As we become increasingly aware of the need to increase biodiversity in our gardens I am always looking for ways to include water features in my designs. A garden pond is a wonderful way of attracting many types of wildlife – frogs, newts, dragon flies, water skate, birds and small mammals – bringing so much life and a whole new dimension to any size of garden. Wildlife in return offers a natural means of pest control helping to maintain a healthy balance in the garden. The common frog eats slugs, caterpillars, flies and mosquitoes.
We don’t all have gardens big enough for a full-blown pond but even the smallest of gardens can incorporate a barrel pond.

A half barrel (or any other water-tight container)
Washed or aquatic gravel
Aquatic plants
Oxygenating plants
Pond baskets – lined with hessian to prevent compost leaking out
Bricks – thoroughly washed
Mesh or a steel grid to make sure the pond is safe for children
Telescopic fountain head (relaxing sound)

1. Decide on the site. Preferably this should be somewhere which gets some sun – the ideal site will not get too hot in summer. Shelter your pond from prevailing winds and long periods of direct sunlight resulting in high evaporation rates. If sited in deep shade the pond will stagnate. 

2. Cover the bottom of your barrel with aquatic or washed gravel. Fill, and allow to soak for a few days to allow it to swell up so it becomes water tight. Rainwater is best but you can use tap water which has been left to stand for a week to allow any chemicals to evaporate. The minimum depth should be about 400-600mm so you can include aquatic plants.

3. Carefully arrange the bricks at different levels in and around the barrel to enable wildlife visiting your barrel pond to do so easily and safely, and for planting baskets to sit on. Give birds a place to perch when they are drinking. 

4. Plant your chosen plants in hessian lined aquatic baskets, ensuring not to overcrowd them – allow at least a third of the surface area clear to allow your plants to breathe and grow. Mix submerged, floating and emergent plants – they will each bring different qualities, benefits and inhabitants to your pond. Which plants you choose is up to you – just make sure to pick varieties that don’t mind having their roots wet. In order to ensure the water stays fresh and clean you should include oxygenators – such as water lilies. Great plants for small ponds include:
• Miniature waterlily (Nymphaea ‘Pygmaea Helvola’)
• Lesser spearwort (Ranunculus flammula)
• Starwort (Callitriche stagnalis)
• Japanese water iris (Iris ensata ‘Variegata’)

5. Collect rainwater to top up your pond when required. Ensure it is kept free from leaves – covering with mesh in autumn will help.

6. Ensure your pond is safe – remember babies can drown in just a few inches of water.Now relax by your new pond – in no time at all wildlife will be visiting and you will be doing your bit for increased biodiversity.

Helpful websites for information and sourcing plants:

The Grey Cottage, Goose Green, Gullane EH31 2AT
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