The spade work’s done - now to make your pond a home for wildlife...

Bird Watching (UK) - - May Id Challenge - BY MATT MER­RITT

DIG­GING OUT OUR small wildlife pond was a cou­ple of hours’ hard work, but once it was out of the way, and some warm spring weather ar­rived, I was able to get on with the fun part of the job – plan­ning what to put in there, and then land­scap­ing the edges and start­ing to add vegetable (and, with luck, in­ver­te­brate) life.

It’s a great idea to get a start by cadg­ing a few plants from some­one who al­ready has a thriv­ing pond, so I turned to our own Mike Wee­don, and he came up trumps with a bucket full of sedges, Wa­ter Sol­dier, Wa­ter Mint and Wa­ter For­get-me-not. His pond, in turn, had orig­i­nally been seeded from our pho­tog­ra­pher Tom Bai­ley’s, so it’s nice to think of all that aquatic life mak­ing its way from Lin­colnshire into War­wick­shire, via Peter­bor­ough. So much for the plants. But what about in­sects and am­phib­ians? Well, you have to think like Kevin Cost­ner in 1980s base­ball movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come”. Just sit back and wait, pa­tiently. So far, our only prob­lem has been the keen in­ter­est taken in the pond by Harry and Pep­per, two of our poo­dle/chi­huahua crosses – the poo­dle part of their ge­netic make-up com­pels them to pad­dle around, paw­ing at plant life (‘poo­dle’ comes from the Low Ger­man ‘pudel’, mean­ing to splash about). But Bird Watch­ing’s Nikki Man­ning may have the so­lu­tion – a small dog pad­dling pool on the yard, with a few toys in it, should dis­tract them from any ideas of pool van­dal­ism, and Harry al­ready seems to be los­ing in­ter­est. Pond in place, we spent the first few days of spring get­ting the rest of the gar­den in or­der. Nat pruned the rather out-of-con­trol Bud­dleia back hard, plus the Honey­suckle, and both should now come back stronger and thicker than ever. We’ve also added a Dog­wood, Laven­der, Clema­tis, ferns, Ivy, pop­pies and Fox­gloves, plus rhubarb in a planter. At the edges of the pond, we’ve sown a wild flower mix, great for in­sects and birds, planted some prim­u­las, and we’ve also cre­ated a lit­tle rocky area with some sax­ifrage and stonecrop. The back edge is shaded for large parts of the day by the var­i­ous shrubs and the fence, so plant, in­sect and am­phib­ian life has both warm and cool ar­eas to suit their needs.

If you build it, they will come. Just sit back and wait, pa­tiently

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