Many of my friends already know that March was a stressful month in our house, trying to support our son in his bid to return to China in time for the birth of his son, our grandson. This involved him spending a lot of time googling flightsfor four figure sums which were there one day and gone the next, trying to source Chinese-approved PCR tests and a chest X-ray at two days notice and various other bits of fun. I’ve been talking about a wildlife pond for ages and Speedy the tortoise has finally moved to a new home, which means we now have space, so my bluff was well and truly called when Ed needed the distraction of some manual labour.
We (well mostly Ed!) started by digging a hole about 1.5 m by 2 m across and around 50 cm deep in the middle, taking some of the excess soil to my allotment in a wheelbarrow. I know that it’s important to have different depths if we want to attract a range of invertebrates and amphibians, so we built in a gradual slope at one end and a shallower terrace round the other end. I bought sand to line the hole and a thick plastic liner and we tamped this down before filling the pond with water. Ideally we’d have waited for it to fill with rain water rather than using the tap but we were impatient and also didn’t want the lining to be exposed for the sun for too long at this time of year. I went for a plastic sheet which we could cut to size, rather than a pre-formed liner, as it was difficult to find one the size and shape we wanted. Making the liner follow the contours of our carefully-dug terracing proved to be our first challenge.
I dug a trench 15 cm deep and the same distance from the edge of the pond and buried the liner, stomping down some of the clay we’d dug out earlier to hold the liner firmly in place before cutting off the excess plastic. The second challenge was discovering, once the pond was two-thirds full of water, that the edges were not quite level; water was leaking out of the lowest section and under the shed. Fortunately I was able to uncover a short section of buried liner and pack more clay underneath it to form a water-retaining lip. Next time I’ll use a spirit level…
Over the years we’ve amassed a large pile of cobbles and other ‘interesting’ stones in the garden so I set about using these to edge the pond and to form some varied habitats on the bottom and sides. What had looked like a large pile soon disappeared though, so more trips to the beach are clearly needed!
With the pond full of water, the interesting part starts. I decided to use only native aquatic plants in the pond itself but to use a mixture of native wildflowers and garden plants around the edges, aiming for a natural feel rather than being too purist. I have many self-seeded primulas and foxgloves in the allotment so brought some of these back to edge the pond, along with Aquilegias and some dramatic Iris, which have been in pots until now. It still looks a little bare and the plastic liner around the edges needs more coverage but things will soon grow.
For submerged plants to oxygenate the pond I chose Myriophyllum spicatum and Ranunculus aquatilis (Water crowfoot); both seem to have settled in well and are bubbling away. For emergent vegetation I chose Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), Water speedwell (Veronica becabunga), Water plantain (Alisma plantago) and Marsh valerian (Valerian dioica) all species I have seen growing locally in ponds. The Marsh marigolds are flowering already, providing a welcome splash of colour.
So far, the main wildlife using the pond has been a pair of blackbirds enjoying a bath but soon, I hope, other creatures will find their way here. More in a month or so…