RSPB’s Morwenna Alldis reveals how even a mini garden pond can give nature a much needed home and count towards your family's Wild Challenge Award.

Water is a vital source of life, covering around 71% of the planet. But you don’t have to think largescale when it comes to providing a water source in your garden - even a washing-up bowl on a small balcony will do wonders for your local wildlife. Ponds not only offer homes to amphibians like common frogs and toads, you may also see dragonflies, pond skaters, water lice, birds bathing – even bees get thirsty. Ponds are the easiest way to quickly increase the biodiversity of your green space. 

Our 2017-2018 Garden Wildlife Survey (part of the Big Garden Birdwatch) has revealed that water reliant animals are in desperate need of more ponds and pools. The survey, which included results from more than 174,000 UK gardens, recorded 17% fewer sightings of frogs in our gardens, compared to the previous survey in 2014. And alarmingly, 30% fewer gardens reported seeing toads monthly, compared to four years ago. We're appealing to the public to take part in our Wild Challenge activity to give wildlife some water and it couldn’t be easier. 

Step-by-step guide for the family to enjoy: 

You Will Need 

  • A large watertight container e.g. old sink, big washing up bowl – something that can survive the elements, especially frost. 

  • Native pond plants such as rigid hornwort or whorled water-milfoil for under the water. And lesser spearwort or iris versicolor for above the water line. 

  • Sand or gravel 

 

1.    Check for Leaks! Make sure your container is watertight. If you’re using an old sink silicone a plug into the plug hole and seal any drainage holes. 

2.    Choose the Perfect Spot: Your pond will need a good amount of light, but not full sunlight all day. position your pond before you fill it with water, as it’ll be heavy. Place your pond somewhere safe - even a mini-pond can be hazardous for small children. 

3.    Get Nitty Gritty: Line your pond with a layer of clean gravel. Do not use soil – it’s too nutrient rich and will encourage algae blooms. 

4.    Wildlife Hokey Cokey (in and out): Use stones, bricks, pebbles, logs – even make a mammal ladder, to ensure that wildlife (like hedgehogs) can access the pond, but importantly - can easily get out. 

5.    Fill it up: Use rain water from your water butt. Tap water contains too many chemicals which aren’t great for a pond or its wildlife. 

6.    Plant it up: Use low nutrient soil mixed with grit and choose aquatic plant pots which have mesh sides. Seek advice from your local garden centre or pond supplier. Remember not to over plant your pond, two-three plants for this size is perfect. And as well as your underwater oxygenators, don’t forget some marginals like water forget-me-nots – these provide shelter and handy perches for some of the wildlife that may visit. 

7.    Fun with green gloop! Fear not if in the first couple of months of your pond algae or blanket weed forms, it’s a fun job for supervised children to enjoy removing by winding it around a stick. 

8.    Be Patient: Don’t be tempted to speed up the moving-in process by transferring spawn from other water sources into your own. Amphibians are really good at seeking out new ponds and we advise not to move them in general as amphibians can suffer from spreadable diseases like red-leg. 

I guarantee that if you fill it (with rainwater) nature will soon come – with a hop, crawl, and flutter! 

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