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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Building a Wildlife pond

Having water in a garden is one of the most soothing aspects
of owning a garden. The sound of a fountain or water gushing gently over a
waterfall is one of the most calming sounds to the senses.
Water in the garden is a great attraction for birds, insects
and other wildlife. I can't think of anything better than the sound of frogs
croaking me to sleep at night!
Placing the pond
1.   Place
the pond near a tree or fairly dense shrub where the birds can seek refuge. If
you will be planting some shrubs or a tree, try and choose something evergreen,
as falling leaves and seeds can play havoc with a pond.
2.   Position
it so that you can relax and watch the comings and goings of the wildlife
3.   Check
in which direction the water would naturally flow and place the pond
accordingly so that it looks as natural as possible.
4.   Check
for tree roots or other underground obstacles such as water pipes and
electricity cables before using a pick.
5.   If
you have children make sure you will be able to secure the pond.
6.   To
attract wildlife place the pond in a quiet corner of the garden.
7.   Make
sure the pond has at least some strong direct sunlight.
8.   Small
ponds and water features need some form of circulation and filtration. You
would therefore need an electrical point for your system. 
Digging the pond
Mark out your pond – this can be done with flour or a hosepipe.
. Remember the bare hole looks a lot bigger than when the pond is finished so add about 25% to the size of the hole  .
Make sure that about one third of the edge is very shallow and gently slopes in towards the middle of pond.  This is vitally important as it is the area the birds and insects will use and feel safe. They will not use a pond with steeply sloping sides as they will not feel safe. .
. If you are creating a little waterfall (recommended as this helps aerate the water) make a ledge, I built mine up by about 1m, which will be covered by the liner or cement and onto which you can place the base rocks of the waterfall. .
If you are using a plastic liner, place a thin layer (about 5cm) of river sand on the bottom of the pond, the ledges and edges.  This gives you a little leeway to seat the rock properly. .
You could use a plastic liner like Firestone Pondgard EPDM Liner. Not only is it flexible and easy to lay and fold but is also 100% safe for aquatic life. Remember to measure the hole accurately and allow ample liner to go over the edges. If you buy only just enough liner to cover the hole, even the slightest movement could cause leaking over the edge. .
Take particular note of the waterfall or “pot” area as these are the areas where the liner may move or the cement might get worn out as the water cascades over the rocks. The water could leak behind the liner or under the rocks placed in the cement. This is very difficult to see and would mean breaking down the whole waterfall to fix it. .
I, however, opted to cement out my pond and when that was completely dry, we sealed it with a pond cement sealer, which you can see here as black in colour. I also planted a thatch umbrella for a seating area from which to survey the surrounds.
. While cementing out the pond, we also cemented in big rocks around the edge and in strategic places in the shallow parts. After about a week the sealer was dry and we could fill the pond. .
On the shallow edges, place gravel to a level that some of the stones actually go over the edge and stick out of the water a little. This will make it easy for insects and other small wildlife to use the water. .
If you wish to have a clean healthy pond, it is important both to keep the water moving and to possibly have a bio-filter. This need not be an expensive exercise although I do recommend that you buy the best quality pump you can afford. .
. Because my pond is fairly large, I bought a ,75kW swimming pool pump to circulate the water over the waterfall and through a pipe to the fountain. The inlet or suction pipe, right at the bottom and deepest end of the pond, was built in before cementing out the pond, coming out on top of the ground where the pump was to be situated. On the outlet side I have a pipe, slightly under-ground, leading to over the waterfall, with a T-piece taking some of the water to a pipe into the pond for the fountain.  
The grass soon started growing in the dug over area and within a couple of weeks the water lilies started flowering. .
It's also wise to install a pipe from a nearby tap for filling the pond. Before I installed mine (which can be seen on the left at the back of the pond) I was using a hosepipe, which can take absolute hours! .
A couple of ducks and geese enjoying their new home. .
Some Egyptian Geese soon discovered the pond! .
 Housing for the ducks .
Winter at the pond - Next on the list was planting shrubs and trees in the pond area. I chose some indigenous Acacias and Celtis africana. .
  Some new shrubs at the back of the pond (Butterfly bush, Buddleia salvifolia - a bit messy for this area...) .
 Within 2 or 3 seasons, the trees were becoming really well-established. .
Many insects soon started moving in, amongst others this water scorpion. He has a long "tail" which is actually his breathing pipe. I often see him hanging just under the surface of the water with his little pipe just touching the surface. .
  The Water scorpion snacking on an insect in the pond
The grass has grown well and the shrubs are also coming along nicely. I'm thrilled that frogs have found their way into the pond area, as have dragonflies, water beetles, pond skaters and even a few harmless snakes, like the Mole Snake and Brown House Snake. They are indeed welcome as rats can be quite a problem with chicken and duck food around. I can honestly say that I will never, ever again be without water in my garden, not matter where I might find myself! .
 I started my pond in 2004 and this is what it looks like now 10 years later.
 A Wild Olive in the corner and the Butterfly bushes behind the pond. In the foreground are some Kniphofias (Red Hot Pokers) that just love water and benefit from the pond's over-flow.
Frogs and insects benefits from some plants on the edge of the pond and a log for safety. .


  1. It's amazing how this simple pond makes a home not only for the fish but also for the other species. Anyway, this post is great as it clearly explained the steps in building a pond. I'm very sure that everyone who wants to build their own pond will appreciate this post. However, since many of us already know the steps in building a pond, it is also important to know the great place where to build a pond. According to one of the articles I've read online, the topography of the land, water supply and surface runoff are the main considerations when building a pond.

    1. All those factors are certainly important Daniels and should be considered carefully before starting. I had a look at your profile, do you not have a blog for us to look at? And thanks for stopping by, much appreciated!

  2. I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job ! Pondmater pools by Danner


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