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A pond is an attractive and rewarding garden feature, which can be appreciated all year round. To ensure that your pond functions as a healthy ecosystem and can support wildlife, it’s important to plan it carefully. Once it’s installed, it’s an awful lot of work to fix mistakes! Here are common pitfalls to avoid when digging your pond.
Choosing the wrong spot
It’s a common mistake to simply put a pond in an unused corner of the garden, which avoids disturbing any of the existing garden features. However, they may well be a good reason why nothing worthwhile was growing in this spot! A pond should ideally be in a location which receives full sun for part of the day, and is in shade for a few hours too.
A pond which is exposed to full sun for most of the day may be prone to excess algae growth, which can soak up all the oxygen and prevent other plants and wildlife from thriving. On the other hand, a pond that is mostly in shade will struggle to support a wide variety of plants. Look for spots which are sunny during the mornings, and in shade later on.
A pond which is in the lowest part of the garden should also be avoided, because the rainwater runoff can overwhelm the pond, and also wash in excessive soil and nutrients, and pollutants such as weedkillers from the garden. These will unbalance the ecosystem of the pond, and cause a build-up of debris on the bottom.
A pond which is too near a deciduous tree or shrub will be a nuisance to keep clear of leaves, which can pollute the water if left to rot. Finally, try and find a place where the pond can be viewed and enjoyed from the house if possible. This will allow you to observe the coming and going of wildlife, and will make sure the pond doesn’t become neglected.
Not digging the pond deep enough
A pond which is too shallow will not be able to support a healthy range of plants and wildlife. It is recommended that the pond should be at least 45cm (18 inches) deep. If the pond is any shallower, it will be prone to getting too warm in summer, which will make it susceptible to algae growth. If you want to have some of the larger lilies in the pond then more like 75cm deep would be better.
In the winter time, shallow water becomes cold quickly, and the pond may even freeze solid, killing plants and wildlife. When digging your pond, add an extra few inches to accommodate the lining, and allow for a margin between the water level and the upper ridge of the pond.
Not creating shelves in the pond
A pond with steep sides and no shelves will be less stable than a tiered pond, and may be at risk of collapsing if the ground becomes soft in wet weather. Shelves also make it easier for frogs, toads, and insects to climb in and out of the pond, although a shallow beach area at one end of the pond is even better. They also provide a surface to place marginal pond plants on, which have submerged roots, and foliage above the water.
Marginal plants help to attract wildlife such as butterflies, birds, and insects to the pond. They also provide shelter for aquatic creatures, and some help to oxygenate the pond. There is a wide variety of plants to choose from, many of which produce seasonal flowers. Select a good variety of colours, textures, and heights to add visual interest to the pond.
Filling the pond with tap water
Avoid filling the pond with water straight from the tap, as this will contain too many harsh chemicals. Ideally, the pond should be filled with rainwater collected in a water butt. If this is not possible, you should allow tap water to stand in a container for a couple of days, to allow the chlorine time to evaporate, or treat it with a dechlorinator first.
Not keeping up with the maintenance of a pond
A wildlife pond isn’t that difficult to maintain, but there are a few chores you should do at certain times of year to keep it ticking over nicely. Avoid interfering too much in early spring, when frogs will be spawning.
Once they have had time to grow and leave the pond during early summer, it is an ideal time to deal with excess algae growth which tends to occur at this time of year. Hook weeds out with a garden implement, or clear them from the surface by hand. Remove any other decaying vegetation, and thin out any pond plants which are getting out of hand.