Updated: Dec 22, 2021
If you have to ask that question, you really really need to read this.
Of all the vital features that should be incorporated into a garden, the pond is top of the list.
You will benefit, trust me on this, I'll explain more as we go on. But also the creatures around you will enjoy the pond as well.
A pond increases the range of plants you can grow in your garden. Sweet!
A pond reduces the amount of lawn you have to mow every week. Bonus!!
A pond attracts birds without the expense and mess of putting up feeders. Boom!!!
A pond creates habitat for a range of invertebrates and amphibians. Nailed it !!!!
As I've mentioned in some of my Youtube videos, as well as in other pages on this site, all our houses are built on what used to be valuable habitat for wildlife. Maybe yours was built on an old brownfield site or an over grazed horse paddock. Perhaps some scrubbed over waste land was cleared to make way for your estate. Maybe (like they've done for HS2) an ancient woodland or wildlife trust reserve was ploughed up so that some greedy developer could squeeze in as many shoddily built houses as possible. OK, now that we all feel really guilty about the roof that's over our heads, I'll elaborate on why a pond is incredibly important for wildlife and ourselves.
I briefly listed the benefits to wildlife up above and we've established that our homes are built where once was a paradise. As least a paradise to a select variety of species. Yes, even a scrubbed up wasteland provides a place to live for a range of insects, birds, small mammals and possibly reptiles and amphibians. So as a wildlife friendly gardener, like what I am, we all need to think about repaying those species with a space they can share with us. Ponds have been declining across the globe, not just in the UK. Ponds and wetlands have been lost to development in building, agriculture, infrastructure and drainage schemes over the last one hundred years with a noticeable rapid increase in the last twenty years. All this human activity puts pressure on the natural world. Gardens need to be reimagined as the next nature reserves. Let's face it, they're in no short supply.
So how does this help you? From my own experience and the testimonies of many of my customers over the years, having a pond or two in your garden makes the space so much more relaxing. The water need not be moving either. None of my own ponds have pumps or filters in them, moving the water round. Just the sunlight shining on the water can transfix our gaze and take our minds away from the stresses of daily life. I have three ponds at home and one sits right next to my decking. I have spent hours swinging in the hammock on the edge of the deck, staring into this shallow pond watching the numerous newts, courting and feeding during the Spring months. Frogs will bask on the pond edge in the grass chilling out with me during the summer. Dragon and damsel flies drift about on sunny days looking for other insects to hunt and places to lay their eggs. I have even had a water shrew come through on occasion, investigating the ponds for food in the form of tadpoles and invertebrates. Birds enjoy bathing in the ponds and I do have a heron visits in the early spring. It does take a few frogs but to be honest I haven't noticed a massive decline in population. The larger pond hosts about sixty to seventy adult frogs per year. This is a purely natural part of the food web and so the heron is left to it's own devises. If it were a cat however (Not native to the UK) I'd be out giving chase.
Being next to water is something even the most street hardened cynic can enjoy. We naturally gravitate to water in all it's forms. The sea, rivers and streams, ponds and lakes. Who doesn't enjoy a picnic by a rivers edge or overlooking a lake. Watching the sunset over the ocean with a drink in our hands. So having even a small water feature in our garden can help massively with calming our souls.
Watch this short film of a pair of palmate newts courting in my pond and tell me you haven't found it enchanting. Especially the bit where the second male comes barging in.
Much like the ponds out in the countryside don't have pumps and filters, your garden pond needn't either. Yet naturally occurring ponds seem to be able to remain clear and look healthy and filled with life. How do they manage that without a filter system?
As mentioned before in other videos and lessons, balance is the key. A good mix of plant and animal life will contribute to keeping a pond crystal clear. Plant roots are a natural filter. Their roots guzzling up nutrients that would otherwise build up to unhealthy levels in the water. Invertebrates help keep the pond clear and tidy of leaf debris by munching away at rotting vegetation. Water fleas (Daphnia) feed on single cells of algae to prevent blanket weed choking the pond. Look again at the video above and notice how many daphnia are drifting about in the water......There's thousands of 'em!
So the key trick to having a very low maintenance pond is balance. Having a good selection of different plants, invertebrates and amphibians is essential. The video below shows an adult frog and tadpoles enjoying the clear, warm shallows of one of my garden ponds. The margins are densely planted with a range of native plants.
DO NOT INTRODUCE FISH. Fish will create more mess than they clear up, require a filtration system fed by a pump, needing electricity to run it, increasing maintenance and they will also eat most of the plants and other wildlife in the pond. Even the little sticklebacks we fished for as kids in our local streams and ponds will cause havoc in a small garden pond. Steer clear.