The landscaping around our new house has been coming along very nicely. The meadow areas have been very exciting this year and the forest garden is doing really well. We’ve got a great plan for a formal garden area and we’ve even had a good crop of potatoes in the veg patch. The wildflower roof has been going gang busters too. I’m pleased.
There has to be something going wrong, though, and it’s been the least likely component that’s been causing the most trouble. We’re in Somerset and we’re on solid clay, so you’d think the swales and ditches I’ve dug would fill up the ruddy great big hole they flow into. I was really excited at the size of the pond we could have, and confident this essential element of any wildlife friendly garden would be brimming with water in no time. The filling up bit isn’t the problem; it has filled regularly over the last 15 months, and then emptied. I have no clue why; it could be the banks aren’t big enough or we didn’t block the field drain we cut through well enough – who knows.
Anyway, we MUST have a pond. One of the charities we work with, The Freshwater Habitats Trust, have done a great job enthusing me about the benefits of a carefully designed pond. Within 6 months of putting one into our last garden we had dragonflies, mining bees, bats – all sorts of wildlife turned up. It was stunning too – our native flora (available at reasonable prices through Habitat Aid!) is exotic and attractive.
When we built our new house we applied for planning permission to dig a nice big pond, which we had to do because it is on agricultural land. We made our last pond using a Bentomat liner, which is a clever piece of kit but bulky and involves quite a lot of earth moving, which I couldn’t face. So this time we’re using a Greenseal liner from Gordon Low, a fellow corporate member of the Freshwater Habitats Trust. We’ve designed it following guidance from the Trust, and we’re now just waiting for some rain.
Tapwater – any water – rich in phosphates is hopeless for ponds. High levels of phosphates and nitrates will give you smelly de-oxygenated water and massive algal blooms. Not nice. The water quality of the vast majority of such ponds as we have left is very poor as they are polluted by, for example, run off from nearby agricultural land or roads. This is where ours is likely to have a problem, as some of the water from a nearby pasture runs off across our land and will get picked up in our ditches. We could try filtering it through a reed bed if it is problematic – let’s see.
While I can control my excitement enough not to fill the pond with a hose, I’m not sure I’ll be able to allow its flora to colonize naturally, which is the Trust’s preferred approach for ponds in rural settings. We sell native aquatic plants which are widespread throughout the UK, and I can see myself slipping several into the margins when no-one is looking. Don’t tell.