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How To Build A Pond


There is no better place to situate your garden bench than by your pond.  A shining patch of water, preferably with a moving water feature, is a delightful way to enjoy your garden furniture.

A pond is also essential If you want to stimulate wildlife in your local area.  It is the single most effective way to do this is to build a pond.  This pond is not just a place for herons to fish; it is a place that could attract frogs, newts and blue-tailed damselfly.  If you get yourself some frogs, then you will resolve some of your problem with slugs.  Reduce the chances of your plants being decimated by the slimy little critters, and you have more chance of drawing in bees and butterflies.   Also, as you will attract more insects to the water-top, you are likely to enjoy a much greater variety of birds.  If you are lucky, you will also find that your garden attracts more mammals too.  Small mammals will drink from your pond and use the grasses on the bank as a place to hide and rest.

In short, if you build a pond, you will be delighted by the wonderland of nature that turns up in your garden.

Tempted? Here is your guide to building your pond.

What do you need?

  • a craft knife
  • a hose for marking out the shape of your pond
  • a plank that is long enough to span your pond
  • spade
  • spirit level
  • wooden pegs
  • liner
  • old carpet, or professional pond insulation liner
  • canes
  • paving/ turf
  • soft building sand.

The pond liner is the most important purchase you will make to ensure the success of your pond.  This is the fabric that will keep the water in the hole and therefore make your pond.  Most pond liners are seamed, which means they are pieces of fabric joined together to make a larger piece.   Most pond keepers advise Low-Density Polythene, as is it the tightly woven fabric that is laminated on both sides.  It is effective for the long-term success of your pond.

If this is too expensive, then you can also choose PVC pond lining.  This has some elasticity, which you will need to take account of when laying.  However, most standard garden ponds would use this PVC pond liner.

Your final option is the Butyl pond liner, which is made of synthetic rubber.  This is an excellent product, and you will have long-term reassurance about the sustainability of your pond.  However, this pond liner is often prohibitively expensive.

Step by step guide to building a pond

Before you start

You need to do some serious planning before you get started.  Take some time to get to know your garden and make some of the essential choices before purchasing the equipment and setting aside the time for the task.

First, walk around the garden and consider the feature from each corner, as well as from the house.  This will be important when you are making choices about position and size.  It is best to avoid any areas that are too shady or too close to deciduous trees.

Then: do you want to use a liner or would you like a preformed pond? How big will your pond be? Do have an idea of the sort of plants you want to grow and where these should be placed?  Do you want to use electricity and if you do should you get the help of a professional?

Getting started

Step 1: Begin by marking out the perimeter of the pond.  This is where you will need the length of hose pipe, which will offer a more substantial boundary than string.  Alternatively, you can mark out the boundary using sand that you can let sift through your fingers.

Step 2: Once you have marked the area of the pond, you should remove the turf as neatly as possible.  This turf could be helpful later to form a rim around the pond.

Step 3: Dig out the centre of the pond.  You should consider if you want to add shelves, which will allow you plants at different levels.  Alternatively, you can dig down to the maximum depth.  If you have shelves, use the spirit level to make sure each shelf is entirely level.

Step 4: Move the soil you have dug out and spread it across other parts of the garden or use it just in one area.

Step 5: Keeping wildlife in mind, it is essential to give one side of the pond a gentle slope.  If you have this slope then animals, such as hedgehogs, can escape if they fall in.

Step 6: Before you line the pond, you need to remove the sharper stones from the hole.  You should then spread a 3cm layer of soft builder’s sand.  As with removing the stones, the sand will protect your liner from being punctured.  It is also a good idea to use some old carpet to provide an insulation layer.  You would then spread your choice of waterproof liner over this.  It is best to seek the help of a friend when laying this, as it can rip if you are dragging it across the ground.

Step 7: Start to fill the pond with water, pulling the edges of the line as you do.  This should make sure that the contours of the pond are neat.  You should continue filling the pond until it is full.

Step 8: Once full, you need to trim the liner.  You should leave a 30 cm overlap at the edge of the pond.  The edges should then be covered with slabs and/ or turf up to the side of the water.  It is essential to completely cover the liner so that it is protected from perishing.

Establishing the pond

First, you need to wait 1 or 2 weeks after filling the pond.  This will give time for troublesome ingredients from tap water to evaporate.  You do not want to introduce life when there is still fluoride and chlorine present in the pond.

Then, select your plant life based on the desired wildlife you wish to attract.  If you choose your plants well, you should be able to create a balanced ecology that will support lots of life.  There are four zones of the pond that can be filled with different plants.

  • Totally submerged plants are used as oxygenating plants. You can choose plants such as horned pondweed, shining pondweed, water starwort and more.  If you choose water starwort or fennel pondweed, you will need to be careful, as they are not tolerant of pollution.
  • Submerged plants with floating leaves are also placed in deep water, and to oxygenate the pond. You can choose bladderwort, frogbit or broad-leaved pondweed.  If you choose curled pondweed, you will again have to be careful to keep the pond free from pollution.
  • Emergent plants are placed in shallower areas and include branched bur-reed, amphibious bistort, water mint, flowering rush and more. If you want to attract invertebrates, such as newts and frogs, you should choose greater pond-sedge.
  • Marginal plants grow at the edge of the pond or areas that are boggy. These plants are useful at strengthening the bank of the pond and attracting birdlife.  Meadowsweet is excellent for attracting birds in the autumn, for instance.  Certain plants grow quite tall and should only be considered for the rear of the pond.  This includes marsh woundwort, great willowherb and hemp agrimony.

Finally, adding fish and other animals needs to wait for the oxygenation process to be complete.  This will take up to and beyond a month.

If you have carefully designed the pond, then you shouldn’t need to offer much maintenance.  However, you must make sure you avoid the build-up of organic matter and any vegetation that might be overly invasive.

A lot of people demand that the pond be kept in pristine condition.  However, some of the best ponds are allowed to grow wild, with only casual care about debris in the pond and preventing invasive species from taking control.  To maintain a pond in pristine condition takes a lot of work, much more than the work needed to maintain a lawn and keep your flower beds neat.

Keep safety in mind

If you have children under the age of five, then they are at risk of drowning.  The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents claims that falling into a pond is one of the most significant risks for small children.  You may wish to take preventative measure to secure the safety of people around the pond.  You can purchase a steel mesh frame that can be secured on the top of the pond.  This should be secured firmly, as small children should not be able to move the mesh.


The pond is one of those essential features of a family garden.  There is nothing more special than watching the tadpoles emerge with young and slightly older children.  The wonder of the little legs emerging never fails to enchant.  Add in some fish, some newts and you have an exciting point of interest and learning for all the family.

Beyond this, the sight and sound of water in the garden is calming.  It not only brings life to your garden but also a sense of stillness that is the perfect remedy for life’s stresses.  By maintaining nature with your pond, you will be sustaining your sense of wellbeing too.

Anna Sharples

Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches - a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.

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