If you're hoping to spot more stunning UK wildlife near your home this year, the addition of a pond to your garden is a must. It is without a doubt the most effective way to lure a vast array of animals and insects right to your backdoor, varying from typically British amphibians to rare birds.
Sadly, due to mankind’s increasing need for living space, natural ponds in the British countryside have diminished by around 70% in the last 100 years. Why not give something back? Ponds significantly enhance and enrich their surrounding environment, providing a permanent source of water, shelter and food for a whole host of animals and plants.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT POND FOR YOUR GARDEN
Ready made raised pond or below ground pond?
It really all depends on what you want from your pond, how much maintenance you’re prepared to commit to and the size of your garden.
For a small garden or a garden with no lawn, a raised pond is definitely the best option. You’ll be surprised how much an area of open water can appear to increase the size of your garden! Many gardeners would agree that raised ponds often seem tidier and more distinguished, and of course, they require a lot less effort.
For wheelchair users and parents with young children, raised ponds are a more common choice, due to the added safety benefits. If you choose one with enough height, it eliminates the possibility of a child falling into the pond altogether. There are some really affordable, attractive styles out there, so don’t be disheartened if you can’t have a ‘real’ pond in your garden. And don’t worry - your pond will still attract an abundance of beautiful creatures
It is widely noted that below ground ponds entice more wildlife. Amphibians, such as frogs and toads, will find it difficult to enter and leave a raised pond therefore it’s unlikely you will attract as many. However, a raised pond will still attract a good proportion, and of course you can always add your own fish.
Choosing your site
Whichever pond you decide on, always choose a sunny spot with an area that catches some shade too! This will attract the most wildlife and enhance the growth of the surrounding plants and flowers. Another thing - ensure that it isn’t directly under any trees. It’s not the be all and end all but you’ll find that autumn leaves can be a nightmare to remove.
Purchasing or building your pond
Garden Oasis have a selection of easy to install wooden raised pond kits by Norlogs, ranging in size from 25 gallons that will hold a few small goldfish right up to 600 gallons that are definitely built with Koi Carp in mind.
If you intend to add fish to your pond, it will need to be a minimum of 30cm deep for small fish (60cm+ for Koi Carp). This will provide the ideal living space for fish, especially if you do not plan on heating the pond. If you don’t plan on having any fish, shallow ponds tend to attract a larger number of other animals and insects, simply because it’s easier for them to access.
If you’ve decided to create your own pond, this next part is going to be extremely helpful. Before you begin excavating a space, ensure that you are prepared with all the right equipment and have thoroughly planned the depth, width, shape and length of your pond.
To provide ideal living conditions for your wildlife and plants, it is essential to place pumps and filters in the correct places in order to optimise their effectiveness.
Consideration and thought must be given to what you will use to construct your pond. The common choices are hard liners, flexible liners or concrete blocks. We would advise going with underlay and a liner. Simply put, the cost of a concrete pond will be considerably more for limited advantages.
To prepare the pond site
Pegs, string and chalk/spray paint, spade, shovel, garden fork, wheelbarrow, craft knife, measuring tape, plank - long enough to reach over the pond, fine sand, spirit level
To construct the pond
Underlay, pond liner, heavy rocks/bricks, filter – to remove waste (good to use if you aren’t adding many pond plants), pump – circulates the pond water, pipes and tubing, water, paving or turf for edging
- Mark out the shape of your pond using the pegs, string, measuring tape and chalk. Getting the right shape is more of an aesthetic element as opposed to affecting the efficiency of the pond.
- Time to begin excavation. Try to avoid a steep drop below the edges of the pond, as this will make entering and exiting difficult for wildlife. Gently incorporate sloping edges with excess soil. Keep the stripped turf for edging the pond at a later stage. Ensure to construct a trench surrounding the edge of the pond. This will be used to bury the edges of the liner once you have finished.
TIP - It’s a good idea to dig the hole 20cm deeper than desired. This will allow space for the sand, liner and underlay.
- Once you have cleared the site of all the unwanted earth, use the spirit level to check that the lip of pond is the same all the way around and add a layer of fine sand. Next, place underlay and liner over the cavity, ensuring that there is a good amount of overlap. FORMULA FOR LINERLength = longest length of pond + 2 x max. depthWidth = widest width of pond + 2 x max. depth
- If you plan on adding pond plants, make sure you cover the liners with a layer of soil to help them take root. If necessary, place bricks or heavy rocks around the pond in order to keep the liner in place whilst it settles.
- In an ideal world, it will now start raining to help fill your pond. If this isn’t the case and you haven’t been collecting rainwater in water butts, you now have two options. Either wait for the pond to gradually collect rainwater or fill it with water from the tap. Just remember, if you do use a tap, you’ll need to take measures before it’s suitable to add fish and plants.
- Depending on the types of filters and pumps you’ve purchased, it may need to be fitted before or after you add water so always read the instructions and contact an electrician if necessary. Be sure to secure the liner in the trench with soil. Finally, trim the excess liner and edge with the turf you previously saved.
- Fill your new pond with fish, plants and ornaments to attract wildlife but deter pesky birds like decoy herons and PondGuard Net Rings!
FILLING YOUR POND
You’ve now either purchased or constructed your beautiful new pond and filled it to the top. Now comes the exciting part… adding life to it! We will teach you everything you need to know in order to successfully stock your pond.
As well as making your pond more aesthetically pleasing, plants encourage wildlife growth and help to keep the water clear and oxygenated. We will outline how to plant them, what plants to choose and where in the pond they should be placed.
Planting Pond Plants
It is important to plant all pond plants in aquatic planters:
1. Consider basket size - tall marginals will need larger baskets to avoid being blown over
2. Fill about two thirds of the basket with aquatic soil and make a hole for the plant
3. Place the new plant into the prepared basket and top up with soil until about 4cm from the top
4. Water the plant until the soil becomes saturated
5. Top the basket up with gravel – do NOT use limestone gravel
6. Water the plant again
7. Lower the plant into its final position
Marginal plants are placed in water just deep enough to cover the pot by a couple of inches. Why not try:
- Blue Iris - a stunning violet colour that flowers between June and July
- The Common Cotton Grass – with its cotton-like flowerings, it gives an interesting texture to the pond surface
- Barred Horsetail – with strikingly bright green stems, they add an oriental look to your pond
These handy little plants introduce oxygen into the water and clean the water by feeding on decaying material like leaves or fish waste. These are placed a tier deeper than the marginal plants. Why not try:
- Hornwort – a dark green feathery foliage that grows loose in a still or slow moving pond. It floats freely at a depth of 30-90cm
- Spiked Milfoil – with olive green feather foliage with small yellow or red flowers that appear above the water surface. They should be planted in an aquatic basket and dropped to a depth of between 30-90cm
Placed on the floor of the pond, deep water plants typically grow to the surface of the water. The most common types are water lilies. Try:
- Water Lily (Pink Marliacea Carnea) – large pink/white flowers that grow and sit on the surface of the water
- Water Hawthorn – very attractive and exquisitely perfumed flowers that compliment water lilies beautifully
Floating Garden Pond Plants
Floating water garden plants help to cover the water surface, providing much needed shade to the water below. The shade helps keep the water from overheating which in turn protects your plants and fish. You should try:
- Water Soldier – with their usual shape, these striking plants create quite the impression!
- Frogbit – one of the most popular floating plants, frogbits hibernate at the bottom of the pond and pop up again in May. They are perfect for basking dragonflies.
If the liner is extended and filled with soil to create waterlogged bog conditions, they can be planted at the edges of the pond. You should try:
- Forget Me Not – make sure people aren’t in a hurry to forget your beautiful pond by outlining it with forget me not’s! Flowering in May to October, these fast growing perennial plants produce gorgeous blue flowers
- Narrow Reed Mace – commonly called bulrushes, this reed like foliage is topped by smooth cylindrical spikes in June through to August
First things first, whatever fish you choose for your pond, ensure that they are pond fish! Aquarium fish generally don’t do so well in pond environments. The most popular pond fish are Japanese koi carp or any of the goldfish varieties.
The size, volume of water and depth of your pond will directly affect the type and amount of fish that you can have. Mature Koi need at least 600 gallons of water, whilst young Koi need around 400. This followed by 100-200 gallons per additional fish. They usually grow to around 2.5ft or more so it’s very important to have enough space for them to grow and swim. Depth of the pond is just as important as volume of water and mature Koi like a depth of around 2ft.
For a smaller pond, goldfish are more suitable as they normally grow to only about 8-10 inches. Use the following formula to calculate how many fish your pond could accommodate:
1 inch of fish per 10 gallons of water
This may seem strange but it works! For instance, if your pond is 1000 gallons, you can have 100 inches of fish. So, if you average a goldfish at 10 inches, you can comfortably keep ten.
Species of Pond Fish
- Shubunkins – They are similar to goldfish and they come in a range of stunning colours
- Goldfish – Ahh, the humble Goldfish! A member of the carp family, they are arguably the easiest pond fish to keep and can vary from a bright red colour to very light gold
- Koi – These striking Japanese fish can reach almost 1m in length! Koi fish are sensitive to the sun so ensure your pond has one solid area of shade.
- Tench – These useful feeders usefully clean up any uneaten food at the bottom of the pond. Unfortunately, due to their discreet colouring and their love for the pond floor, you will rarely see these fish.
Your striking new pond has been filled with the perfect combination of beautiful wildlife and attractive plants that add a regal feel and help to keep your water crystal clear. Soak up the glory and enjoy the compliments!
Now regardless of whether you have a raised pond or an underground pond, those compliments will wear thin very quickly unless you undertake regular and thorough maintenance, appropriate for every season.
In this post, Garden Oasis will detail the key jobs that need to be carried out throughout the year, starting with spring…
If your pond needs a deep clean, spring is the time to do it. The average size UK pond will need a complete clear out every couple of years and you should be able to determine this simply by looking at it. If after the winter months your pond water now resembles a cup of builders tea, I’m afraid you must opt for a full clean out!
If the precautions you used during summer managed to keep out the large majority of debris, why not buy a Cleanopond Vacuum that helps to remove dirt and debris from ponds within minutes!
The best time to add new plants to your pond is also in springtime. The water is just beginning to warm up which will encourage speedy plant growth. However this also means that algae and weed growth can become a real problem. We know that the dreaded stringy green mass is every pond owner’s worst nightmare, so you should be focusing on prevention rather than fixing.
Controlling and Preventing Algae
There are a number of different things to try to treat algae growth and prevent it altogether:
Add oxygenating plants
Algae build up can become a problem when there aren’t enough plants to absorb all of the nutrients produced by fish. So, increasing the number of plants is the most natural, simple and long-term solution out there.
All aquatic plants starve the algae; however it’s best to add a mixture of floating plants, such as lilies and submerged plants like hornwort. The floating plants create shade and limit direct sunlight and the hornwort will release oxygen into to water.
Use quality fish food
Using high quality fish food should ensure that the vast majority is absorbed during digestion, limiting the amount of nutrients that are filtered back into the pond water.
If you have an existing algae problem, a good quality water treatment should work a treat. The treatment should cost you no more than around £15. However, make sure you identify and remedy the original cause or the green slime will be back causing havoc as quickly as it was eliminated!
Unless your water is ‘moving’ all the time, it may become cloudy prior to algae growth. If so, treat it immediately using BioTek Fountain Clear! The water clarifier made using natural ingredients that prevent green water from building up whilst being harmless to birds, fish, pets and plant life.
If we’re lucky enough to experience a moderate to hot summer, you’ll need to be conscious of dipping water levels (unlikely I know!) The raised temperatures and reduced surface area creates a decline in the amount of oxygen available and can harm your submerged wildlife. As always, try and avoid replacing lost water levels with tap water.
Boost oxygen levels and aeration during the hotter months! This can be achieved by adding more plants, adding another pump or aeration device, and by regularly doing a partial water exchange.
You should notice your fishes’ appetites increasing as the temperature increases. To ensure that pond organisms and your filter system can adjust to the increased waste, only increase their food intake gradually and be careful not to over feed them!
Winter and Autumn Maintenance
During winter it is advised to add a floating de-icer to one area of your pond. This will create an opening for gas exchange.
Cover your pond with a net in preparation for autumn’s leaf fall. This should catch the majority of large fallen debris. If you fail to do this, decomposing leaves will decay and produce harmful gases, which could really harm your fish. You will also need to regularly use a fish net to manually remove any debris that has managed escape through the net.
Before the temperatures plummet, it is a good idea to conduct research into what plants need to be removed from your pond. It would be an almighty shame to ruin all your hard work and have to start over!
Keep an eye on the temperature and decrease your fishes’ feeding frequency as it drops. Once the temperature has dropped below 40 degrees, you should stop feeding your fish altogether. Also, once it has fallen to this temperature, you need to switch off your pump or relocate it nearer the water vent. Your fish’s heart rates will naturally slow and this helps to reduce the circulation of water in your pond. This will lessen the amount of oxygenation occurring.
How do I spot poor aeration and incorrect oxygen levels?
Integrate regular ‘ecological balance’ tests in your pond care routine to prevent placing unnecessary stress on your wildlife and plants. There are generally three major warning signs which indication these problems.
- Firstly, have you observed a change the behaviour of your fish? Are they are positioned closer to the surface or do they keep gasping for air? This indicates that your fish could be starved of oxygen!
- If you have noticed an undesirable change in the smell of your pond it is likely that you need to circulate the water or oxygenate your pond better.
- As we’ve mentioned on before, the feared and stubborn algae growth may have returned with a vengeance and this could be a direct result of poor aeration and improper oxygen levels. These factors provide an ideal environment for algae growth to flourish in. To rebalance your pond try EcoPond Clear. The microbes in this product help to restore natural balance in situations where environmental factors have led to unstable and unhealthy water quality conditions.