Guide to Garden Ponds

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What You Need to Know

  1. A pond can transform a garden, adding colour and life and potentially making your home more attractive to buyers.
  2. A well-kept pond can also serve as a haven for wildlife, attracting frogs, hedgehogs and birds.
  3. Choose the location for your pond carefully, away from overhanging trees yet in the shade.
  4. Opting for a flexible liner allows you to choose the shape of your pond, though rigid liners are easier to install.
  5. Regular maintenance of your pond is crucial. Clear away any debris, especially over the autumn and winter months.
  6. Do your homework before choosing your plants. Water forget-me-nots, irises and marsh marigolds are classic marginal plants for the damp, boggy parts around the pond.
  7. If young children will be using your garden, then make sure your pond is safety-proofed.

Why Get a Pond?

A pond can change the whole look of your garden. No matter how big or small, a well-kept water feature offers relaxation, a focal point for your garden and a home for local wildlife, including frogs, hedgehogs and birds.

As well as improving the look of your garden, a well-kept pond can also make your property more appealing to prospective buyers.

Getting Started

Building a pond might seem like a task for a professional landscape gardener, but in fact you can do it yourself in the space of a weekend. Here’s how:


  • Choose your site. The ideal spot is a shaded area, to help avoid too much evaporation, but not directly under trees because falling leaves can clog your pond and poison the water as they decompose.
  • Choose your liner. Rigid or flexible? is like a big plastic paddling pool. Lay it on the ground and mark round it with paint or pegs, staying about six inches from the lip. Dig a hole as close to the shape of your markings and depth of the liner as possible. Line the bottom and sides with a layer of sand. Place the liner onto the sand, making sure it is level with the ground, filling the edges in with earth.

    A flexible liner is a heavy plastic sheet that allows you to customise the shape of your pond and make it any shape you want. Mark out your design and dig around the edge, down to about nine inches to create a “shelf” on which to put plants. Measure in another nine to ten inches and then dig to the desired depth. Scour the hole for sharp stones or roots that might puncture your lining and pour a layer of sand into the bottom, patting it up the sides. Then mould the liner to the shape of your pond and fill with water. Trim off the excess plastic, leaving a six-inch lip.
  • Edge the pond with stones, slabs or turf.
  • A water pump will help to keep the pond aerated and fresh. Pumps are easy to install, and a wide variety of models are available from major retailers of garden accessories. Choose one that moves at least half the pond’s total volume of water.

Caring for your pond

Late autumn into early winter is the best time to clear debris from your pond and change its water, so that it’s healthy when nature comes back to life in the spring. However, it’s a good idea to keep on top of this all-year round as rotting leaves can have a serious impact on the mini-ecosystem of a pond.

Dirty water is an absolute no-no. It prevents aquatic plants growing, can cause distress or kill your pond’s fish and will repel amphibians like newts and frogs, who should be welcomed because they eat slugs and snails. Moreover, it can ruin the look of a pond and cause a garden to smell.

Plant life

Around April, turn your attention to the pond’s plant life, removing weeds and dead and unhealthy plants from the edge as well as thinning out the healthy ones to encourage growth. But remember that there must be enough plant-life to shade the pond’s surface from direct sunlight. Water forget-me-nots, irises and marsh marigolds are classic marginal plants for the damp, boggy parts around the pond.

Ensure that some of the plants – types that live almost completely under water, producing oxygen to keep water healthy. Curly water thyme and parrot's feather are widely available and attractive. You need to be careful when choosing though as some aquatic plants can be highly invasive if they escape from the garden, clogging up rivers and streams.

Water lilies in their many varieties and water hawthorn are both lovely and provide shade for the pond’s surface.


Rising temperatures and the introduction of nutrients with the first fish feeds of the year both encourage your pond’s worst enemy: algae. A small amount isn't a problem; it gives your pond a natural appearance and attracts insects that fish can feed on.

However, it can be long and stringy, short and furry, or in a web and too much is not only unattractive – it can make pond water smell bad too. So make sure that your pump’s filter is clean and the pond is well planted so that the flora will take in the nutrients that the algae need to thrive.

Pond Safety

Even the shallowest of ponds can pose a risk to young children. So, if it’s likely that children under the age of five will use your garden, it’s well worth making the effort to minimise any risk of accidental drowning. Some of the most effective means of achieving this are;

  • Consider covering your pond with a safety grid or at the very least with wire mesh below the surface.
  • Make sure your pond can be seen from the home.
  • To discourage children from getting near the edge of your pond, erect a small fence or grow some plants around the perimeter.

Further Reading


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