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I have noticed a few toads in my garden, and would like to encourage them - they're welcome to my slugs. So I thought it might be nice to create a small pond.

However I don't want it to dominate the garden and I don't have all that much room. What's the smallest practical size for a pond to be attractive to wildlife?

I'm in the British Midlands, so we get a couple of freezing weeks in a typical winter.

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Google "frop bog" (exact spelling) for some excellent threads detailing how a gentleman in Michigan built a small self-contained frog pond. He also has information about winterizing it. –  Bad Neighbor Jun 16 at 18:56
    
@BadNeighbor Please post a link instead of making us search for it. Thanks. –  Niall C. Jun 17 at 3:32

2 Answers 2

I can attest from personal experience that if you build it, they will come. Just not necessarily who you might expect...

Practically speaking the smaller the pond the more maintenance you have to do. Some of the factors that are in play:

  • small ponds heat up and cool down faster due a smaller volume of water
  • small ponds tend to go "green" with algae faster in the summer
  • all the same requirements of a larger size pond: moving water, a pump, an electrical source
  • In colder climates the shallower the pond the more likely it will freeze solid killing most fish and some amphibians

For toads

  • they do not require water to drink, only to breed
  • a suitable pond will have shallow edges to make it easy to get into to. Half barrels or raised containers are not suitable
  • when toads or frogs lay eggs they do not protect them. If you have fish in the pond, like a goldfish, it will eat the eggs before they spawn.

If you are very tight on space and would like to have something enticing for animals you could do so with a seasonal pond or vernal pool.

  • Find a low area in your garden
  • dig out shallow area, say thirty to sixty cm deep
  • line with EPDM food grade pond liner, 60 millimeter thick is preferred, 45 mil will do
  • edge with flat stone. For a leak free experience place one layer of stone on the edge of the liner and then fold the liner over on top. Place a second layer of stone on top to hide the liner. The "U" shape will prevent water loss by capillary action.
  • divert downspout water into this area with piping or shallow trenches
  • fill partway with lava rock(often sold for barbeques) or bio balls
  • then put some landscape fabric down and a mixture of organic matter and sphagnum moss
  • plant with bog plants or other water loving plants

By doing this you will have an open water area in the spring when amphibians need somewhere to lay eggs. If it dries out in the summer, no problems and no home for mosquitoes

Edit: corrected recommended liner thickness to millimeter. Thanks @jmusser

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60mm=6cm, or more than two inches. I'd say rather thick for a small pond. I use 8ml. –  J. Musser Jun 16 at 17:11
    
@jmusser corrected to 60 millimeter, thanks –  kevinsky Jun 16 at 17:36
    
Sorry, I use 8 mil, not 8 ml. :) –  J. Musser Jun 17 at 0:11
    
I have a 350 sq. ft. shallow puddle in my front yard, with slight sloping, that kind of mimics pond habitat. and it has about 35-40 toad wiggles per square foot. I don't know what I'll do when they all come out. :) I've even had turtles move in. –  J. Musser Jun 17 at 0:25

I've just read on one wildlife site that the smallest pond that will be attractive and the most successful to amphibians to lay their spawn will be 6 feet by 6 feet. They may sometimes place their spawn in small water features if that's all there is, but the spawn doesn't usually mature successfully because its too exposed and gets eaten. Even frogs don't stay in the pond all summer - they leave and lurk about in damp places in the garden, returning to spawn, like toads do. Frogs, though, may try to overwinter in the silt at the bottom of a pond. All amphibians will prefer still water to lay their spawn too, so no pump or anything that moves the water, which means you'll need aerating aquatic plants.

Otherwise, Kevinsky's answer covers the rest.

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Two answers are better than one! –  kevinsky Jun 16 at 16:45
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@Kevinsky - only if one adds something extra to the other! –  Bamboo Jun 17 at 11:03

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