To build a garden pond is to help lots of native wildlife, including frogs and toads. 70% of our ponds have been lost, and with that a lo of native wildlife. However, obviously it’s not always a good idea if you have predator animals, young children or other issues. But if you do have a garden suitable for a garden pond (or already have one) this post can help.
If you do have a garden pond, it’s really important to ensure it has sloping sides. This enables wildlife to easily enter and exit, and also makes it safer around children and animals. Also see the post to make your garden safe for pets, as some pond plants may be toxic (and blue-green algae).
- Building Natural Ponds is a wonderful book, that contains all you need to know. Rather than a complicated mix of pipes, pumps, filters and chemists to adjust PH and keep algae at bay, work with nature instead. You’ll also learn how to build bogs and rain gardens. Master gardener Robert Pavlis has over 40 years of experience.
- You can fill ponds with water from a water butt, but don’t locate ponds in full sun or shade. If you don’t have pets, water lilies are good to stop water become stagnant. Also see the post on natural swimming pools.
- England can be pretty chilly in winter, so do your homework beforehand, so your pond does not freeze over. Any good pond expert or book will tell you what to do, and there are various methods to keep a little oxygen in the pond, to ensure fish and other creatures can survive. Some people suggest adding a tennis ball or football to the water, speak to your local pond expert for more details. Don’t smash the ice, as the shockwaves can kill fish.
- Also see safer alternatives to netting for wildlife (this is also good for pets & children).
How to Protect Your Pond from Herons
Herons are beautiful creatures, and you often see them hunting for fish in the countryside, near marshes. But people with fish in ponds are not big fans (herons and other creatures also eat amphibians, insects, reptiles, worms and small birds). Report any harm, as herons are protected by law.
You won’t see herons often, as they mostly hunt at dusk and dawn. Although they live wild, if they see ‘easy pickings’ in your garden, they may visit (esp. train youngsters how to fish). The perfect solution does not always exist (apart from letting nature take care of itself). If you choose to have fish in ponds, it is always a risk that herons will eat them.
- Herons are always on alert for predators. If you have tall plants near the pond, they may feel too vulnerable to fly in, as they can’t see the pond or fish clearly (choose plants safe near pets). Vertical pond sides would present drowning risks for many creatures.
- Solar fountains agitate the water, fish are harder to see.
- ‘Dummy herons’ are not usually effective, as herons tend to hunt together, so will likely ‘join in’ to feed.
- The most effective method is likely a scarecrow, as herons are scared of humans. Some suggest keeping one nearby.
- Heron deterrent discs sound good (prevent netting) but can sometimes harm fish by choking oxygen out of the water (British Hedgehog Society are concerned that hog spikes could get trapped). They also collect debris, which can lead to pet-toxic blue-green algae.
- Not all ‘wildlife-friendly pond netting’ is true. If it has larger holes than 5mm, wildlife charities say it’s not small enough. There is always a small risk of any netting to harm, but don’t listen to companies selling the netting, listen to wildlife rescue charities.
Wildlife charities and RSPCA ask people to put away nets securely, after use for football, badminton and other sports. These are just as dangerous, for wildlife who find them in gardens or fields.