Creating a Wildlife Pond
I’ve always had a great interest in ponds, to me, the underwater world is fascinating. I’ve been interested in aquatic plants since I was a young child. I can still remember the feeling, as my heart leapt and did a little somersault when I discovered a clump of Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris) for the very first time, whilst I was out for a walk with my Grandparents; I was utterly captivated by the beauty of this large clump of Caltha palustris. This plant’s enchanting open flowers and attractive leaves left me feeling spell-bound and in awe of these majestic plants.
It has been a long standing love story; today I am still just as much in love with Marsh Marigolds, they remain one my favourite flowers. I just adore these magnificent plants.
One of the best things about spending time near a pond is the opportunities that these environments give us. There’s no better way to relax than to be dazzled by a dragonfly’s iridescence; these fascinating insects use their magnificent, flexible wings to perform midair acrobatics. I’ve no interest in planes or helicopters, but I take great delight in watching dragonflies and damselflies as they lift off, hover, swizzle, and float around me. As much as I enjoy watching these insects in flight, I’m always hopeful that they’ll land near me, so I can catch a glimpse of their incredible wings and look into their eyes, with the hope of getting to know one another better.
It’s of great importance to me that my garden is as welcoming as possible to wildlife. I believe that wildlife enhance our gardens and allotments, as well as the wider landscape. Many insects and animals need our protection if they are to survive. I try to ensure that my garden has plants and features that will provide food and shelter for any creature that cares to visit. I am immensely grateful for any opportunity to share a moment with a dragonfly, damselfly, a frog, toad, newt, or tadpole!
My Old Wildlife Pond
My old pond was dug out and created in June 2014. It was a petite pond – much smaller than I wanted, but it was the maximum sized pond that I felt able to design for the limited space I had available. I knew that aesthetically, a larger sized pond would look uncomfortable and unattractive in this area, so I designed a small pond that was in scale and in tune with its surroundings.
A bog garden was an important part of my design for my old pond. By creating a smaller sized pond, I ensured that there was sufficient ground left over for a boggy area of garden, with a shelter belt around the pond, to allow wildlife to enter and exit the pond hidden and protected by a shield of leafy plant cover.
I designed my old pond in a circular shape. It included a deep end in the centre of the pond, which extended down to about 70cm (27 inches). While a beach area provided a gradual slope down into the water, to allow visiting wildlife to easily access the water and to leave the pond, whenever they wish.
Outside the pond, I created an area of bare, muddy soil, just at the side of the entrance to the pond, for solitary bees and swallows, who collect mud to build their nests. One side of the pond was flanked by a stack of wood from a fallen oak tree, which provided a home for invertebrates. Some of the wood was stacked outside the pond, but other pieces were placed in the water to create areas for dragonfly species, who lay their eggs in wet wood. Inside the pond, I included a shallow ledge, for marginal plants, which extended around the entire circumference of the pond.
After the pond was dug out, the base of my old pond was covered with a fleece layer and then topped with a black, waterproof butyl liner.
I didn’t even consider installing a pond pump or any other equipment in my old pond. This was simply a wildlife pond, planted with aquatic plants, to encourage and support wildlife.
Problems with My Old Wildlife Pond
Back in the spring of 2014, while I was purchasing the plants for my old wildlife pond, I spotted some beautiful aquatic plants in bloom. These were strong growing plants that I hadn’t ever grown before. Within a split second, I had lost sight of my carefully considered, rationally thought out (and actually rather lovely) planting plan and I gave in to a sudden temptation to trial ‘just a few’ invasive, aquatic plants in my pond. I grew these strong growing aquatic plants alongside our British native plants and a few less robust aquatic plants – the plants from my original design.
I had been assured that if I planted these vigorous plants in aquatic planters, then they would be contained and there was no chance these aquatic plants would take over my pond. However, within a year or two, every single one of my aquatic planters had been infiltrated by these invasive plants. I can’t tell you how much I deeply regretting caving into that sudden temptation and introducing these invasive plants in my pond. The stupid thing was that I had gone against my own advice and intuition; all rational thought was lost after my head was turned by a few unusual looking flowers and my interest was sparked by the idea of running a new trial. I’ve now experienced first hand just how invasive these plants can be and I wouldn’t grow or recommend them. The only way to contain these types of plants is if you’re prepared to re-pot your plants at least once, ideally twice a year, which is quite a faff (don’t forget that you have to lift the plants out of your pond before you can begin and you’ll need to pop the plants back in the pond again, afterwards; as well as re-pot the plants themselves).
Another thing that I regretted about this particular pond, was that despite our best efforts at the time, the awful black waterproof liner that we used to create the pond was clearly visible. Our light, sandy soil settled in the weeks after installation; this led to one side of the pond becoming a little higher than the other, which resulted the black liner becoming a prominent, yet unwanted feature of this pond.
In a short period of time, my pond had become everything that I hated about man-made ponds. Rarely is anything perfect, but I knew in my heart that the only way to right the wrongs of my pond, remove these invasive plants, and fix the problems with my ugly pond liner showing, was to empty my pond and start all over again.
Designing My New Wildlife Pond
I’ve had to wait a while to finally be able to rectify things, but in April 2019, I had a new pond installed in my garden. My husband, together with my landscaper, Andrew Charles, (from Andrew Charles Landscapes) did all the physical work to create this pond. My new pond is sited in the exact same spot as my old pond, but my new pond is larger in size – this time we’ve gone for the maximum sized pond we could cram into this small area!
Instead of being round, our new pond is almost oval in shape. As the new pond is larger in size, there wasn’t room for a bog garden around my new pond; instead we have created just a couple of tiny, slightly boggier pockets. We’ve planted a few perennials and a number of rhubarb plants around the new pond.
The old oak wood stack has been retained. These logs have been set out along one side of the pond – the wood isn’t arranged exactly as I would like; I hope be able to re-arrange the wood stack at some point, next year. I’m leaving the logs at the moment, as it’s possible that newts, frogs, or toads, are sheltering or hibernating under my log stack and I don’t want to risk disturbing or harming them.
Making a List of Important Features
Before my husband and our Landscaper, Andrew Charles, began work on our pond, we talked in detail about what kind of pond we wanted to create. I explained that I wanted a low and very shallow, gradual slope into the pond, to allow frogs, toads, hedgehogs, newts, bees, wasps, flies, and other creatures, to easily access the water to drink, swim or bathe, and to enable these animals to leave the water just as easily, when they wanted to get out.
I also wanted to have a shelf for marginal plants to grow around the circumference of the pond and a deeper area of water at the centre back section of the pond. We discussed depths and details together at every stage.
Collaborating with Pond Specialists
I trust my Landscaper, Andy Charles. I felt sure that Andy would deliver the pond I was hoping for, but I still took the time to explain what I wanted to achieve and what I wanted to avoid, when creating our wildlife pond. If you have a landscaper working for you, it’s important to take the time to talk the project through, when you book a contractor to take on the job. But it’s just as important (if not more so) that you make time to go over the details again, to make sure you understand each other and have clear expectations, before work starts. I know we all lead busy lives, but ideally, you’ll be there on standby as the work commences and progresses; it’s important to check the work is going to plan at all stages of the build.
We placed markers in the soil, to show where our pond would go and to mark out the size and shape our pond would take. This was helpful for us, as we were able to agree on the size of the pond together and it gave us the opportunity to check the shape of the pond for a couple of weeks before work started; naturally, this was invaluable for Andy, our landscaper, too.
If you’re hiring a pond expert, make sure that you take the time to explain what you want for your water feature and what you hope to accomplish. Share your hopes and your fears. Remember that none of us are mind readers, your dream pond might not look the same as your pond specialist’s favourite water feature, but happily there are many different styles of water feature to choose from.
I made some preparatory notes before I met with Andy (my landscaper) to talk through the plans, so I was fully prepared. I showed Andy photographs of ponds I liked and I explained what I wanted (a shallow entrance and exit for wildlife, the marginal shelf being the right depth for the marginal plants I wanted to grow, a deeper area of water, the pond looking as natural as possible, and being beneficial to wildlife) from my pond as well as what I didn’t like and things I wanted to avoid (the pond liner showing, etc.).
If you’re thinking of creating a pond, you could draw a diagram of what you’re hoping to achieve and make a bullet point list of features you’d like your pond to have. Why not make a collage of pictures you’ve collected from magazines? If you’d rather do this online, you could create a water features board on Pinterest, or perhaps you could take photographs of any ponds you admire, while you’re out visiting parks and gardens. This will help you to have a clear way to describe and convey your hopes and ambitions for your pond project, which in turn will help you to ensure that you and your pond specialist are both singing from the same hymn sheet. If you’re clear about your ambitions and desires, you’ll help your pond specialist to successfully deliver the pond of your dreams.
I did all the planting for this pond myself, so we naturally focused on talking to Andy about the size, shape, and the position of where we wanted our new pond to go, as well as the Oase pond equipment that i’ll be using. If your pond expert is creating a pond for you and they’re also planting your new pond for you, don’t forget to make a list and share photographs of the plants you want to grow in your pond (as well as any plants you don’t like and wish to avoid).
Avoiding Old Problems in the New Pond
I took a number of steps to avoid creating a new pond with the same problems as my old one. Firstly, my Landscaper Andrew Charles fitted my pond’s liner to ensure that this waterproof layer would definitely be properly concealed this time.
To avoid introducing any invasive plants in my new pond, I took a number of precautions. Firstly, as tempting as it might be, I didn’t add any of the old pond water to my new pond, so I could avoid any risk of seeding the new pond with any invasive plants. I had hoped to fill the pond up with rainwater, but this wasn’t possible, so my new pond was filled with tap water, which was sprayed through a hose, so as to help the chlorine to dissipate more rapidly.
I had a number of Marsh Marigold (Caltha Palustris ‘Alba’) plants from my old pond that I really wanted to keep to grow in my new pond. These Marsh Marigold plants were all growing in aquatic baskets, but unfortunately, like the other plants from my old pond, they had been colonised by invasive, aquatic plants. Consequently, the Marsh Marigold plants’ pots were emptied out into my garden; this compost will not be reused or removed from the garden. I ensured that the plants and their containers were washed in the same contained area of the garden; this area was well away from the new pond, and away from drains, watercourses, etc.
Once they had been thoroughly cleaned, my Marsh Marigold plants had by then effectively become bare root plants. Next, these Marsh Marigold plants were potted up, back into the same containers, which were filled with new, peat free, aquatic compost. These aquatic planters had been thoroughly washed up and then lined with fresh lengths of material that I cut from a large roll of hessian.
Rather than placing the re-potted Marsh Marigold plants straight back into my new pond; instead, I devised a quarantine area using a series of large tubs, each filled with tap water. My Marsh Marigold plants were grown in these containers of water to keep the plants contained and to allow me to easily make regular plant inspections, to check for the growth of any invasive plants. Thankfully, none of my re-potted specimens were harbouring any unwanted plants, but to be absolutely certain that they were entirely free from contamination, I waited until autumn 2019, to move these Marsh Marigold plants into my new pond. I was pretty sure that my plants were free of any traces of invasive plants at the time these plants were potted up, but I’d always rather be over cautious, as it’s far easier to repot one plant than to have to empty the whole pond of plants and start all over again!
Sadly, the other UK native plants that I purchased for my old pond were so utterly consumed by the vigorous aquatic plants I introduced, that there was no option other than to destroy all of all my other aquatic plants. Most of these plants had declined, after being over grown and suppressed by the stronger growing plants.
Creating My New Pond
We chose a sunny part of the garden to create our pond. Our new pond was installed in the exact same spot where our old pond was sited. My husband dug out a larger hole for our pond; this wasn’t too difficult, as we have very sandy soil and the soil is easy to work. Thankfully there wasn’t any rocks or sharp objects within the soil; so as a consequence we didn’t need to line the base and sides of our pond with sand.
If you’re creating a pond on an area of ground where the soil is stony, it’s worth taking the time to be very thorough at this stage. Take the time to meticulously remove any stones or sharp objects and then line the base of the pond with a substantial layer of sand. Next, place a protective layer of sturdy, lasting material over your layer of sand and then cover your pond’s protective liner with an additional barrier of an extra layer of sand; before finally fitting your waterproof pond liner on top.
Once my husband had dug out the shape of the pond, he worked to assist our landscaper, Andrew Charles, to put a protective layer of matting over the soil ready for pond. I can’t stress enough that usually, I would recommend lining the base of a pond with a substantial layer of sand, but we weren’t skipping a stage here – there really was no need for us to do this, as we have such sandy soil in our garden, so extra sand was entirely unnecessary – it would have been putting sand on top of sand!
I’d never recommend cutting corners, after all you don’t want to go to all the trouble and expense of making a pond, only to have the lining punctured by a sharp flint or a piece of glass that was hidden beneath the lining. When the pond is complete, the weight of the pond water and the plants will be very heavy; this weight is continually pushing down on the pond liner, so if something jagged is underneath it can easily puncture your pond liner.
Once the protective layer was in place, a new rubber liner was placed over the protective matting, to finish lining the pond and make it waterproof. This is one of those jobs, where unless you are Mr. Tickle, two pairs of hands are essential – so it’s wise to enlist a helper, when you get to this stage. Thankfully my landscaper, Andy Charles was on hand to assist my husband with this task.
300gsm Protective Matting
I purchased 5m x 6m of 300gsm protective matting to line my new pond. This layer was added first. Once this was in place, the waterproof rubber liner was then laid out over the top.
Firestone 1.02mm PondGuard EPDM Rubber Liner
I purchased 5m x 6m of Firestone 1.02mm PondGuard EPDM rubber liner for my new pond.
Preformed pond liners are available in fixed shapes, but I find that for wildlife ponds it’s often better to use a liner, as you can sculpt your pond yourself and create a gradual incline into the water, to provide a gentle slope and descent into the water.
I designed this pond using the Firestone 1.02mm PondGuard EPDM rubber liner. This malleable liner was used to create the largest possible pond for this area. More importantly, as we were creating a large pond in a small area, our oval pond was shaped to enable the maximum sized pond to be created in the contained area of ground we had available.
Oase Pond Products
Earlier this year, the lovely people at Oase very kindly sent me some products to try out in my new pond. Since April 2019, I’ve been trialling the following products, in my new pond:
- Oase AquaMax Eco Premium 10000 Pump
- Oase Filtral 9000 UVC Pond Filter
- Oase AquaSkim 20
- Oase Y-DB 1.5″ Y-Distributor
Oase AquaMax Eco Premium 10000 Pump
I’ve used my Oase AquaMax Eco Premium 10000 pump to power a small waterfall that circulates the water through the pond. Waterfalls create sound and movement in the water. The noise of the water moving can help to distract from the sound of traffic noise – this might sound a cliche, but I can tell you it really does work!
Oase Filtral 9000 UVC Pond Filter
The Oase Filtral 9000 UVC Pond Filter sits at the bottom of my pond, where this product filters the water, to help keep the water clear. This product has a four layer filtration system, as well as an ultra-violet filter, which helps to keep the pond water clear and reduces algae and unwanted bacteria. This piece of equipment is hidden under the water, where it operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
This is a versatile product, the Oase Filtral 9000 UVC Pond Filter has an outlet that points upwards, this allows the water outlet to be directed to an optional water fountain. I didn’t want a fountain in my pond, so Ive not used this product for anything other than a filter.
Oase AquaSkim 20
I use the Oase AquaSkim 20 to collect leaves and any pollutants that fall into the pond. I’ve connected my Oase AquaSkim 20 to the Oase AquaMax Eco Premium Pond Pump. The pump draws some of its water intake through the Oase AquaSkim 20; the rim of this product sits on the surface of the pond, this creates an eddy on the surface of the water, which draws in leaves and other debris and collects any potential pollutants safely in its basket. It’s very easy to empty the basket, although you do need to be able to reach the AquaSkim’s basket to do this. We’ve managed to sometimes empty the basket with a long handled tool we have; although I must be honest this is a bit of a challenge – although this was my idea, I’ve not actually managed to master it yet myself!
Oase Y-DB 1.5″ Y-Distributor
I use the Oase Y-DB 1.5″ Y-Distributor to allow me to direct some water to the waterfall, while the rest of the water is diverted back into the pond. This allows me to control how much water goes through the waterfall and adjust the flow of water to suit my preference.
Setting Up the Oase Pond Equipment
We found the Oase pond kit easy to set up; the products came with straight forward instructions. So far, the Oase pond equipment has worked reliably for me since it was first set up in April 2019.
It’s great to be able to show you every stage of my pond’s development, in the picture above, you can really see how tightly my pond fits into this patch of my garden. The border that surrounds my pond is very narrow, it’s far thinner than I would like.
Most of the aquatic plants I’m growing in my pond don’t have a lot to say for themselves early in the season, but these plants really get into their stride and visibly ramp up their growth during May and June. My plants look rather feeble in the picture above, (I took this photo in May 2019) but three months later (on the 4th August 2019, when I took the picture below), lots of leafy foliage has been produced and the pond looks a little more like the lush oasis I’m aiming for.
Algae or Blanket Weed
We’ve had a huge problem with blanket weed in our new pond. As I needed to quarantine the aquatic plants we were keeping from our old pond, we were unable to place any plants into the pond immediately after the new pond was filled with water. We ordered some new bare root aquatic plants from Lilies Water Gardens, which we planted up in aquatic baskets and placed in the pond, but naturally these were all small, immature plants, that had only just started to come into growth. Consequently, almost 100% of the water in our pond was open to the sunshine and free from leaf cover. This coincided with a week of very hot and sunny weather, these factors combined to rapidly produce a pond of finest green!
If you’re interesting in finding out more about algae and blanket weed, I’ve written a separate article all about algae and the treatments I’ve used to try to control the algae in my pond.
I added some barley straw to the pond, as this natural treatment is very effective at controlling blanket weed and algae.
Pine Needles and Leaves Falling into the Pond
The Oase AquaSkim 20 has been very effective in collecting up any leaves that have blown or fallen into the pond. This pond filter has a basket that lifts out, which needs to be emptied and then placed back in position. This is a brilliant and very useful piece of equipment. If you’re placing a pond skimmer in your pond, ensure that you don’t position the equipment too far from the shoreline, so it won’t be too difficult to empty. We use a long handled tool to lift the basket out.
It’s astounding at how quickly dragonflies, damselflies, water boatmen, frogs, toads, newts, and birds, arrive at the water of a new pond. The day after my pond was filled with water, before the plants had been introduced, we spotted a few newts in the water! My new pond was built on the site of my old pond, so there was a pond here before, but I’ve always found that wildlife arrives within a shortly after a pond is created.
Since my new pond was installed, I’ve watched bees collecting mud to line their nests; newts often swim in the pond, and birds bathe in the water. I’ve spotted many flying insects, including: hoverflies, butterflies, and moths, as well as a variety of dragonflies and damselflies. It has been so uplifting and relaxing watching all the wildlife around the pond. You can see the wildlife I’ve observed in my pond, and discover how my pond is progressing in my wildlife pond updates.
Damselflies and Dragonflies
This year, I’ve been fortunate to spot many species of dragonfly and damselfly around my new pond. It has been so much fun to watch these beautiful insects darting and chasing around. I’ve tried to make my pond be a safe and welcoming place for these fascinating insects.
Future Pond Improvements
I am really pleased with my new pond, even though, (in my opinion) this pond looks far too big for this small area (which is no surprise – I knew that this was what we were creating). My husband is absolutely delighted with our pond, he wouldn’t change a thing and that means so much to me. I hope that in time, the aquatic plants will grow and develop into larger plants that will soften the look of the pond; at least during the summer months, when the plants will have produced lots of lush foliage.
I am still working on controlling the algae in my pond. I’m currently using a barley straw treatment, which is usually very effective. I’d recommend using barley straw, if you’re trying to control algae in your own pond. However, to get the best from this natural treatment, ensure that your barley straw packs are replaced every few months, and remember to add the treatment to your pond early in the season, before the algae has got going. It’s also important to purchase sufficient packs of barley straw to treat the size of your pond, so bear this in mind, too.
Nothing is ever perfect, there are plenty of small adaptions I’d like to make to my pond. I want to tweak the arrangement of the stones around the water; in particular the stones used for my pond’s small waterfall need to be adjusted and moved a little. But although I am itching to do this, the job will have to wait for now, as I am anxious not to disturb a newt, a frog or toad that’s sheltering or hibernating beneath the log stack or stones.
When the weather warms up in springtime, I will concentrate on perfecting this area. I’m itching to do it now, but it will have to wait. The logs around the pond also aren’t exactly as I would like them, but for the same reasons, they will have to stay where they are, for now.
This spring, I planted some climbers to cover the fence behind the pond. These new plants have yet to get going, so the fence is still bare; hopefully the plants will have developed strong roots this year, and next year, they will begin to shield the fence with their leaves. I am not a fan of bare fences, so this is something I’m keen to cover; it’s an extra space for plants!
To see the next update on the plants I’m growing in and around my wildlife pond, please click here.
To see all of the articles I’ve written about my wildlife pond, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you…………
You might be interested in some of the other trials I have conducted.
To see all of my Tomato Trials, please click here.
To see all of my Vegetable Trials, please click here.
Compost Trial Reports
To see all of my Compost Trials, please click here.
To read advice on planting up containers, please click here.
Scented Daffodil Trial Reports
To see the results of my second Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.
To read the results of my Scented Daffodil Container Trial, please click here.
To read the results of my first Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.
Slug and Snail Trials
To see the results of my Slug and Snail Trial and discover the best methods of protecting your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.
To read about using nematodes to protect your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.
Sweet Pea Trial Reports
To read the results of my third Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.
To read the results of my second Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.
To read the results of my first Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.
Terrarium, Vivarium, and Orchidarium Trials
To see how my Orchidarium was created, please click here.
To see the design of my Rainforest Terrarium, please click here.
To read the first part of my White Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read the first part of my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To see a planting list of ferns, orchids, and other plants that are perfectly suited to growing inside terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.
To read about the general care I give to my orchids and terrarium plants, and the general maintenance I give to my BiOrbAir terrariums, please click here.
To read how I track the temperature, humidity, and light conditions inside my terrariums, please click here.