In the latest of our How to … series of articles – in which we dish out simple advice on ways to enjoy nature in your garden – Mike Horne explains how to construct a temporary wildlife pond
Building a long-term wildlife pond takes some time in the planning and construction stages.
But if you have decided you need something for you and your family to do during the current lockdown why not get out into the garden and make an unsuspecting object into a temporary wildlife pond.
It has long been known that the creation of a water feature does something to the mind that has no equal when it comes to staving off feelings of deep boredom or depression, and the satisfaction of adding a totally new aquatic ‘dimension’ to your garden almost instantly allows the restoration of ‘balance’ and harmony.
There is no denying that having somewhere new in your own garden where one can go to sit with a nice cup of tea or coffee and peer into the water to see what may have appeared overnight is an exciting prospect.
Here’s how to create a temporary wildlife pond.
Step 1: Choose a container to be your pond
I chose to repurpose a water butt stand that was hiding in a corner of my garden, although almost any large-ish object that can hold water will do. The bigger the better, really, so that the water temperature doesn’t fluctuate very much during the day (as that only seems to encourage algal blooms). One thing you could use is a washing up bowl. If you want you can also dig a hole to place your container in, but remember that you need sloping sides so that potential wildlife visitors can get in and out easily.
Step 2: Fill it with water
If you are a patient sort of person, you may well be content to use water from the mains tap to fill up your object and then wait a week or two so that the chemicals can dissipate. Alternatively fill it from a water butt.
Step 3: You may wish to add an additive
I often use an additive that instantly makes tap water safe for fish and wildlife, and which is very convenient.
Step 4: Acquire some plants
This might easily be done if you have an obliging neighbour who has their own wildlife pond. Naturally, you will need to observe social distancing, but if this can be done then all is well.
Ideally, you should have a mix of fully aquatic plants such as a mini water lily, oxygenators – such as hornwort, and semi submerged plants such as brook lime or water mint. Reeds and Iris also add structure to a pond. Stones can be used to keep the new plants in place until they develop a root network.
Lastly, you need to introduce some small fully aquatic life into the new wildlife pond, and so do please ask your friendly neighbour to include these when they are bagging up the plants.
Water fleas are essential in keeping algae from turning the water into a sort of ‘pea soup’ colour, and having a few water snails and water louse are also quite helpful in keeping the pond clean and balanced. (Adding fish to a wildlife pond never works very well, as they eat all the water fleas and the water usually then turns green within a week or two.)
Insects such as water beetles, water boatmen, dragonflies, damselflies and caddis flies will find your new pond easily enough, and in a few weeks you will have many new additions to your wildlife pond.
If the pond is at ground level, then your local amphibian population will also be delighted to discover its whereabouts. On hot summer days frogs, in particular, will often sit in ponds to keep cool.
Step 6: Enjoy it
Good luck with your new addition to your garden. It doesn’t take long to create a wildlife pond – once you have a source for the plants and animals, but it can give hours of pleasure just sitting nearby and watching what is going on underneath the surface.