One of the absolute best ways to attract wildlife into your garden is to introduce water. It doesn’t need to be a lot either, even the smallest of ponds will allow an increase in biodiversity.
When I was six and I asked for a pond I was handed a small plastic washing up basin (yes about 30x30cm). It wasn’t quite what I expected, but nevertheless it was set into the ground and filled with various water plants (okay one little plant) and a tree branch. My pond really was so small that sometimes my dog drank half of it by accident. And yet surprisingly it supported a vast array of wildlife from frogs to bathing birds and plenty of invertebrates.
I spent every afternoon poking around in my ‘pond’ and learning all about its inhabitants. I remember making and drawing a little book about pond snails, tied together with string. I also remember presenting said book to my dad and politely asking him if he could get it published. Fifteen years later, I still don’t have a bestseller on pond snails (does anybody?!) but I still get the same excitement when I look in a pond. Here are a few things I found at the weekend…
This large freshwater invertebrate is the larva of a diving beetle. You can distinguish it from a dragonfly nymph by it’s scorpion-like posture. They are ferocious underwater predators and will eat pretty much whatever they can catch. Going by the size of its pincers i’m not going to chance it anywhere near my fingers either!
Below is the adult common diving beetle. There are several species of diving beetle in the UK which can be just as voracious as their larvae.
Not forgetting the humble tadpole, what childhood is complete without them?
And finally my favourite, these beautiful olive green newts. Going by the lack of throat spots and absence of webbed hind toes I would say these are common newts. They are a delight to have in the garden and I only discovered them at night once when looking into the pond with a torch. If you discover newts in your garden you should find out what species they are, as crested newts are protected and you require a special licence to handle them!
Nowadays i’ve moved on from wash basins and I have a slightly bigger pond! It’s not perfect but a wildlife pond never should be! Now is the best time to be planting around the waters edge and you can remove any blanket weed (algae) by twirling it around a stick.
Wildlife pond tips:
- Making a pond doesn’t need to be expensive, butyl or PVC black liner can be purchased by the metre online. Line the hole with sand or underlay first to prevent punctures from stones
- Your pond WILL turn a horrible green pea soup colour to begin with. don’t lose heart – the water will eventually become beautifully clear, especially once plants establish
- Filling with rainwater rather than tap water will help reduce algae growth
- Try a bundle of barley straw to prevent algae rather than chemicals
- Tuck plenty of water plants between boulders around the edge as well as adding free floating plants in the centre.
- Avoid goldfish if you want a wildlife pond, they will eat anything that will fit in their greedy little mouths!
- Make one end of your pond shallow to allow pond life and unfortunate hedgehogs easy escape
And finally, whilst you are waiting for wildlife to discover your pond… rain drops on the water surface make for interesting photographs if you set your camera to a fast shutter speed!