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!
Water lilies are of course mandatory
My pond has generous plant cover especially in Summer.
|As it happens this pond was completely pervaded with hippurus. That was before I carefully sprayed sections with Roundup|
|Reader Anne-Marie O'Connor who sent me this picture observed that the water lilies had escaped their pots. Just like mine!|
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|
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|
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.
In the twin ponds we have goldfish. In my smaller formal pond in the front garden shubunkins and orf.
|The goldfish sometimes bask in the sun|
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|
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.
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.
|Newt in Peter's pond|
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.
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.
|After a few years the floating water soldiers need thinning|
My ponds are of course isolated and not near running water which might come under agricultural regulations.
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!
|The dierama is in more or less normal soil|
|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.
And yes, I have written about crested newts before