Ponds make a lovely addition to any garden and they’re also a proven way of attracting wildlife. Often, even small ponds attract a wide range of visitors, from the obvious frogs and newts to the perhaps more unexpected hedgehogs and birds.
Frogs love the UK’s weather, so if you’re a froggy fan, you’re living in the right place! If you’re going to attract amphibians, it’s important to remember that frogs have four basic needs: shelter, moisture, food and a place in which they can breed.
- Your pond is the perfect place for any frogs that fancy taking a dip. Try and add some shallow edges to the water so that the frogs can easily get in and out. You might also find a few frogs in the greenhouse from time to time, as they’re perfect for providing the necessary moisture.
- Breeding grounds and shelter. The best way to create a frog breeding ground is to include moist shrubs and pond plants. One of the pond edges should taper off into rough vegetation such as leafy mulch – this is perfect for both breeding and general shelter.
- Another benefit of frogs is that they’ll help to keep your insect population down. Moths, slugs, mosquitoes, flies, beetles and cockroaches all make potential frog food. Keep a couple of insect friendly plants near the pond.
It’s important to remember that certain breeds of newts are protected, so no bringing them into your garden from the wild! However, you can try and attract them by:
- Offering shelter. Newts tend to hide and shelter during the years, so building a loose rockery near your pond can be a great way to attract them. They’ll also hide underneath logs.
- Somewhere to lay their eggs. This is a major concern for newts, who lay their eggs in the leaves of plants like Forget-me-nots, Watercress, Water Speedwell and Flote-grass. Planting any of these is a good way to attract these vegetation-lovers.
- Don’t have fish. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to have both fish and newts in your garden: fish will eat the baby newts when they hatch.
Needless to say, you can’t ‘attract’ fish into your pond: you buy the fish and bring them home! It is important, however, to ensure that you set up the pond so that it is properly oxygenated, and that the pH balance is correct.
Preparing For Visitors
Your pond, whether it’s ornamental or purely for attracting wildlife, will likely need a little TLC after the colder weather. As the weather turns warmer in the spring, your pond will gradually come back to life. Plants will start to grow, fish will become more active and other wildlife will start to appear.
Ornamental Pond Maintenance
For ornamental ponds that tend to contain fish:
- Remove netting that was placed over the pond to catch falling leaves and sweep around the pond edge to remove any accumulated silt, soil and plant debris.
- Take out the plants and prune them back, removing the dead leaves from last year’s growth. Trim the roots as well.
- Leave the plant debris by the side of the pond for a couple of days to allow any wildlife that has been removed a chance to escape back to the pond.
- If any plants have outgrown their pots, divide them or replant into larger ones using aquatic soil. Compost any unwanted plant material - never put any excess plants into a wild pond.
- Use a pond vac to remove any leaves, silt and other debris that has built up in the bottom of the pond.
- If the pond has been neglected for any length of time, you may wish to clean it out completely. Remove the fish with some of the water to keep them safe and pump out the rest of the water. Remove the sludge from the base and gently brush the liner down to get rid of any debris.
- If you have a pond pump to circulate the water, put it back into the pond, once the water is no longer freezing.
Wildlife Pond Maintenance
Wildlife ponds need less maintenance than formal garden ponds and are best left to their own devices to save disturbing the inhabitants. However, established ponds may become overgrown if not managed a little bit. Make sure you:
- Use a rake to remove excess blanket weed and duckweed, which can build up quickly and is an indication that there is too much fertility in the water from fertiliser residues that are washed into the pond.
- Try putting barley straw in hessian sacks if you have a large pond. This does help to keep algae under control.
- Trim last year’s dead growth from plants and divide and replant any that have outgrown their space.
- Leave all of the plant debris beside the pond for a couple of days before putting it onto your compost heap. This will give any wildlife removed during the tidy up a chance to escape back into the pond.
- If your pond dries out during the summer, it probably has a build-up of silt and organic matter. This is a useful wildlife habitat and you may wish to leave it as it is, dig a new pond or a partially dig out the existing one.
- Dispose of all excess plant material by adding it to your compost heap. Don’t put unwanted plants into wild ponds!