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If you’re looking for your next garden project and want something low maintenance that’s also beneficial for the entire ecosystem, consider building a tiny wildlife pond.

Backyard ponds have a handful of ecological benefits, but even if you don’t have space for a full-sized water feature, you can still increase the diversity of beneficial insects, amphibians, and native wildlife in your garden. Tiny ponds can attract and support dragonflies, damselflies, bees, frogs, birds, and more. They also don’t require a pump, a filtration system, or complicated upkeep—the plants and wildlife just do their natural thing over time, ideally keeping everything in check on their own.

How to create a tiny wildlife pond

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A mini wildlife pond requires only a few materials and very little maintenance. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A watertight container, such as plastic liner, bin, or bucket, though you can also use a wash bin, barrel, or old sink

  • Gravel to line the bottom of the container

  • Bricks, pebbles, and stones to create surfaces at varying depths

  • Native pond plants

  • Aquatic pots

  • Rainwater

Note that when selecting plants for your pond, you’ll need several types to keep your pond’s ecosystem healthy and balanced. Submerged plants live at the bottom of the pond, emergent plants have their roots submerged in shallow water, and floating plants, well, float. Search for native pond or water plants specific to your area (do not just pick things from your yard or garden). Some emergent plants will do best in aquatic baskets, and loose submerged plants can be bundled, tied, and weighted to the bottom of your pond container.

Select a spot in your yard or garden that gets good light—it should not be full sun or full shade. You can either dig a hole and place your container in the ground or let it sit on the surface. Add gravel or small rocks to the bottom of the container, then place bricks and rocks of varying heights around the edges to create surfaces for plants to sit and birds and insects to land. If your container isn’t in the ground, add a ramp on the outside so frogs and other wildlife can easily climb in and out. Next, fill your pond with rainwater and start planting. If you have to use tap water, wait several days before adding any plants so chemicals can dissipate.

For a visual demonstration, and some inspiration, Instagram user Martha @marfskitchengarden demonstrates how to build and maintain a tiny wildlife pond.

Once your pond has been planted, all you have to do is wait. The tiny ecosystem will develop on its own—you don’t need to introduce frogs, fish, or other wildlife. Simply check on it regularly to top off the water (again, use collected rainwater), especially if you live in a dry climate, and remove excess debris. If winter brings freezing temperatures, you may need to bring the pond inside, but otherwise it can survive year-round.

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