Wet, Watery and Wild
ponds can attract a wide variety of native visitors
to a garden: Michaela Strachan shows how to create the
Last month I explained what NOT to put in your garden
ponds, this month I’m going to tell you how to
make a wildlife pond. There is no better way to encourage
wildlife into your garden, and although people say that
spring is the best time to create a pond, in reality
you can build it any time you like and plant from early
spring through to autumn.
Its size will depend on your garden, but with wildlife
ponds bigger is better if you want to attract a diversity
of species. Having said that, anything is better than
nothing, even a bowl of water is appreciated by garden
visitors, but a minimum area for a proper wildlife pond
would be about 2.5 by 2 metres. Try to choose a sunny
area away from overhanging trees, unless you’re
building a really big pond and have a couple of weeping
willows standing about!
How do you go about building your pond? First you’ll
have to do a bit of hard digging! The hole should be
at least 77 cm deep to stop the pond from freezing during
a harsh winter, and a variation of depths will be the
spice of life for its inhabitants. Create shallow edges
for plants and slopes that allow easy access and escape
for animals, especially the occasional clumsy hedgehog.
You can buy a pond lining, but it’s better to
make your own and customize it to your chosen area.
Remove any stones and line the bottom with sand, then
old carpet. (It sounds strange I know, but this will
prevent anything growing through the next layer and
puncturing your pond.) Lay a butyl rubber lining on
top of the carpet. You’ll need the length of the
finished pond _ twice the depth _ the width; it’ll
be a lot of rubber!
What next? Fill the
pond with water and leave for at least a week before
adding plants. A good tip is to get permission to take
some mud and water from a healthy, established wildlife
pond: you’ll be amazed how many beasties it can
kick start. If you need to top your pond up use water
from a garden water butt.
So, which plants? Well I’ve got one word to say
and I can’t say it often enough, NATIVE! If you
want to attract native wildlife then plant native species.
Plants are the basis of a good wildlife pond and a diversity
of species and variety of density are important. Try
to include submerged plants to oxygenate the water;
plants with floating leaves for shade and shelter; plants
that emerge and stand up, for dragonflies, and have
some dead wood or logs lying partially in your pond,
for a great habitat.
Some recommended plants:
Native oxygenators: Curled
pondweed, hornwort, water
milfoil and water starwort.
These keep the water clean, support microscopic creatures
and provide food for water snails. Plant them in the deepest
area of the pond and anchor them down until they’re
Native floating-leaved plants: Water
lilies are excellent – the fringed variety
are best for small ponds. Amphibious bistort, potamogeton,
crowfoot and frogbit
are also good.
Native marginals: Bog
rush, brooklime, ragged robin, rosebay willow
herb, lesser reedmace,
lesser spearwort, marsh
marigold, water mint and yellow
A few do’s
- Do try to
include a boggy area, another great wildlife habitat.
- Do allow some
organic matter to get into your pond since it provides
shelter, food and somewhere for egg laying.
- Do leave rough
patches around the pond’s edge; this will provide
an extra wildlife sanctuary.
- Do leave the
pond alone, it’ll take time to settle down.
There may be a build up of algae and pondweed, but
water snails should keep these under control and you
can buy extra snails from a pet shop (native ones,
needless to say). If you have to clear out any pondweed,
make sure you leave it by the water’s edge before
composting it so that any wildlife can crawl back
into the pond.
put fish in your pond, especially goldfish. Remember
my all-important word NATIVE: fish will devour all
the native invertebrates and tadpoles. I know they
look good but if you want native wildlife they’ll
to have to go!
- Don’t introduce
frogs, toads or spawn from the wild in case they bring
disease. Be patient and they should come naturally
or make absolutely certain that they are from a healthy
use exotic plants.
Finally, remember that you’ll need patience.
It’ll be at least a year before you see
any results but once your wildlife pond is established,
it will be extremely satisfying and no doubt give
you great pleasure.
So good luck and keep gardening wild!
reprinted with permission from Greenfingers.com