Did you know that adding a pond to your garden for wildlife is one of the best things you can do to help regenerate biodiversity? It’s amazing to think that almost every body of water, from the smallest to the largest, has intrinsic value for living organisms and just by adding a body of water to your garden- even the smallest one- you are tapping into one of the most effective ways of inviting wild nature back into your space.
So why a pond?
Well, first of all creating a well designed pond or water feature is one of the most beautful things you can add to a garden. Visually it adds light, reflection and fascinating depth to a space. More importantly than this is that it is a haven for many varieties of birds, plants and animals. What might look like a simple reflection feature can actually become a fascinating complex habitat full of growing plants and algae, herbivores, predators, scavengers, decomposers, parasites and more.
Planning your wild life pond
When planning a pond to welcome wildlife in there are some important factors to consider:
- Size- No matter the size of your garden- everyone has space for a small pond or water feature. When deciding size it really depends on the space you have to give over to it. If you have a large site then you could plan a large pond which will be a home to a wide array of wildlife. If you have a small garden then smaller scale features can be a great way of bringing both wildlife and reflective light into a space. In fact, a series of small ponds across a community can be even better than just one large one.
- Location- While you may be tempted to create a pond in a damp dark part of land where water naturally sits, the ideal location for your pond is in fact a sunny south facing site which is best for most wildlife. Slight shade for part of the day however is beneficial to prevent the growth of algae.
- Design for wildlife- No matter what kind of shape or style you go for your pond should have at least one gradual slope. This will provide a variety of areas suitable for different pond users. Within the slope there are shallower areas for birds to bathe, amphibians to spawn and if animals such as hedgehogs fall in they have a slope to crawl out and escape. It’s a good idea to have a variety of depths and some shelves too so that you can add different plants which need varying depths of water. Also- it is worth having one area of water deper than 60cm as this will not freeze over completely in Winter. Additionally-finishing the edge a layer of stones or pebbles is always an advantage for wildlife.
Planting your pond
Plants in ponds provide food and shelter for wildlife and oxygenate the water. If you’ve built your own pond you’ll be surpised by how quickly nature comes in naturally and starts colonising the pond. Particualrly in more rural areas native plants start creeping in and animals and insects start to move in within days. If you’re adding your own plants to the feature then I would advise using native and local species wherever possible as this is best for wildlife. For small water features, growing plants in containers is the best option to get going. Most aquatic plants come in baskets which can be placed straight into the pond onto the shelves or the bottom.
Pointers for Planting:
- To place the plants make sure they are at the correct depth- every plant will have a preference.
- If potting up use an aquatic compost or a mix of soil, sand and gravel-depending on the plants you choose.
- You might need to weigh the plants down with pebbles or rocks under water as they can fall over or float away so have some rocks, bricks or pebbles handy
Here’s some inspiration for choosing plants for your new pond
These are vital to keep your pond clean and reduce algae by taking the nutrients form the water. Plants such as water buttercup, hornwort, water buttercup, water-crowfoot, water violet, pillwort, and willow moss are all options. These are not essential however for a very small pond.
- Marginal plants
Many of these plants are ones you would see at native lakes and water features. They thrive at the shallower edges of water and often have lovely flowers. The marsh marigold, lesser spearwort and water forget-me-nots are all great options while the Water plantain is one for the larger pond. Some of my favourite marginals which add gorgeous colour to ponds are marginal Iris varieties such as siberian, ensata, versicolor and laevigata which thrive in very shallow water.
These plants offer perches for animals sich as frogs and insects and bees. Varieties include frogbit which has small white flowers and water soldier which is only suitable for larger areas of water. Watre lilies are also great floaters and you can source everything from minature varieties to larger ones such as the white waterlily which is only for the larger pond.
5 steps to a mini pond:
Fancy building your own wildlife pond? Here’s an easy 5 step guide to building your very own.
What you need:
- A container of some sort -watertight or plugged. (this can be antyhing- get creative and use an old plant pot or bowl but ideally about 20-30cm deep)
- Gathered pebbles or rough stones and some small gravel
- A spade for digging your hole
- Some pond plants suitable for a small container pond-for example-one vertical one like flowering rush and one submerged one like hornwort for example.
- Choose a location for your container. Ideally it will have sunlight with a little dappled shade throughout the day.
- Dig your hole and sink your container into the hole so it’s sitting at ground level.
- Add a layer of small stones and gravel to the base and add your plants.
- Add some rocks and pebbles to hold down the plants and place them at varying heights so that animals can crawl in and out.
- Now fill the container up with water. Only use rainwater because tap water contains chemicals which are harmful for plants and animals.
Wait and watch and enjoy our wild friends come and explore.
Small and mighty
It is worth remembering that no matter the size, water will always be beneficial so even if you create a tiny one meter pond, you’ll be surprised how much wild life this tiny body of water can sustain! I love water bowls- simple stone or concrete bowls filled with water can become home to miniature water lilies for example and even if you have only a balcony to work with then including a bird bath will be beneficial to bathing birds who have to clean their feathers and remove parasites from their bodies.
Make it safe
If you have small children ponds can be a worry for safety reasons and understandably many people are reluctant to add them to family gardens. There are ways of making water features safe for children however. One of my favourites is to add a strong decorative metal screen or grid above or just below the water surface which still allows for planting and wildlife but does not hold the risk of dangerous water. There is also rigid mesh which can be purchased for this same use.
Don’t forget to think about planting around the pond. Even if you want the views to the pond unobstructed, introducing foliage and low shrubs at the far end of the pond looks wonderful and provide cover for birds and amphibians to enter and exit the pond.
Natural pond cleaner
Did you know that by adding barley straw or lavender to your pond for the spring months you can help keep it free of blamketweed and algae?