How to make a mini wildlife pond - the easy way

Make a mini wildlife pond Green Fingered Blog
Make a small pond to attract wildlife to your garden. It takes one afternoon and costs less than £25. This pond will fit in any garden, however small.

A pond is the single most effective thing you can do to attract more wildlife to your garden. 

You may have been put off making one because you thought it would be expensive, time consuming and difficult to build. Perhaps you thought your garden is too small?

Well my pond is only 50cm across, cost less than it costs to buy one large ceramic pot from my local garden centre, and took just a few hours to make.

Why attract wildlife to your garden?

Attracting wildlife to your garden is a good idea for several reasons:

1. Attracting pollinating insects helps to ensure that your fruit and vegetable crops are successful. 

2. Natural wildlife habitats are gradually being eroded to provide land for development or agriculture, or by the use of chemicals, meaning gardens make an increasingly important contribution to providing enough green space for some species to survive, including those all important pollinators on which a good deal of our food supply depends.

3. Having a diverse range of wildlife in your garden makes it easier to control pests without resorting to chemicals, by enabling a healthy balance of natural predators. Avoiding chemicals means the wildlife you do want to attract will not get harmed, and nor will your children when playing in the garden, if you have any. 

4. Simply sitting quietly in your garden and watching the natural world go about it's daily business is interesting, entertaining, and good for your own wellbeing.  

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What do I need to make a mini wildlife pond?

All I used to make my pond was a spade and trowel, a spirit level, some scissors, a tape measure, some rocks which I already had in the garden, and a flexible trug - the sort normally used for collecting and carrying weeds or soil in the garden:

My advice would be to choose a trug in a dark colour as it will blend in better. It should be at least 50 cm across, and for environmental reasons I chose one that was made from recycled plastic.

If you are able to build something bigger in your garden then you could choose a pre formed pond liner. They are more expensive, but will be ready made with most of the features you need and you'll just need to dig a hole to fit. 

Just make sure you provide a gently sloping beach entrance to it on one side (see below under "How to stop animals drowning").

What's the best place for a pond in my garden?

Very often it is recommended that you site your pond in full sun. This can be good for the plants you want to grow in it, but also tends to increase algae. 

Algae usually develops on the surface of water in sunny positions. The advice frequently given to reduce it or control it is to grow plants with leaves that float on the surface or grow above it, to provide shade to the water. 

I think therefore that siting your pond in shade in the first place makes some sense, but there are drawbacks to this as well. 

Mainly that some plants may not do as well and that fallen leaves from whatever is providing the shade will inevitably end up in the water. They can rot down and reduce water quality so you will need to remove them every so often. 

Remember evergreen trees shed their leaves too, just not all at once in autumn. So even if your pond is shaded by evergreens, there will still be leaf litter falling into your pond.

I wanted my pond to be part of a mini woodland glade. This just happened to be the place in the garden where I felt it would fit in the most naturally. It's an area where I let more weeds grow and it gets a bit more overgrown - all good for wildlife. It only gets sun for a few hours a day though, so I'm prepared for removing fallen leaves from the water but hopefully won't have to deal with algae so much.

How to make a mini wildlife pond - the easy way

I started by digging a hole deep enough to hold the trug.

How deep does a garden pond need to be?

Ideally a pond should be at least 2 feet/50-60cm deep. This will hold sufficient water that it won't heat up too much in summer, and will be deep enough that in cold areas it is unlikely to freeze solid in winter.

I wanted the lip of the trug to be level with the ground but there was a very thick tree root before I got that deep in my chosen location so as well as cutting off the handles, I cut the top couple of inches off the trug so that it would be the right depth to fit.

Make a mini wildlife pond Green Fingered Blog
I cut the trug to fit the depth I was able to dig to

So my pond isn't as deep as I'd like. The summer heat shouldn't be a problem as it's in a slightly shady spot. I'll have to keep an eye on it in winter to check it doesn't freeze completely. 

In reality, this doesn't happen very often in my garden. We get plenty of ground frosts but rarely get the ground freezing solid, and certainly not for more than a few days at a time, but last winter was an exception so you never know.
Once the hole was dug, I placed the trug into it, and then spent a bit of time making sure it was level. If it's not level it will look pretty weird, as the water level will be at an angle to the top of the trug. 

I put a spirit level on a plank of wood, rested it across the trug and then scraped more earth out of one side of the hole, and added a bit on the other side, until the spirit level showed that the top was horizontal.

Make a mini wildlife pond Green Fingered Blog
I put the trug in the ground, and checked it was level 

The next job was to fill in the gap around the outside with earth. I did this carefully with fine soil so that the flexible plastic trug didn't get squashed out of shape. A couple of large stone blocks or pots helped keep it steady while I did this. 

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I filled in the edges around the outside so the trug would stay in position

How to stop animals drowning in a garden pond

It's important to make sure that any non aquatic wildlife can escape from the pond if they fall in. In a larger pond this can be done with a slowly slanting "beach" which they can crawl up. To create the same ability in my pond I built a set of mini stone steps. 

The stones were arranged so that they locked into place against each other. 

The ones on top provide the gently sloping surface needed for mice, hedgehogs etc. to be able to get out of the water should they fall in.

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The stone step escape route for small mammals - just in case

My pool sits at the rear of a rockery, so I landscaped it to blend in with the surrounding features by arranging more stones around it. These connect it to the rockery nearby, help it blend in and look naturalistic.

They also serve to (more or less) hide the lip of the trug and, partially at least, disguise the fact that the pond is a completely artificial construction. I was careful to make sure that animals would be able to get onto these rocks at the edge from the ones I've provided as an escape route.

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Soil in the bottom and stones round the edge

I put a few handfuls of soil on the bottom of the trug. This will encourage tiny creatures to take up residence there, since it will contain microscopic life and bacteria - the first link in the food chain. 

Then I filled the pond with rainwater. It was muddy at first but cleared after about two weeks. 

It's important to use rain water rather than tap water, as it will be untreated and contain no chemicals that could harm wildlife. 

Here's how my pond looked after I'd filled it:

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My pond after filling with rain water

What are the best plants to grow in a pond?

The plants you grow in your pond need to ensure a healthy environment under the water as well as look good. There is also the opportunity to grow different types of plants in different parts/depths of the pond. I suggest you choose plants that would normally grow in your part of the world, but it's important to have three different types.

1. Vertical plants - Mine is a Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus), which can be placed up to 50-60cm deep. Its straight, vertical leaves shoot straight up from the surface of the water. It will grow and flower a couple of feet high.

2. Spreading plants - I planted a Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) - also known as Kingcups - which spreads out more horizontally than the iris, and produces bright yellow flowers a few inches above the surface of the water and surrounding rocks. It's a marginal plant which means it should be placed so that the soil it's growing in is just under the surface of the water.

3. Oxygenating plants - I used Variegated Pennywort (Hydrocotyle variegata) but there are many others. They are vital as they breathe out oxygen through their leaves which is essential for keeping the water cleaner and for small underwater creatures to survive. They can be planted deeper in the water and are usually totally submerged.

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Left to right: Pennywort, Iris, Marsh marigold 
I bought one of each plant and submerged them, in their pots into the pond. The iris and oxygenator were placed on the bottom. The marsh marigold was placed on one of the shelves created by the stones I'd placed in the pond. I checked the plant labels to find out the approximate depth each plant was most suitable for.

My finished mini wildlife pond sits behind a rocky bank, under a miniature woodland glade I've planted around a large old pear tree. With the dappled sunlight poking through to the water I am delighted with how it looks! 

And it only took a few hours to create!

I've put a large log nearby so I can sit on it and watch what's going on. Here's the view from there:

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My finished mini wildlife pond in its woodland setting 

Does a garden pond attract wildlife?

Of course it does! Build it and they will come! It doesn't take long for a plethora of insects to find your pond - they spend all their time looking for new sources of food, water and shelter. My marsh marigold flowered very soon after being put in position, and attracted bees, hoverflies and other smaller insects straight away.

And the insects will attract predators - other insects, spiders, beetles, earwigs, centipedes, and of course birds. Maybe many other things as well, depending on where exactly in the world you are.

Marsh marigold flowering Make a mini wildlife pond Green Fingered Blog
The Marsh Marigold flowered almost immediately

I gave my pond a helping hand by taking a jar full of frogspawn from a nearby pond and putting it into mine. It was fascinating for me, and my children, to see the tadpoles develop, and at least four (that we saw) seemed to reach adulthood, gradually growing legs and losing their tails. 

Froglet in a pond Make a mini wildlife pond Green Fingered Blog
One of the froglets in my pond

Once they reach maturity, frogs and toads spend less time in the water and so are harder to see in the garden, but hopefully the pond is somewhere they will be able to return to when they need to, especially for breeding. And if they're elsewhere in your garden they are probably eating things like slugs, and therefore helping you out.

Update - A pond really does attract wildlife!

In April 2019 this frog took up residence in my pond. Whether it is one of the previous year's tadpoles returning or a totally new adult frog that has discovered my little pond I have no way of knowing, but it's proof that the smallest bit of water can make a difference. I hope this frog and others are regular visitors, devouring plenty of slugs while they're here. They certainly provided fascination for me and my children as we crept quietly to peer over and see them sunbathing!

Frog in a pond Make a mini wildlife pond Green Fingered Blog
Frog spotted in the pond April 2019!

That's how easy it can be to make a mini wildlife pond for your garden. Why not give it a go this weekend?


  1. I have a 500 liters pond but is for my turtles...and they destroy everything and eat the plants:

    But I would like to have another pond, smaller, only for aquatic plants, and for biodiversity...
    Nice post ;)


    1. Thanks :) I dont know anything about keeping turtles but I imagine you need to separate them from any precious plants you want to keep! I guess if your second pond for plants is protected from them you could make it work. Do you have a separate area that the turtles cannot access?

    2. I put some plants in the turtles pond to act like natural filter (Eichhornia crassipes, Myriophyllum aquaticum (both invasive species that I find in portuguese waters) and salvinia) but I can't for example put water lilies because the turtles are too big and destroy everything. The turtles are in a delimited space and they only eat in water.

      But I like the idea of a small pond...I have to see which is the best spot, not to sunny to avoid algae.

    3. Hope you find the right spot - best of luck!

  2. Well done I guess it's more satisfying then buying a ready made pond 👍👍

  3. Thanks for sharing this we have old trugs from having owned horses and now a spring project for our garden. My daughter is thrilled

    1. Sounds awesome! Best of luck, glad you found the article useful.

  4. Wow! We have a redundant shaded area behind our summer house an I wanted to use it for something other than a mud pile. Your idea would be perfect as we have a bat colony next to the area in a fir tree so they will benefit from this. I can't wait to start making my own wildlife pond now. Thank you for your blog its easy to follow and the photos are amazing. I will send you photos once I've made mine.
    Kind regards Tracy

  5. Thanks thats amazing, good luck with your project!

  6. Thank you for sharing such a nice blog. It's really impressive. I appreciate your intelligence and knowledge. This blog is really beneficial for many of us. Miami Ponds


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