To many gardeners, it’s the green scum that needs to be regularly dragged out of the water with a thin tined lawn rake. To us, it is a haven for wildlife, providing both habitat and nutrition for a wide variety of insects and amphibians.
Blanketweed is a filamentous algae whose new growth arises from the depths each sunny morning glistening with purifying bubbles of oxygen. We love watching baby frogs hopping on the green surface carpet and on to the water lilies and water soldiers.
Blanket weed ‘sucks’ unwanted nutrients from the water including all those nitrates when we top up with tap water. As a result the pond water is crystal clear.
Rather unwittingly, we have created ideal conditions for crested newts. My no-dig methods, along with the use of glyphosate, leave a rich weed free vegetation and liverwort, pearlwort and moss encrusted surfaces.
My favourite sandstone mulching and edging stones are loosely bound together by liverwort and provide places where newts might hibernate. The herons have made their own contribution. We have no fish!
Water snails love the blanket weed, and their general scavenging helps keep the pond clear. It’s fascinating watching them feed.
Newts like a land habitat too.
For most of their lifecycle newts need open fields and cover. They move seamlessly between the farm fields, my unfenced garden and the big, unlined breeding pond next door. In August the newts will have been feeding amongst the blanket weed. It would have been cruel and foolish to skim it away! Now in September, it is safer and I will drag out bundles of blanket weed, excess oxygenating plants and Autumn leaves.
It is absolutely essential to avoid too much vegetation which, if allowed to decay, deoxygenates water. None of my nine ponds have any filters or pumped circulation.
When I drag out surplus vegetation I do not waste all that lovely organic matter It is left at the side of the pond touching the water. This allows fauna to return to the pond. I throw back the snails. My debris is later ‘lost’ behind plants or goes on my vegetable garden. Most of you will sensibly put it on the compost heap.
I have a dilemma! Rare Great Crested Newts bring such a responsibility! Last summer, brother-in-law Dave built me a beautiful stack of drying logs. It must make a wonderful newt hibernacle. Perhaps the logs will never be burnt!