How to Make a Frog Pond
Garden Ponds Are Cool!
Garden ponds add a beautiful and peaceful focal point to any garden. They are easy to maintain and fun to watch, and if you have children ponds can also be educational.
Ponds allow you to do your bit for the environment. Certain aquatic plants are great for attracting moths, which are the perfect food for bats. Birds will bathe in the pool shallows. Water beetles will quickly move in and make themselves at home. And amphibians will prove to be fascinating, especially in spring when frogs and toads need ponds to breed in.
Frogs and toads spend much of their lives out of water. However, they often prefer to be near water and will enjoy the shade provided by marginal plants.
A Pond Is Born
Build a Pond
Building a pond is easier than you might assume. Amphibians need to be able to climb out of the water easily, so the sides of the pond need to be created with a gentle slope down to the first level. You can add as many descending levels as you wish, but the deepest part of the pool need only be around calf-deep. Tadpoles prefer swimming in sun-warmed shallows anyway.
There will be some digging involved, and that can be hard work. But nobody need try to dig it all in one day.
Choosing the Pond's Site
Choose a site which is not too close to trees, as their leaves will litter the pond in autumn and you will have to scoop them out. If your garden has a natural slope, use this to your advantage and site the pond in a hollow. In my garden, the hollow is next to our rhubarb patch, and this plants big leaves will provide ready shade for amphibians from spring until late autumn.
Remember the Frogs
Would You Make a Frog Pond?
Endangered British Amphibians
There are seven species of amphibians native to Britain. These are the Common Frog, the British Pool Frog, the Common Toad, the Natterjack Toad, the Smooth or Common Newt, the Palmate Newt, and the Great Crested Newt. There are also several alien species.
The British Pool Frog was extinct for a while but has been reintroduced in Norfolk. While the Natterjack Toad and Great Crested Newt are on the official endangered species list, all amphibians are under huge pressure primarily due to pollution and loss of habitat.
By building a small pond in your garden, you can do your bit to help save amphibians.
Digging a Frog Pond
Quick Check List
- Choose the site.
- Purchase pond underlay and liner.
- Mark out a simple shape.
- Get digging.
- Check the pond sides are level.
- Remove any stones.
- Position underlay then lining.
- Add water.
- Add aquatic plants.
- The wildlife will turn up when its ready!
Dig a pond
Mark out the shape using whatever is already available - spare bricks, a child's skipping rope, an old washing line, etc.
Keep the pond's shape simple. A fiddly shape makes it more tricky to lay the underlay and liner, and natural ponds tend to be simple shapes anyway.
Begin by removing the turf, which can be recycled by adding it to your compost heap. If you plan to have grass edges around the pond rather than a stone edging, then set some turves aside for this.
Before I researched how to build a frog pond I had the idea that it would have to be really deep. This isn't true, but be aware that if you plan to add fish of any species then the pond's depth will be more important as healthy fish have different environmental requirements from amphibians.
Soil removed from the pond, as you dig, can be dispersed around the garden.
My pond is sited next to our rhubarb patch as this plants big leaves will provide plenty of shade for any visiting amphibians from early spring onwards. The pond's sides bank gently down to the first of three levels.
Alternative Ways of Making a Frog Pond
If space or budget impose limitations on how you can make a pond suitable for amphibians, then consider using one of these items:
- A plastic baby's bath
- An old sink
- A plastic storage crate
- A plastic bucket
- a Washing-up bowl
If you use one of these, or something similar, be sure to add a "frog ladder"—a stable, sloping stack of clean bricks or rocks - so amphibians can climb out of the pond again.
Creating Levels in the Pond
Ponds Need Different Levels
In the photograph beside this column, you can see the levels of the pond starting to take shape. Note how the pond's side slope down, so it's easy for amphibians to move in and out of the pond.
Between the deepest level, which is taking shape in the image, and the highest part of the slope, I added another level. In this way, water temperatures will have more variation—the deeper a creature swims, the cooler it will get—the aim is to offer more protection from the hot sun.
In the photo below, you can see how the middle level has been created.
Make Sure Pond Sides Are Level
Water will find its own level, so if one area of your pond sides is lower than the rest the water will escape. To avoid this, check the levels of the pond sides as digging nears completion.
Lie a spirit level on a level plank to check levels, and move the plank around the pond to check levels all around the edges.
It's much easier to make any alterations now than after you've added the liner and water.
Pond Underlay and Liner
After all the hard digging is done, now it's time for the fun part. Mind what you wear on your feet, as the last thing you need is to tear a hole the pond liner.
After all stones and roots have been carefully removed from the pond site, roll out the underlay and use your hands to press it into place. Then do the same with the pond liner. Press it into place as close as you can, trying to smooth out wrinkles as best as is possible.
Then add water! Rainwater is best, as (in theory, at least) it contains less chemical additives than tap water. Make any adjustments to the liner as it begins to fill. Once full, you won't be able to do this without bailing-out the pond again.
Let the water settle for a few hours. This gives time for some of the chemical additives from tap water to evaporate, apparently.
Meanwhile, you can now trim the underlay and liner, and go ahead with tucking these under the turf for a natural look, or laying stones around the edge of the pond if you prefer.
Now you're ready to add some aquatic plants. The choice of plants is huge, and is entirely down to budget and personal preference. Some plants require planting in aquatic baskets, others simply float around by themselves. Plants help to keep algae under control. Oxygen in the water does this too, which can be added by installing a solar-powered fountain - though these tend only to work in direct, very bright sunlight.
A Frog Pond
One Newly-Made Frog Pond
Frog Pond on Video
This very short video captures how my frog pond looked at the end of August, 2013, when I had just added the very first plants. In the water, you can see pennywort, water soldiers and fairy moss, though obviously, the pond needs planting up much more than this. The recommended aim is to have the pond three-quarters planted so as to offer amphibians plenty of cover, as they like to hide from predators, fierce sunshine and cold conditions.
Looking at the video, you can see the three different levels of the pond structure— shallow, middle and deeper. You can also see my silhouette get in the way of the image!
Update: March 2014
Update: June 2014
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© 2013 Adele Cosgrove-Bray