With the excess removed, you can see how level (or not) the surrounding ground is. Ideally the water is pressing the liner outwards onto solid, compacted soil all the way round. If you have to build up any areas, make really sure you ram the soil down hard. If you don’t, it’ll settle later, and drain some of the water away.

Now the pond bottom will be at the same level as the bottom of the turf at the edge of the pond.

Once the pond is full, cut off the excess liner at water level, leaving an extra foot (lying horizontally) all the way around. It’s a nerve-wracking job, so take your time, using a scalpel or a sharp knife.

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A comprehensive guide for the creation and management of clean-water wildlife ponds.

Sharp-edged rush with pink flowers. Grows under water or on the edge; also ideal for emerging dragons or damsels

Blue flowers in summer, grows on the edges, so protecting young froglets from drying out

1. Mark out the pond outside rim then mark and dig an area inside this overall rim for an edging shelf to contain rocks/cobbles or other edging materials. This will be outside the area of visual water planned for your pond. The shape of this shelf does not need to match the shape of the pond water.

You can raise the turf, remove roughly half the soil from each turf making it half the thickness, and place the spare soil in from the of the turf so making the slope from pond to grass a bit gentler. This might not be the ideal solution but it is fairly quick to do.

Doing anything that impacts these waters requires permission from the EPA under the Clean Water Act. Any water that is not covered under federal jurisdiction is often covered under state laws. In California, every drop of water is regulated, whether it’s in Lake Tahoe, a puddle on the streets of Los Angeles or in an aquifer beneath the Central Valley.

3. Then dig the whole pond area to the depth of the next area of shelving marked out on the ground – the shallowest marginal shelf at 15cm(6″) below finished water depth – shelf . Cut across the curves to give wide spaces of shelf into the corners – try not to build a rim of shelves around a larger surface area of deeper water as this will be unbalanced when you come to plant. In a formal pond use large shelf areas not one shelf in each corner.

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Well, I will add some plants to this pond: local, native, wild sourced plants (only collected from landowners who’ve given permission).

So be brutal. When more than half the surface gets covered by plants, haul some of them out and sling them on the compost heap. Likewise if the underwater greenery gets too thick. It feels harsh, but in the long run you’ll be guaranteeing the pond’s future ability to sustain as many different species as possible.

Rigid steel mesh frames can be positioned securely over ponds. These can be obtained from security grille suppliers and metal stockholders who should be able to cut the mesh to size. Mesh should be heavy duty, ideally made from 6mm to 8mm diameter wire. Secure it firmly and it should support the weight of a young child. Ideally the mesh should be positioned above the water level.

Wells. You can pump well water to fill a pond, though the electricity to do so is costly unless your pump is solar-powered. Well water is generally considered a practical source only for small ponds, or to top off large ponds during dry spells.

It's easy to create a simple pond in your own garden. Always consider the following:

Freaky, spiky plant that floats and sinks as it sees fit. Needs deep water and lots of room; home for an immense range of amphibians, insects, snails, crustaceans and leeches

The trick is to think like a frog. By the time they creep out of the water in March, the poor things are utterly knackered. Some even die from exhaustion, which isn’t surprising when you consider they may not have eaten since the previous October. What they need is food and shelter. So ditch the chemicals (slugs poisoned by pellets are lethal), and encourage plenty of dense growth in your borders.

Many books recommend butyl rubber for the liner but some experienced pond builders reckon the latest PVC is even stronger. Tell the supplier your pond’s maximum length and depth and they’ll calculate what you need (if you’re really thrifty you could find out what sizes the liner comes in, and dig your pond accordingly).

Of course to yank out the plants you need to be able to reach all of the pond area safely. It helps if you can fix up some rocks or blocks on the edge at the build-up stage, so that you can throw a ladder or builder’s plank across the surface and reach in two or three times a year.

There are several possible water sources for your pond, though you may need a combination of more than one to keep your pond full year-round. Here are some of the pros, cons and important facts concerning each:

Attractive spiky leaves and black flowers. But sharp growing tips of underground stems can pierce pond liners

Not to be confused with the invasive red form in garden centres. A good oxygenator; newts like laying their eggs under the leaves

So your pond’s up and running – what about the rest of the garden? Well, if you want your new amphibians to do well, you can help.

Like a classy, overgrown broad bean with a springtime, pinky-white fuzz of nectar-bearing flowers

Your job now is to dig a deep central hole, while leaving at least 18 inches (two feet is even better) undisturbed all the way round. Think of a gigantic, inverted fried egg. If you’re having a bog garden area, leave it 12 inches deep everywhere; it needs a flat base for its dam of bricks or stones.

Now the lining: it’s best if you can use underlay under the rubber liner.

Freshwater Habitats Trust’s Dr Jeremy Biggs made another pond in his garden, following the guidlines of clean and shallow water, making a pond that will be great for wildlife.

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A wildlife pond should have lots of shallow water – roughly 50% shallows, and the deep area is not more than 30 cm.

And the wildlife? Well that started to arrive on day 1 with little flies laying their eggs, and on day 2 the first water beetles flew in.

5. Finally mark out and dig the deepest section of the pond – 60-75cm deep(2ft-2ft 6″) – shelf

How to dig a pond

Where does the nitrogen come from? Three main sources: tap water (hence our suggestion for a water butt overflow system – rain contains few nutrients); fish (a good reason not to have them in a wildlife pond); and decaying plant matter (which is why we use subsoil for the pond edges). Keep hoiking out the excess and you’ll have no trouble, year after year. And you’ll never need to ‘clean the pond out’ either.

Tricky bit over. From now on, it’s a piece of cake. Fill in the right-angled shelf all the way round with subsoil to create a gentle slope. It’ll make a hideous mess, but don’t worry. Add a little extra soil to hide the top of liner as you go.

A zigzag rush with green flowers like giant burrs. The quintessential dragonfly perch

No roots. Forms a dense underwater forest offering shelter, shade and oxygen to every living thing in the pond

The depth of this shelf should be in proportion to your pond size: 6-15cm (3-6″) deep dependent on the size of the edging materials you are planning to use. The rocks or cobbles used for your edging will sit on this outside shelf within the linered area so below the finished water level and they should protrude above the water. (So include this shelf area when calculating your liner requirements and add the height of the shelf too as this will form the vertical lip to contain the water).

If there’s one feature in the garden guaranteed to attract wildlife with astonishing speed, it’s a pond. And at a time when ponds have all but disappeared from farmland, it’s a hugely helpful thing to do.