Do you want a sign post for wildlife that says “welcome here?” Then read on!
In my garden I get all sorts of insects, birds and small mammals, but if I had to pick one thing that has lifted my mood the most this month it would have to be the frogs and their spawn!
In this blog we don’t want to talk about building a pond, the digging, what material, depth, Etc, there’s plenty of info out there, but we do want to focus on what we think makes a good pond for wildlife.
That being said, if you do want some practical advice on building a pond then please do check out Dr. Jeremy Biggs, a director at Fresh Water Habitats, he really is a walking wealth of knowledge and I think you’ll find his counter-type ideas to the normal expert advice of dig deep, Etc. a welcome relief!
- Water – Obvious right? Just get the hose out and fill it up! Well, not quite. The water we drink has a cocktail of chemicals in and if it is used to fill a pond up it can quickly lead to first year algae build up, or what is often referred to as pea soup. A better solution is to get as much rain water as possible, and to do that you’ll want some rain butts, both for the initial storage and the filling up if necessary. Rain water still can go green, but it has far less chemicals and is less likely to. Remember we said build a pond in September/October time? This is one of the reasons why. It will give plenty of time for the chemicals to dissipate and there is less aquatic activity towards the autumnal months.
- Aspect – Look for sunshine when sighting a pond as it will attract a lot more life to it, will lead to clearer water, and from a purely selfish point of view, you’ll want to be able to see the wildlife from a warmer part of the garden, as will your children/grand children!
- Oxygen – There are two ways to achieve this. One is by adding running water, which spills in and causes the water to become oxygenated, the second is to add plant based oxygenators, which apart from the obvious in that they produce oxygen, they are fantastic places for aquatic life to live and breed in, with Callitriche (Starwort) and Ceratophyllum demersum (Hornwort) being exceptionally good, with the starwort providing nesting sites for newts! If there is one word of caution though, please do not use invasive/foreign species, they have a devastating effect on our water ways and unlike garden plants, they are easily taken off and put into other water systems by visiting birds. Please check out the RHS’s website for more information on the ones to avoid!
- Floaters – No, not those ones, that would be crass! Floaters are great plants for a larger pond as they help to provide cover (the equivalent of woodland shade) for the various pond life, as well as cooling the water and giving a signal to hover flies, damsel, darter and dragon flies, that this is a great spot to land and maybe even find a mate. As a rule of thumb you want about half of the ponds surface covered.
- Marginals – These are for the pond what perennial plants are for the borders. Marginal plants are those that sit below the water, at varying depths, blurring the line between land and pond. From the wildlife point of view this is very important, as it gives them the cover they need to feed, mate and emerge in relative safety, whilst from an aesthetic point of view it is most pleasing. Marginals will allow flying insects, such as the pollinators, to gain some extra nectar/pollen, but also get them closer to the water without drowning. It can not be underestimated how much water bees need to cool their nests and in the case of honey bees, to produce their honey.
- Boundaries – By boundary we mean the area around the pond, here it really depends on room, but I would consider above all else, if nothing else could be done, to go for a long grass edge. Quite honestly this is the best place for frogs, toads and newts, who spend most of their time on land. The long grass will provide a place for adult and emerging damsel, darter and dragon flies, plus many butterflies will start their lives off amongst the grass. If you can add some wildflowers then so much the better, the butterflies can both have a feed and lay their eggs. Other good ideas, space permitting, would be logs, stones and mud, all of which are very good for all sorts of insects and other beasties!
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Well, that just about wraps things up, but if you want as much wildlife as possible in your garden, then I can think of no better thing to complement the plants you buy from us than a pond, after all, all life on earth depends on water in some form or other. ‘But we haven’t any got room?’ Honestly, don’t worry, you’ll be amazed at what even a buried washing up bowl can attract! ‘Ponds are just not safe for children though, are they?’ What better way for a child to learn good pond safety rules than by having one? It may seem a bit lax, but I only ever let my boys go out when I’m with them, so if they do fall in (my oldest did once) I can just (and did) pull them out. If you’re really concerned though, you can always put a barrier around it, though preferably not over it, as it will keep the kids safe and allow the wildlife in.
One last thing, and I’m not normally one for native only, but I do have to say, that unlike pollinators who are not so fussy about where they get their nectar/pollen fix from, pond life is much more geared toward our native flora and will not lay their eggs in anything else, so if you want a quick list of plants to include, I’ve listed 5 good all round marginals below. I recently filled my pond up with various native pond plants from Lincs Pond Plants, (They don’t know I’m mentioning them) and I found them to be very helpful, delivering everything I wanted to a high quality – much like we do really!
- Myosotis scorpioides ‘forget me not’ (Newts, frogs, bees, butterflies, birds)
- Menyanthes trifoliata ‘Bog bean’ (Newts, dragon flies)
- Iris pseudacorus ‘Yellow flag’ (Newts, frogs, dragon flies & bees)
- Sparganium erectum ‘Branched Bur Reed’ (Newts, dragon flies)
- Mentha aquatica ‘Water Mint’ (Frogs, bees, butterflies, caterpillars)
Adam Young, a buzz & a flutter;
“Together we’re better; Let’s create a buzz!“