Monday 6 August 2018

Twin ponds

Managing low maintenance ponds

Two ponds together
When we moved in at the millennium I shifted six barrow loads of soil a day for six months as I dug out two ponds. Most of it was topsoil although in the metre deep centre it was pure sand. All of this was used to raise areas destined to be new borders. Topsoil is a precious commodity and gardeners who throw it away need their head examined.
I still find unchanged streaks of sand in my borders albeit as a none digger not very often. Come to think of it, if I dug it would be better mixed in! This is in contrast with Bolton Percy cemetery where clay/sand subsoil brought up by the grave digger soon turned to soil. 
My first thought was to have one elongated pond as if it were a large flower border. Silly if I wanted to cross to the other side and one leak in the lining would be a disaster. So one pond became two and our former e-mail address became ‘twinponds’ 
In my mind’s eye the slightly ridged grass path between them would be a kind of Monet bridge manqué. No one has ever noticed. 

All life is here
My only post about my ponds was my fourth one ever, six years ago. How things have changed! Recently it had a small flurry of readers and its about time I said more.
Previously in my innocence I thought most ponds were just lined holes in the ground. Apparently most are works of major engineering with filters, pumps and varied contraptions and even drains. 
The only concession to fashion I should have made was to direct all my roof water to the pond as my friends Mike and Isobel did with great success at about the same time.

I do have depressions at the lowest point of my garden which hold temporary flood water
But not all of it
One thing I did get right (for me) was to NOT dig the two ponds where the garden naturally floods. What chaos there would have been if everything spilled out when part of the garden was under water for three months this year. There are of course many circumstances where a pond which receives natural drainage or even a stream is better low down.

The issue of clear water

Dollop of blanket weed together with oxygenating plant
This was the focus of my previous post on blanket weed, a filamentous algae one of which we called spirogyra at school. Although cast as a monster it beneficially sucks nutrients from the water. To some it is unsightly but it does have the advantage of creating crystal clear water around it. 

There is very little light gets through to charge up the blanketweed
Brenda curses my duckweed
I still have blanketweed but it is no longer a problem because it is mainly suppressed by oxygenating plants and floaters such as water soldiers and dare I say duckweed. 

True mares tail, hippurus will potentially fill your pond
Also my genuine mares tail and other bottom rooters such as rather vigorous glyceria and dwarf  bullrush. True mares tail is not the same primeval villain as equisetum but a higher plant easily controlled in a small pond like mine. But not in a lake! 

As it happens this pond was completely pervaded with hippurus. That was before I carefully sprayed sections with Roundup
Water lilies are of course mandatory

Reader Anne-Marie O'Connor who sent me this picture observed that the water lilies had escaped their pots. Just like mine! 
My pond has generous plant cover especially in Summer.
It not only suppresses unwanted algae it provides cover for the newts, tadpoles and fish from the heron.

I doubt if the strings dissuaded the heron from wading in. The idea was quickly abandoned
Early development of the two ponds
For the first year my ponds meandered in different and changing ecological directions as different plants took turns to take over. Obtaining a balance between animal and plant was always my aim. I did all the usual things such as introducing ram’s horn snails. At one stage I bought in that tiny algae-eating translucent crustacean called daphnia as a general cleanser and perhaps it was. After adding to the then soupy green water the population of these so called water fleas exploded. They later disappeared but I like to think they persist in my watery firmament.

My early pond was never like this
Nature did her thing and for the last sixteen years I have had crystal clear water - although you might regard some of my plants in the melange a little bit dodgy.

Our friend Jackie Barber who at the time still had her water plant nursery in Ripon advised us to avoid duckweed as if it were a plague. Brenda constantly reminds me how I failed (Every time she walks round).
Only once has it been a problem and I rather like it. It gets dragged out when I use my plastic scarifier to remove surplus oxygenators, blanket weed, twigs and leaves. (And sometimes water soldiers)
The latter is almost the only maintenance my ponds ever get. Perhaps on average two-monthly and in total six hours a year. Readers discuss this in my earlier post. 

The goldfish sometimes bask in the sun
In the twin ponds we have goldfish. In my smaller formal pond in the front garden shubunkins and orf.
We do not feed them and consequently they do NOT come running when we appear. Indeed it is a surprise to see the goldfish when they peep out from under a water lily. It’s good to know the heron is not winning completely.

The fish are in there somewhere
My square formal pond in the front garden is a metre from a dwarf wall on two sides and is sheltered by plants. The heron does not have ready access. Only once when we left a  branch in position as a hedgehog rescue did the heron wade in. (We now leave a bowl of water)
We delight in watching the elegant gliding golden orf and colourful shuffling shubunkins from an upstairs window. To see them closer you need to stand there and silently freeze.

Crested Newts 

Newt in Peter's pond
At the time I started blogging we witnessed a local conflict regarding planning permission. Resident crested newts pervade our local environs. Some of us regard them as common as muck but of course they are a protected species. A local industry hired an ecological company in the hope they would not find them. A local farmer was developing a pig excrement digester but was happy to have them. 
Guess which company found newts everywhere? Our own ponds  were exceedingly well documented. 
Sadly dear Harry is with us no more to take lovely pictures.

Water weeds

After a few years the floating water soldiers need thinning
Weed is what all water plants are affectionally called and they are all natural somewhere. Many are strong growing and some will potentially take over. I find most above-ground aquatics and bog plants are easily confined by spraying with Roundup. You only need the same care you use elsewhere in the garden. Fear not if a little spray alights in the water. Simple mathematics tell you that it is hugely diluted and thereby rendered harmless.
My ponds are of course isolated and not near running water which might come under agricultural regulations.

Edge planting

The dierama is in more or less normal soil
My plastic lining is so folded at the edge that most of the soil is only flooded when the pond is completely full. In most cases permanently submerged soil wicks up water by varying degrees to the soil above it. Elsewhere surrounding soil is banked so high that roots need to penetrate down to find extra water. Saturated soil merges into bog into normal soil  I like to think this is closer to nature than the usual sharp divide from aquatic to bog plant to normal!

We have been filling the pond
The skunk cabbage wanders between water and bog
The dactylorhiza orchid loves the moist ground. The ornamental equisetums are confined by the pond and the lawn. Young frogs love the ground cover
There are moisture loving bulbs too
Read my earlier posts and question me
I wrote the above without reference to my earlier post. When I re-read my original epistle I was pleased at how little (for me) I have repeated myself. If you have found this of value please click this link back.
I thought in my previous post was some quite interesting correspondence of value to readers. To this end if you have any questions or anecdotes about your own ponds I would love to hear about them. Just click comments and share your wisdom (or even confusion)

On further research I find I have written about my ponds twice-more before.

Billy Mills visited his grandma and took some wonderful pictures of pondlife

And yes, I have written about crested newts before


  1. Your ponds are lovely but fish running - really?

    1. Thought that might cause amusement Sue! I had intended to change it to perhaps 'gobbling' but forgot but might do yet. Any ideas anyone?

  2. Pond life is fascinating in all its facets, isn't it.

  3. I was hoping to create a small pond on my allotment but have been told this is not allowed in case children who come scrumping fall in.

  4. I sympathise Lucy but I think I understand it in this defensive society. It's hard to imagine a fatal accident occurring and if the scrumpers merely get wet they deserve it

  5. The skunk cabbage is a non-native invasive species. See:

    1. Thank you anon. I know
      I am tempted to say so what? I love native plants of the world
      I expect you are referring to silly suggestions that it is an invasive species. I recently saw quite a large colony at Bodnant Garden. After 150 years and with some human help it was quite magnificent but was going nowhere else!
      I just wish my own plant would grow more quickly. It has struggled to about half a dozen crowns in fifteen years.

  6. It certainly can be invasive and is causing problems at a number of sensitive wildlife sites in the UK.
    The Royal Horticural Society "strongly recommends gardeners not to grow it, and consequently do not provide advice on how to cultivate it. If it is already present in your garden there is no requirement for you to eradicate it, but you do need to take utmost care with managing it and with disposing of unwanted material" (
    see also:
    There's plenty of other info out the on the 'web'.
    btw, I think your garden looks great, but I thought it worthwhile ensuring folks were aware of the potential issues with this plant.

    1. Thank you for your helpful comments and links. Sorry I was a bit curt with you this morning - must have got out of bed the wrong side
      I still think RHS are over politically correct when it comes to these things. Look out for a blog about my feelings - you have inspired me. It will be a while as I have four posts to come first


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