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It’s that time of year. Everything is blooming, growing, breeding. From the lambs dancing in the fields, the influx of insects, and the first butterfly you spot, all are signs of the new season. Nature knows what it’s doing, but sometimes it can do with a helping hand. Here’s some tips of what you can do to help out nature near your pond.
Have a pond
First, just having a pond is helpful. This can be the 800gallon one you’ve had for years, or a tiny tub of water (see our Eco Pond Guide for ideas!). Anything will help in your garden, so having water to draw wildlife to is a great start. Not only will the water itself provide a lifeline to everything from bugs to birds, but also the plant life nearby will also be super helpful. Remember to ensure any water you have is collected rainwater, or has been treated with a dechlorinator if it’s come from the tap.
Ensure you have good access
It’s great to have a water feature, but ensure that it’s accessible by a wide variety of species. Birds ideally need a piece of wood or vine going across part of the pond, so that they can perch and drink. It’s important to have an area of the pond that has stones or similar coming out of the water, creating a ramp for getting in or out. Should a hedgehog take a tumble, or a fox splash in too far, it’s important to ensure they have access to get out. Similarly, if frogs are going in to mate and breed, they need to be able to climb in and out, as do their frog lets in time!
If you have a larger volume of water, it can be important to ensure that the water moves, through the use of a pump, so that it doesn’t become stagnant. Stagnant water, or any water that doesn’t move across the surface, has little oxygen in it, and will harbour bacteria, none of which is useful to your visitors. Small buckets of water are probably not worth faffing with, simply placing live plants into them can help with the oxygen levels, but anything larger does need to be moving to be useful. A small pump, or even just an air stone, can make the world of difference. Most small air pumps come with pipework and a stone, like this one, so you don’t even have to mess around to work out what you need!
Plants for Amphibians
Certain plants within your pong will make a big difference to aquatic life within. Plants obviously help with the oxygen in the water, but they also remove nitrate, which is what algae feeds from, so they will help to reduce algae levels as well. The most important plants for aquatic life are things such as water lillies, which not only provide large enough pads for some creatures to sit and rest on, but also provide cooling shade underneath, which can be vital in directly sunlight. Plants are important for creatures such as frogs, as females often need to hold on to leaves to prevent drowning when mating. The plant matter will also provide food for newly hatched tadpoles, though as they develop into froglets, they’ll become carnivores, chasing down bugs and insects for food.
Types of plants to choose include plants that sink into the pond (oxygenators), plants that float, creating shade, or marginal, which have a depth they prefer and sit on the margins of the pond, some in, some out, as per their preference.
The Royal Horticultural Society has a full an in depth list of plants that are ideal for different variations of ponds, though they list the following as the top 5 for small ponds:
Plants for Bees
Bees are one of the most important species we can welcome into our gardens. Honey bees are often weak after winter, and need as much help as they can get from us. The main thing would be to ensure no one is killing them, especially the thin honey bee, which does somewhat resemble wasps. Bees see the colour purple more clearly than any others, and are always drawn to it. Adding specific plants into the garden can drastically change a bees fortunes, so here’s a few to look out for:
Primrose Primula vulgaris Native plant
Common Marigold Calendula officinalis
Dahlia Dahlia species
Foxglove Digitalis species (this can be harmful to animals – plant with care)
Forget-Me-Knot Myosotis species
Plants for Butterflies
Butterflies are what everyone wants to see in the garden. They signal sunshine, and often remind of a time of childhood, as there seemed to be so many more around back then. Certain plants will help to draw butterflies to your garden, providing your own little sanctuary. If you have cats or dogs that might like to catch butterflies, this may be one to miss for you though.
Plants to look out for:
Marigold Calendula officinalis
Sweet William Dianthus barbatus
Garden Mint Mentha spicata
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale
Marjoram Origanum vulgare
Lavender Lavandula spp.