Having a pond in your garden provides a home for an abundance of wildlife. The winter months are the ideal time to create one as it will fill up with rainwater ready for plants and wildlife in the spring, writes Kate Titford.

By creating a wildlife pond in your garden you can make a real difference to the wildlife that depends on them to survive.

Ponds support a greater diversity of wildlife than any other garden habitat. As well as attracting wetland wildlife such as frogs, damselflies and newts, they provide a source of fresh water for birds and small mammals.

A big garden isn’t necessary. A tiny pond made from a bucket or old sink will attract wildlife and provide a refreshing pit stop for birds.

‘Sink ponds’ are easy to make from any waterproof tub, bucket or sink. You can put a sink pond in a small garden, on a patio or even on a balcony.

They are also safer if you have young children.

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A dug pond takes a bit more work, but is a beautiful addition to a garden and supports a wide range of wildlife.

Locate the pond away from trees, which will drop leaves that ‘choke’ the pond. Add variety to the depth and shape of the pond: frogs and other amphibians like a combination of sloping sides and shelved areas. And remember to use a pond liner to stop the water draining away.

Rainwater is the cleanest water source available for filling garden ponds.

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Collecting it in water butts and other containers can take time but is worth it. Don’t use tap water as it is treated with chemicals and has excessive nutrients which can cause algae.

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A variety of native plants growing in different water depths and in different densities around your pond will create a varied habitat. Areas of dense plant life, such as water mint or water forget-me-not, in shallow water are ideal for frogs to hide in.

Tall plants, for example yellow flag iris or flowering rush, can be used by emerging damselfly and dragonfly nymphs climbing out of the water.

Add some ‘oxygenators’ to your pond, these are the plants which live submerged under the water, producing oxygen and helping to keep the water clean.

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Native plants to try include starwort and hornwort. Make sure you avoid Canadian pondweed as this vigorous plant can quickly take over the pond.

It’s amazing how wildlife will soon discover your pond, especially in spring. Whirlygig beetles and pond skaters should be visible within a day or two, whizzing across the water’s surface. Diving beetles and dragonflies will arrive soon after.

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Avoid introducing frogspawn from other ponds; frogs, toads and newts will find your pond and populate it themselves. Frogs lay great masses of eggs, easily recognised by their ‘jelly’ coating. While toads lay long, double strands of eggs instead and newts lay individual eggs which they hide away inside a folded leaf. Don’t introduce fish either, they will feed on any dragonfly larvae, tadpoles and frogspawn.

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If your pond freezes over on chilly nights, sweep away any snow lying over it to allow light to get into the plants. Making a small hole can help some amphibians but it is not essential.

Never smash the ice as the shock waves can kill the pond’s inhabitants. Instead, stand a pan of hot water on the surface to melt a hole.

When you’ve created your pond, sit back and wait to see the wildlife that comes to make it their home. And remember, you’ve made a real difference to your local wildlife!

Find out more about ponds, including how to create a ‘sink pond’ in small gardens, and pond wildlife at bbowt.org.uk/ponds