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Even the smallest ponds can add interest and variety to a garden, and attract a range of wildlife. It is possible to create a mini pond in a container, even if you have a small paved courtyard garden or a balcony. Here are some tips on how to go about it, and advice about which plants work best in container ponds.
Step 1- Find a suitable container
There’s no need to buy a purpose-made container, but if your container isn’t watertight, you will need to line it with a pond liner. You could use half a plastic barrel, an old washing up bowl, a recycling box, a Belfast sink, or any other sturdy container which will be able to withstand frosts.
Step 2- Choose a suitable spot
If possible, find a place which gets plenty of sunlight, but isn’t in full sun all day. Observe how the light moves around your outside space during the day if you are unsure about where to put it. You can either dig a hole to sink the pond into the ground, or let it stand on the surface. Obviously, if you have a balcony or paved garden, a sunken pond isn’t an option.
If you do have some areas of lawn or turf, sinking the pond so that the edges are level with the ground will make it easier for frogs and insects to climb in and out. On the other hand, if you have small children or inquisitive pets, a raised pond might be a safer option! Make sure that the pond is somewhere you can see it easily and enjoy it as well.
Step 3- Add some escape routes!
The next step is to make sure little creatures can easily get in and out of your pond. Once you are sure the container is fully watertight, line the bottom with some clean gravel or stones to create a natural surface, and help weigh the container down. Avoid putting any soil in the pond, as this will be too full of nutrients, and cause unwanted algae growth.
Next, build some steps or a ramp from the bottom to the rim of the container. You could use stacked stones or bricks, or make a ramp out of a piece of wood (although make sure it doesn’t have any paint or wood treatments on it, as this will leak toxic chemicals into the pond.)
If your pond isn’t sunken, you will also need to build steps or a ramp from the outside of the container to the ground.
Step 4- Fill your pond
Once you’ve got your steps or ramp in place, fill the pond with rainwater collected in a butt if possible. If you don’t have enough rainwater, let tap water stand outside for a few days before adding it, to allow the chlorine some time to evaporate. Another option is to just let nature do its thing, as a spell of wet weather will soon fill up a small container.
Step 5- Plant up your pond
It’s time to choose plants to help oxygenate the water, which will help to prevent it becoming stagnant. Obviously, it is best to select small leaved plants which will not grow too rapidly. Depending on the size of your container, about three to five plants should be enough.
Choose smaller native or non-native aquatic species, that are most suitable for attracting wildlife. Include some submerged plants, which stay below the surface, such as Hornwort or Willow moss. Starwort is another good choice which can also be planted in an aquatic basket.
Also include some marginal plants, which grow at the edge of the pond, with submerged roots and the foliage emerging above the surface. These plants help to provide shade for the pond, and shelter for wildlife.
Pick two or three plants with small flowers and leaves, such as lesser spearwort, Lesser water plantain, marsh marigold, and water forget-me-not. Larger container ponds may also be able to accommodate some small floating plants, such as miniature waterlilies. Ideally, you want to make sure that surface coverage is at least 50% to provide cover for pond life and help to keep the water cooler to reduce problems with algae.
Step 6- Keep an eye on it
All you need to do now is watch and wait. Wildlife will find its way to the pond, so there’s no need to bring it in from other ponds. If you find that algae or some of the plants are starting to take over, thin them out every now and then.
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