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By January 26, 2017 1 Comments Read More →

How to make a pond in a container

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Cico Books. The Balcony Gardener.12.8.11

Water in a wildlife garden attracts more beneficial visitors than any other single element, and even the smallest of gardens can accommodate a mini pond, writes Emma Hardy, author of The Urban Wildlife Gardener.


Even small spaces, such as a patio or balcony, can benefit from a water feature, and it’s easy to make a mini pond in an old bathtub, sink, or half-barrel.


1           Choose a container that is watertight and frost-proof, and clean it thoroughly. I have had a mini pond in an old galvanised washing tub for several years and, despite its small size, it attracts many different insects and several toads, too. If your container is small, limit the number of plants that you put in it so that it will not become overrun with foliage.

2           Find a sunny spot for your pond – to help to attract more wildlife.

3           Add a layer of washed sand or potting compost to the bottom of the tub to allow insects to burrow.

4           As with a large, permanent pond, your mini pond needs sloping sides to allow wildlife safe access to the water. Place some stones, bricks, or upturned plant pots in the tub to build up different levels, making sure that some of the stones or pots break the surface of the water.

5           Ideally, fill the tub with rainwater (a water-butt or rain barrel is handy for this) because tap water contains chlorine, which is harmful to wildlife. If you use tap water, fill the pond and then leave it for 1 week before planting, so that the chlorine levels drop. Tap water may encourage duckweed and blanket weed, which can be invasive and reduce oxygen levels in the pond, so keep a look out for these and remove them from the water if you spot them.


Choose a few aquatic plants, considering the depth they require when making your selection. Generally, water lilies should be placed in the tub first, at a depth of 25–30cm, with marginals going in next, placed on stones if necessary, and then the floating plants on the surface. If possible, surround your pond with potted plants and foliage, as this will make it more accessible for birds and amphibians.


A boggy, wet area of a garden can be particularly difficult to deal with, but creating a bog garden can make an attractive feature of it and provide another wildlife-friendly habitat. If you do not have an area that is very wet, you can still think about creating the conditions artificially, and enjoy being able to introduce plants to your garden that would otherwise not be suitable.


1           First decide on the site. Choose an open area that retains water well or that is naturally quite wet (though this is not essential). Bog gardens can survive well in sunny spots, but may be harder to keep moist.

2           Dig out the area to a depth of 30–40cm, keeping the soil to one side to use later.

3           Cut some plastic sheeting, or a butyl liner, large enough to sit inside the hole, then lay it in the hole, piercing it a few times with a garden fork to provide drainage.

4           Pour gravel or coarse sand into the bottom to cover the holes, so that they do not become blocked with soil.

5           Tip the soil back into the hole, adding handfuls of well-rotted compost, manure, or leaf-mould as you go. Bog garden plants require a nutrient-rich soil, so it is important to add plenty of composted matter.

6           Leave the soil to settle for a few days, then plant with your chosen plants, having soaked them thoroughly first. Cover the surface of the soil with bark chippings to help retain moisture.

7           Lay small logs or stones around the bog garden to cover any plastic that is showing through and to create cover for insects. Water the bog garden thoroughly.

8           Keep the soil moist, watering well in hot, dry weather, especially if the bog garden is in a very sunny spot.


If you cannot spare enough ground to create a bog garden, a container bog garden may be the answer. An old wheelbarrow makes a great container and has the added benefit of being mobile, so it can be moved to a warmer spot in winter to protect more delicate plants.

This bog garden in a wheelbarrow is suitable for small backyards and terraces, regardless of whether you have any ground to plant in or not. Creating the ideal conditions for bog plants is simple, and the size of the wheelbarrow means that it will be easy to maintain

This bog garden in a wheelbarrow is suitable for small backyards and terraces, regardless of whether you have any ground to plant in or not. Creating the ideal conditions for bog plants is simple, and the size of the wheelbarrow means that it will be easy to maintain



1           Soak the plants in their pots thoroughly to make sure that the roots are wet before planting.

2           Add garden soil (or buy topsoil from a garden centre if you do not have any in your garden) to the wheelbarrow until it is about two-thirds full.

3           Take the plants out of their pots, dig holes in the soil, then plant them firmly, leaving the root-ball slightly higher than the surface of the soil.

4           Continue to plant in the container, adding more soil as necessary, and make sure you firm it around the plants.

5           Cover the surface with pebbles and stones, which will help to retain moisture and add a decorative touch.

6           Water the plants well, and remember to keep the soil moist throughout the year.


*           Giant or Chilean rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) – this can grow to a height of 2.5m.

*           Turkish or Chinese rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) – looks similar to Gunnera, but is much smaller.

*           Japanese water iris (Iris ensata var.).

*           Water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides).

*           Mealy primrose (Primula pulverulenta).

*           Hosta (Hosta sp.).


Emma Hardy is the author of The Urban Wildlife Gardener, a book packed with great ideas and techniques to attract birds, bees, butterflies, beneficial bugs, and more to your garden or plot. Turn a pile of logs into a home for ladybugs and other insects, plant a hedge to provide cover for small mammals, and make a pond (no digging involved!) and simple birdhouses and feeders – these are just some of the many exciting projects in Emma’s book. The Urban Wildlife Gardener is published in hardback by Cico Books, has 144 pages, is fully illustrated throughout with colour photographs and retails for £14.99. The book is available from all good book retailers and has the ISBN number 978-1-78249-187-3.





1 Comment on "How to make a pond in a container"

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  1. Superb post! All the ideas are good but I do prefer big ponds. Pondpro2000 has made it easy to have. So I got two big ponds in my yard.

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