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How to build a Small Pond for the Garden

Tips on how to build a small pond to attract frogs and other wildlife into the garden. Includes information on placement, size, materials, and maintenance.

Organic gardening can be difficult, especially when it comes to slugs. You can pick them off individually, set out beer traps and pelleted wool, but most people resort to slug pellets. They’re just so much easier and successful to use. Unfortunately, they can be fatal to pets and to wildlife like hedgehogs and birds. There’s another way to help tackle the slug problem more naturally — build a small garden pond. Build it and they will come. Frogs that is.

A garden pond attracts all kinds of wildlife and especially the type that likes eating slugs. Frogs are voracious hunters of insects, including weevils, and they’ll devour the slugs in your garden too. It’s also a lot of fun to watch them swimming around and filling the garden with life. They don’t eat any of your veggies either.

Update from 2019

I built the pond you’ll see in this DIY idea three years ago. Since then it’s become one of the most important features in my garden. Every year around Valentine’s Day it fills with frog spawn (eggs), and over the weeks becomes a medley of tiny tadpoles, water snails, and other water creatures. They have all moved in on their own.

My latest addition to the pond is a small solar fountain that has been happily aerating the water for the past few months. Because I don’t have an electric source, it’s the best option I could think of to replace a pump. I still have to manually pull out pond weed but to be honest, the pond is a wonderful living structure that fills my garden with life. If you want to see regular updates and video of the pond as it is now, watch the garden tours I publish on my YouTube channel.

A haven for wildlife

The idea for a wildlife pond came to me as I was tidying up a flower border. I accidentally disturbed a large frog and then helped herd him into the hedge. I don’t know why I was surprised to see him there as there was a basin of water nearby that had been there all summer. That eureka moment helped spur the ideas to build a purpose-built frog pond in the vegetable garden.

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I’ll be sharing how I built mine a bit further on but want to share the most exciting bit of news. There were frogs in my pond just a few months after building it. They find it on their own in most cases and all you have to do is build one and wait.

Tips on how to build a small pond to attract frogs and other wildlife into the garden. Includes information on placement, size, materials, and maintenance #lovelygreens #organicgardening #slugcontrol
The pond two months after completion (April)

The pond is now three years old

I’m sharing this project several years on from when I built the pond. That first year I used an old piece of plastic sheeting for the lining and you’ll see that in the video further below. Unfortunately, it sprung a puncture that first summer and I replaced it a year after the initial build. I attribute it to the stones I filled the bottom with so keep that in mind when you’re building your own.

Since then the pond has been a stunning little jewel in my allotment vegetable garden. I have tadpoles and frogs in it every year, birds come to drink from it, and my honeybees come down for a sip too. I honestly couldn’t recommend any other feature to put in a veggie patch than a small wildlife pond.

Tips on how to build a small pond to attract frogs and other wildlife into the garden. Includes information on placement, size, materials, and maintenance #lovelygreens #organicgardening #slugcontrol
A frog living in my wildlife pond

Where to build a small pond

You can create one at any time of the year but I think it’s a great project for early spring. First of all you’ll need to choose the location of where to situate your pond. It should have a good amount of sunlight (4-6 hours a day), and preferably in a flat area in the garden. Keep it away from trees since their leaves will become a nuisance in the water. Not to mention their roots when you’re trying to dig the pond out.

You should also take precautions if you have small children or a social area nearby. If you have little ones, they’ll naturally be curious about the pond. Any kind of water can be dangerous though so make sure it’s fenced off.

Depending on your area, ponds could be a place where mosquitoes can breed. If you’re worried about this, keep the pond away from your seating area and deck and consider investing in a pond pump and fish.

Tips on how to build a small pond to attract frogs and other wildlife into the garden. Includes information on placement, size, materials, and maintenance #lovelygreens #organicgardening #slugcontrol
The hole for the pond includes a deeper center for frogs and tadpoles can hide in

Wildlife pond sizes and depths

Size does matter when it comes to ponds. They should be deep enough for fish and frogs to hide from predators and shallow enough for aquatic plants. If you live in a cold area, you may need a deeper pond to stop it from freezing solid. Something to really take into consideration for frogs and fish.

Small garden ponds tend to have two to three depths — shallower areas to put plants, and a deeper area for animals to hide in. The shallow area for plants is generally a foot deep and the rest of the pond is 2-3 feet deep depending on your area.

Because you need to accommodate these two depths, the width of a pond should be at least three feet. More is better though and my own is four feet in diameter.

My three year old pond sits in the middle of my vegetable garden

Planning the pond site

It’s pretty easy to build your own wildlife pond. First, make an outline on the ground where you’re planning on building it. Use flour or cornmeal for an eco-friendly solution. Imagine where the shallow areas and deeper areas will be. Most people choose to have the deeper area in the middle of the pond. That makes it safer for children who might visit and also creates a safe little nook for wildlife to hide from birds and other predators.

Now it’s time to start digging and constructing the pond. You’ll need these materials and tools:

Tips on how to build a small pond to attract frogs and other wildlife into the garden. Includes information on placement, size, materials, and maintenance #lovelygreens #organicgardening #slugcontrol
A pretty pond with traditional lily pads that I spotted on a garden tour

Building your own small pond

Dig your pond so the the edges gradually taper down, if possible. Your pond will need an access area for frogs and other creatures to get in and out. A natural slope from the water’s edge is the best solution.

When the hole is dug, make sure there aren’t any stones or sharp objects that could puncture the lining. Next stamp the ground down to create a firm surface. Spread the underlayment layer over the hole. This soft material gives extra support to the pond liner and reduces the chances of punctures. Unfold the pond liner and lay it over top so that it’s edges overlap by a good foot or two. Don’t trim the edges until the very end of this project. Also, the plastic will be wrinkly and look a mess but will sort itself out in the next step.

Fill the pond with water, and you’ll be amazed to see how the liner forms to the hole you’ve made. The next step is waiting 48 hours for the pond to settle and for the chlorine in the water to evaporate out. After this time you can trim the edges of the plastic liner and outline the pond with stones and/or pebbles. Aquatic plants can go in next and the ones I have in my pond are flag irises, a papyrus, and a marsh marigold. There’s lots of choice though.

Tips on how to build a small pond to attract frogs and other wildlife into the garden. Includes information on placement, size, materials, and maintenance #lovelygreens #organicgardening #slugcontrol
I used a wooden frame to create my pond on a slope

Creating a wildlife pond on a slope

I’m 100% about making garden projects on the cheap so I used what I already had to create my pond. The challenge for me was that I was building on a slope. I didn’t want to terrace the area and also didn’t want to buy a pre-formed liner. Getting one would be a good investment though.

What I did was dig my pond’s hole out to the shape of an old wooden garden bed frame. This frame sits embedded into the hill on the upward side of the slope and creates a lifted pond edge on the lower side. Rather like embedding a bowl in the hill. Then I lined the frame with the pond liner and I highly recommend getting a purpose-made liner. I didn’t the first time around and you know the saying — buy cheap, buy (and spend double the amount of time working) twice.

Although you see a lot of rocks in my pond in the video below, I used a lot less after putting in the new liner. Just a few large rocks for wildlife shelter and a large one to create a place for frogs to crawl out of the pond.

Tips on how to build a small pond to attract frogs and other wildlife into the garden. Includes information on placement, size, materials, and maintenance #lovelygreens #organicgardening #slugcontrol
It pays to invest in a decent quality pond liner
Tips on how to build a small pond to attract frogs and other wildlife into the garden. Includes information on placement, size, materials, and maintenance #lovelygreens #organicgardening #slugcontrol
A pretty garden feature that’s great for wildlife too

Pond Maintenance

Even if you have a water pump installed, your pond will need maintenance. Birds that visit will bring in pond weed on their feet and it will colonize your pond too. Leaves and other material will fall in the water too, rotting and depriving the water of oxygen.

With my small pond I tend to clean it a little throughout the year. I’ll reach in to pull out blanket weed or skim the surface to remove a lot of the duck weed. I set it at the pond’s edge for a few days before putting it in the compost pile. This gives time for aquatic animals to find their way back in the pond.

The best time to do a full pond clean is in autumn. It’s after a lot of the leaves on nearby trees have fallen but before animals have gone dormant in the lower levels of the pond. Pull excess leaves and muck from the bottom and bail some of the water out with other pond scum.

When you’re refilling the pond, do it gradually and with safe water. It could be from rain barrels or from containers filled and left out for at least a couple days. Remember that chlorine can kill frogs and other pond creatures.

Tips on how to build a small pond to attract frogs and other wildlife into the garden. Includes information on placement, size, materials, and maintenance #lovelygreens #organicgardening #slugcontrol
The pond in early April, with flag irises shooting up and marsh marigolds blooming in the center

14 Comments

  1. Will your pond idea work in our greenhouse? In the winter it may get to 32 for only a couple of days… I found a chorus frog in there this week! He needs a pond! I want him to stay!

    1. Oh my goodness, build that guy a pond 😁😍 Haha! Greenhouses stay warmer inside (relatively speaking) all year long but I think an outdoor pond should be perfectly fine for your garden. You can float a plastic ball on the surface in winter and it will help to keep the surface from freezing over.

  2. I have a question. We just moved into our new house and there is already one of those small two-tiered ponds in the flower garden. I have always wanted one! Yesterday we found two baby bunnies had drowned in it 😭. I don’t want to get rid of the pond, but I don’t want critters drowning. What can I do to keep them safe?

    1. That’s so sad! What your pond needs is ways for animals to get out if they fall in. Create areas that they can swim to and easily pull themselves out. What I have in my small pond is an underwater ramp make out of big stones. You can also build up areas on the sides of your ponds with soil and aquatic plants. Anything that will give wildlife something to get up onto easily.

  3. I just had my first frog tonight! So excited. A month ago, I found a cascading water feature shell at a garage sale, so decided to make a low key pond, also incorporating a solar fountain. It looks great and works a charm. Rocks and some plants around the edges, but it’s a work in progress to make it look nice and natural, but so much fun.

  4. Pond care is must to keep it fresh. To save the life in and out of pond necessary to get eco-friendly liner.

  5. I’m thinking of adding a small pond to the landscape of you backyard. I keep some bees and it would be nice if they had easy access to drinking water.

  6. Sigh. I love water features. Unfortunately, water features where I live are pretty much an invitation as a mosquito breeding ground.

      1. Get a few guppies, minnows or some feeder goldfish (if the pond will be large enough for them to grow in.) They’ll feast on the larve, and graze on algae. If you don’t have any filtration, go with smaller numbers of fish. The fish might also entice turtles to come around.

    1. BT mosquito dunks are safe for everything except mosquitos, are convenient, and the responsible way to keep standing water from becoming a mosquito breeding ground.

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