THE lawn is perfect, the flower-beds are weed-free, flowers are blossoming on the trees…but there’s something missing.
The sound and glint of water, with a gently tumbling waterfall, will enhance any garden, and bring a variety of natural wildlife to your little bit of Eden.
Adding an attractive pond to your garden need not be as difficult as you might think.
And expert Nikki Hillerby, has given Country Life some tips on the best way to get the right pond for your garden.
“The position and size of any pond is dictated by the garden itself,” says Nikki, Aquatic Manager from Paddock Farm, Dalton-on-Tees, near Darlington. “Don’t site it too close to overhanging trees, because of falling leaves, and choose somewhere with both light and shade during the day.”
Constant sunlight will turn the water green through lack of oxygen, although this can be resolved with floating plants or a UV unit. It will also be too hot for fish, and there will be no shadows for them to hide from predators.
The pond can be a pre-formed rigid structure that fits into a ‘bespoke’ dug hole, or dig a hole of your preferred shape and size, and use a flexible liner to completely cover the inside of the pond and allow some overhang at the edges. The right size of liner can be calculated for you by the retailer.
The liner will be held in place by the weight of the water, but it’s a good idea, with both methods, to finish off the edges with ornamental rocks, flags etc – preferably cemented down. Try to provide different depths, for fish and wildlife, and create ‘shelves’ around the edges to support marginal plants.
You might also want a waterfall at one side, for both the sound of the cascading water, and because this will help to oxygenate the pond.
Use an appropriate-sized pump and filter to help keep the water clean and oxygenated. The pump will also circulate the water and drive it up to the waterfall.
Ideally, fill the pond with rainwater, but if it’s easier to fill with a hose from the tap, use de-chlorinating liquid unless you are going to let the pond stand for a while before adding fish.
The water level will naturally drop over time, from evaporation and being drawn into the surrounding stones and rocks, so will need regular topping-up. Again, you may need to de-chlorinate as per the instructions on the product.
Add plants of your choice from the vast range available, and should be chosen according to the size and depth of your pond.
Place oxygenating plants in the base of the pond, with floating plants, that do not need anchorage in soil, on the surface. They will help reduce the amount of sunlight penetrating the water, keeping the water cooler, discouraging algae, and protecting the fish. Marginal plants on the shelves around the edges help with the water quality, soften the outline of the pond and add colour with their flowers, as well as attracting wildlife. Don’t cover any more than 50 per cent of the water surface, and thin as necessary.
You will also need to feed the plants, with appropriate fertilizer, as needed.
If introducing fish, again consider the size of both pond and fish, and take advice on the best for your requirements. Goldfish and shubunkins are small, hardy varieties for any pond – and definitely have more than one, as fish are very sociable and like company.
Depending on the temperature, fish can be released into the pond from about April onward. Even with the plants available to them, they will need regular feeding until they hibernate in the winter. Don’t worry about the plants being affected by the fish waste-products. There is a wonderful symbiotic process between the two.
“Herons can be a real threat to the fish,” warns Nikki, “so place a piece of wide pipe in the bottom of the pond, where they can hide if they feel threatened.
“Or cut a ‘door’ in the side of a small washing basket, up-turn it in the bottom of the pond, and weigh it down with a rock, to provide a shelter.”
Alternatively, a net or pond guard can be placed just under the surface of the water, or even stand a false heron at the side of the pond to deter others.
Once the pond is established, you might be surprised at the wildlife it begins to attract. As Nikki says: “Build it, and they will come!”
Newts, frogs, toads, dragon flies, and a variety of birds will naturally sniff out the water. Once the fish disappear to the bottom of the pond to hibernate, you can stop feeding them for the winter. During the cold months, check for ice and break it gently to allow oxygen into the water.
Keep the pond clean by removing leaves with a net, clean the filter from time to time, and at the end of the summer and the start of spring, give the whole pond a good clean.
Follow these simple rules and you will enjoy the pleasures of your own water feature throughout the year.