JENNY STEEL  Wildlife Ponds the Easy Way

 

           

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MAKING WILDLIFE PONDS THE EASY WAY

It is often said the we British are a nation of animal lovers – a fact that was borne out recently when a small road in Somerset was closed for two months to allow toads to safely cross to their spawning ponds.  Amphibians (toads, frogs and newts) fascinate us when they appear in spring to lay their eggs in our garden ponds.  Many a pond owner has been driven slightly crazy by croaking male frogs calling incessantly to their long suffering partners but in spite of this we love them!

If you don’t have a garden pond and the idea of seeing huge quantities of fascinating wildlife in your garden appeals to you, spring is a good time to get digging.  Ponds are extremely important wildlife habitats and even something little bigger than a puddle is a worthwhile addition to your garden if you want to help wildlife and watch nature in the raw.  As well as amphibians, a garden pond will attract birds, insects such as dragonflies and damselflies, reptiles (especially grass snakes) and mammals.  Your local wandering hedgehog needs a drink while on his nightly forays, and a garden pond with gently sloping edges will allow him to reach the water safely.

Choose your pond location carefully.  Try to make sure that you can see it from a window – wildlife watching on wet or cold days is best done from indoors!  Make sure that the spot is light and open but not necessarily in full sun.  A small pond will suffer badly from blanket weed if it gets too hot in the summer so a little shade from a nearby fence or wall is no bad thing.  Avoid areas with overhanging trees though, as large quantities of leaves may be detrimental to pond life in the autumn. 

Having chosen your spot, mark out the pond edge with string or a length of hosepipe.  Once you have the perfect outline (go for an easy shape to dig, such as an oval or pear shape), remove turf if you are using an area of lawn, and get to work with a good spade.  You are aiming for at least one gently sloping edge where frogs, toads,  birds and mammals will find easy access to the water.  Make sure that you have one area between two and three feet in depth, but the rest can shelve gently.  Having a variety of depths will provide habitat for a wider range of wildlife.

Once you are happy with the shape and depth you will need to put in a butyl or polythene liner.  These are available from most garden centres and the staff will be able to help you calculate the amount you need (make sure you take along the measurements of length, width and maximum depth).  Gently ease the liner in, folding the edges where necessary.  The next task is to cover the liner with some of the soil you have removed from the hole.  This will provide a good medium for your plants to root into. It is important that a wildlife pond has plenty of vegetation in the deep water and around the margins and plants in baskets (with the possible exception of a water lily in the deepest part) really spoil the natural look you are aiming for.  However, if you would like a water lily it should be placed in position in the deepest part of the pond at this point, as getting it in place once the water is in can be tricky.

Now fill gently using rain water if you have some saved in a water butt, or tap water if not, and leave to settle for a few days.   Include plenty of oxygenating plants from the garden centre, but ensure that you avoid invasive aliens such as parrots feather and Australian swamp stonecrop.  Remove other aquatic plants from their pots and plant them straight into the soil. Plant the margins with colourful native wildflowers such as ragged robin, purple loosestrife and marsh marigold, as these have the added bonus of attracting invertebrates. 

Now sit back and watch the wildlife arrive.  You won’t need to import anything (including frog spawn) as your local wildlife will quickly find the habitat you have provided.  Within a very short time your pond will become a wonderful place to watch wildlife and perhaps try your hand at wildlife photography.  Dragonflies for instance often stake out their territories from the top of a tall plant or reed, making this insect a fairly easy target for a close-up picture.

Making your own pond may not be an option if outside space is limited.  Check out your local park pond for frogs and newts or you may have a village green with a semi-natural pond where birds drink and bathe. You can be sure though, that wherever there’s water there will be wildlife in abundance.

© Copyright Jenny Steel 2017