(Originally written in 2017)
One of the biggest pests I have faced in my garden are slugs – most years they can be like a carpet. Bizarrely, in 2017, the numbers seem to have fallen to an almost unnoticeable level (I am grateful for this but unsure why). Obviously a pond will not be the full solution to this problem; but it is a good step in that direction. The increase a pond can bring to your biodiversity is significant. My main desire when creating my pond was to encourage amphibians that predate on slugs; like toads, frogs & newts.
My first thought was to just dig a hole in the space available, line it and fill it with water. Fortunately I did a bit of research before I started and was able to avoid that mistake! A pond to encourage nature does not need to be overly deep and certainly should not just be a big hole in the ground. What you need are gently sloping sides, ledges at various depths, plants to create cover and easy access for all the wonderful wildlife.
The shape of my pond was dictated by the space I had left between the two flowerbeds to either side; an odd shape that is about 1.5 x 2 meters at its widest and longest points. The maximum depth is about 50cm which covers about a 40cm square space. The ledges are at 15cm and 30cm depths and from the front point the slope goes from 0cm down to 30cm depth (which creates very easy access for any visitors). I also placed a number of large stones in one section of the pond to create both hiding places and a climbing area to further aid entrance and exit to the pond.
With the digging complete, nature did try (with one brief but severe downpour) to attempt to fill the pond for me. Sadly the sandy soil meant this was very short lived.
My pond was firstly lined mostly with bits of old carpet and a few odd scraps of underlay to protect the main liner from any sharp stones etc. With these in place the pond was then filled entirely using saved rain water (I have a lot of waterbutts that enabled this), a small amount of sand was placed on the ledges to help when placing some of the potted plants.
The final, and very time consuming part, was to construct my water feature; not necessary for a nature pond but this added an extra aesthetic element to the pond as well as some water circulation & aeration. This was constructed using some old blocks and bricks from a shed, 3 spare roof tiles and a lot of stones that had been dug out of the veg patch in the previous year. This was topped with a small sleeping dragon statue to guard over the pond. I did not want to run electric to the pond for the water feature so spent some time searching for a suitable solar powered option. This provides a small but steady flow that is less than that of a hose but sufficient to give interest and circulation. I generally set this to run in a battery saving mode – about 15 minutes running in every hour which usually allows the battery to run through the night, during the summer. The pump is removed from the pond before the frosts start.
1, I need to better hide the lining around the edge of the pond in the future (possibly to create a small bog margin if I can).
2, Think about the surrounding planting in more detail – since planting initially, the surrounding 30cm edge has not done well and does not provide the amount of cover the pond needs.
3, A better way to run the pump cable and hose – to hide them would aid in the overall look of the pond.
4, Whilst I did comfortably have enough lining, I would advise anybody to check and double check that you get a big enough piece.
5, When removing algae from a pond leave it at least over night next to the pond so any wildlife can escape back to the pond.
It was amazing how quickly wildlife came to the pond; skaters & water beetles were first to appear, followed by water boatmen and wirligig beetles. I have had the occasional visit from toads but no spawning from these or frogs. My resident amphibious predators have been newts – which in 2016 bred successfully and I hope to see the same in 2017. There have also been a good number of dragon and damsel fly visit the pond; with several emerging from larvae again over the last two years. I would encourage anybody with enough space to create a pond of their own. A simple bucket can be enough to create a small haven for beneficial wildlife, both as visitors and residents of your garden.
Thank you for reading – Steve