

Lay lengths of decking over the four edges of the pond, parallel to the sides. Mark and cut where the planks overlap.

How to build a garden pond - measuring the decking
How to build a garden pond – measuring the decking

Step 10

Cut to size then drill through the decking edge and liners into the edging frame, beneath. (Use a residual current device for safety.) Pull the liner taut to creat a neat finish then, using long brass screws, fix the planks in place.

How to build a garden pond - drilling the decking planks in place
How to build a garden pond – drilling the decking planks in place
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Kate Bradbury says

The greatest amount of wildlife, including tadpoles and other aquatic insects, is found in the shallows of the pond, so give greater priority to the shallow areas than the deeper parts. A gentle, sloping side is also better for birds, which will drink and bathe in your pond. Shallows also make ponds safe for hedgehogs, enabling them to enter and exit safely.

Kate Bradbury