Pond on pause

Following on from yesterday, what does Ground Force have to do with me putting fixing the pond on hold?

In early Spring, I noticed the absence of the marsh marigolds, one of the first marginal pond plants to pop back up again with it’s cheery yellow flowers. The pond is in a rather messy and overgrown corner of the garden, which, as we now know, provides the conditions encouraging wildlife to move in. The pond lies under an aspen tree (which was a wind-blown arrival that took root after the pond was installed, but is already three times the height of myself.

Nearby are herbaceous evergreen shrubs, which provide a dense ground-cover hibernacular. In the bed-space in front of the shrubs are perennial geraniums, flower bulbs and wild flowers which pop up year after year. I’m currently growing blue-bells, fox-gloves, echinacea, rudbeckia & lupin to add to this area.  I don’t really need to do much to it in terms of maintenance to this corner of the garden and just generally give it a wide berth and let it do it’s thing.

a crowd of Bistort hiding the pond

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a bit obsessed with ponds, and will squeeze as many into any community or therapeutic garden project I’m involved in given half a chance.
This particular pond is actually two little ones side by side. One is a submerged plastic tub about 75cm by 50cm with some bricks and stones to make different heights, and home to a few different grasses and iris. The other is a bit larger and deeper , maybe about a meter squared (but not shaped!).

Rather than a liner, it used to be a turtle shaped sandpit which my nephews played in when they were little. After they outgrew it, I dug a turtle shaped hole and plonked it into the ground. It has a shallow layer of stone and soils under the water, and  lots of different marginal plants such as the marsh marigolds, grasses, iris, bistort, aquatic forget-me-not and water cresses around the edges (which over time have also crept inside the pond). Inside the water are/were some floating oxygenators, which help keep the water sweet for our amphibian friends. In and around the marginal plants are big stones and a few old tree trunks providing hidey hibernacular spaces for the amphibians.

Asides from enjoying the presence of water, I love creating wild-life ponds as it encourages frogs and toads into the garden, which can help keep the slug numbers down. It’s possible also to design a wildlife pond to specifically create habitat for damsel-flies and dragon-flies, and who doesn’t enjoy seeing them flirting around like magical faeries from another dimension?

Sadly over winter the submerged turtle has sprung a leak and the pond has dried up, except for the murky mess of leaves, soils and stones on the bottom. Which is why my bog loving marsh marigold, which usually stands with it’s feet in the water, is no more!

Last Sunday I had a  tidy up around the pond area for a good couple of hours; I raked the leaves from last autumn and winter from below the aspen tree and put them in the composter, I transplanted a few clumps of crane-footed geranium from nearby to other areas of the garden. I investigated the pond, and had a good old hunt for any signs of life from the roots of the marsh marigold…sadly dead as a dodo.

I observed the bistort growing much smaller (because the area has dried out and they like wet feet) and that the iris were much the same. I observed that the small pond also needs a good clear out and grasses thinned out, and that sadly no frog-spawn was to be seen (usually span in the bigger pond). I observed that the yellow flowering comfrey could do with a thin, and that I might transplant a clump of it too. I cut back some rogue raspberries running amock,  I cut back a bush near the aspen that has a habit of taking over, I pruned a laurel at ground level that I’m training to be a tree with a trunk rather than a bush at ground level, and I had a bloody, scratchy, fight with invading snaking brambles….

All the while I had an inner dialogue mantra of  “I should have fixed the pond this months ago” running through my head’, to the soundtrack of the nearby robins and wrens singing their absolute hearts out. Has anyone else noticed how loud the birds are this year? The road behind the garden is usually so noisy that it practically drowns out e bird-song. This period of lock-down and traffic cessation has been a gift, both to hearing the birds and the sweetening of the air.

Just as I was finishing up the tidy up, and mentally planning how to replace the old turtle sand-pit with a liner, I lifted up a log around the pond edges and was so happy to see a sleepy little toad. I’ve yet to see Mr Toad this year, whose been in the garden for years, but I have smelled him. Seems he’s been a busy old lad. I then lifted up a second log and was astonished to see a bird’s nest with a full clutch of small bluey white eggs! I gently lowered the stump and backed away! I should have known….the sound of the birds was excessively loud….but I was so caught up in my head about tidying up to make the area look nicer whilst being excited about redesigning and enlarging the wild-life that I had ignored all the rules and ignored the pleas of the robin screaming at me to go away….

Fortunately the robins have not abandoned the disturbed nest, despite enduring the equivalent of a giantess lumbering around close to their babies in the making. Over the last few days I have spend a happy time observing the comings and goings. No wonder a few weeks back the robins were so intent on eating all the pear blossom, the mamma robin was fuelling her egg laying!

wildlife pond area: can you see the old tree stump which has the robin’s nest underneath 

Assuming no cats, foxes, rats or magpies find the nest, it takes around 2 weeks for the eggs to hatch (she had a full brood, after laying one egg a day) so I am anticipating a lot of hungry mouths to feed around the 7th of May. Then there will be around a two week period between birthing and the baby robin’s fledging hopefully around 21st of May. Do incredibly exciting!

In the meantime I’ve made a temporary mini pond/birdbath close-by so that she can stay hydrated and clean, and I’ll put extra bird-feed out over the coming weeks.

mini pond/bird bath with a few home-grown iris pots. different levels of stones for visiting birds & insects to safely drink

And this is the tale of why the pond is on hold and why I need to listen more closely to nature rather than getting stuck in my head and sucked into ‘tidy garden’ sterility…





Published by theplothickens

passionate about permaculture, interested in sharing my experiences of designing my allotment using permaculture principles

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