Build a pond by digging an informal wildlife pond from the outside area into the inside area in stages:
How to dig an informal wildlife pond step by step:
1. Dig the edging shelf and shelf :
- Mark out the pond and hard landscaping outer rim with a hose/string or a run of dry sand (Design the pond shape & size page).
- Dig the whole pond to the depth of the first shelf area.
- The depth of this shelf should be in proportion to your pond size: 6-13cm (3-5") down from expected water finished level for a small pond using cobbles as edging or 14- 20cm(6-9") deep for rocks or stones in a larger pond.
- Shelves/ledge must be flat for planted baskets to sit securely.
- Make some part of this shelf into a sloping beach edge up to the garden level for hedgehogs to climb out.
- At the beach area the shelf needs to be wider.
- It will be flat on the inside of the pond & then slope/taper gradually back to garden level.
To build the next shelf levels:
- The inside shape of the top shelf does not need to match the outside shape of the pond.
- Taking a straight line across a rounded end of the pond can make a good sized shelf.
- Try not to build a thin rim of shelves around a larger surface area of deeper water.
- Then you can use groups of aquatic plants together rather than have them lined up around the water rim like a parade of soldiers.
- Shelf should be wide enough for a line of stones on the outside rim of the pond and some plants on the deeper water side of the shelf.
- Mark out where this top shelf you have already dug will finish with a hose or string.
- You will not touch this shelf level area again.
- Prepare to dig the next level down moving into the centre of the pond.
- Beware of spoiling the soil edge of one level as you work on the next level down.
- Take care when you walk on each level so you do not collapse the shelf edge.
2. Digging the Shelf plant shelf
- Make a sharp spade cut down to the next shelf depth.
- Each shelf should be at a distinct level - with an upright edge like a staircase. Internal sloping areas cannot hold plants - they will slide down the slope to the shelf below.
- Dig the whole of the remaining pond area to the flat depth of the next shelf at 14-22cm(6-9") below finished water level - shelf .
3. Digging Shelf plant shelf
- Then mark out and dig the flat areas that you intend to be deeper still - the next shelf depth of 23-44cm(10-17") below finished water level - shelf .
- There are not many upright plants and no rafting plants suitable for this shelf. You do not create a large area at this level.
- You may not have space for this shelf depth at all if your pond is small.
4. Digging Shelf plant shelf
- Finally mark out and dig the deepest section of the pond - 60-75cm deep(2ft-2ft 6") below expected water level - shelf
The image above shows a Pond Profile - the construction under the liner that gives the levels, shape and usability to your pond.
When you dig an informal wildlife pond you should have a shape in the ground that looks something like this.
Next stage - go to our page: Lining the pond hole.