Constructing a tiny wildlife pond in a friends’ backyard

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I have the best friends – they let me mess around in their backyard, including this crazy idea with making a wildlife pond! Ever since I was little, I wanted to have a water feature around. I kept digging “ponds” and fountains in my mother’s garden, but they were always demolished, because they were in the way… So this quest of mine of making a wildlife pond is a very long one.

As I grew older, in addition to this childish desire to have a water feature, I developed an appreciation for wildlife and a desire to support. Providing water in the summer is even more important than food for the little critters that struggle to live their lives around us. Everyone – from birds to bees – needs a steady and secure water source. That’s why this year I’m adding water to all my “gardens” – I will have a micro-pond (a buried large salad bowl with large rocks and water) in my community garden plot and a little fountain on my balcony. And of course this pond in my friends’ backyard.

There are two main points to keep in mind when planning your outdoor water feature – ease of access and mosquito prevention. The first simply means that you need to make sure that even the tiniest critters can safely make it out of the water, and the easiest way to achieve this is to create gentle slopes and deposit large stones in the water. Floating items, like bottle corks, are great for the insects to rest and dry their bodies on before flying off. If you have small children, it goes without saying that you need to ensure they are safe, too, by either having a very shallow water feature or placing a barrier around it.

The second issue is due to mosquitoes breeding in standing water. Fear not, however, because it is very easy to address with a biological agent known as BTI. BTI (short for Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis) is a microorganism that infects only insects from the fly family. So the bees, butterflies, birds, dogs and children are absolutely safe around it. You can get BTI in the form of grains or dunks an place them into your water feature every month, or as indicated.

When planning my wildlife pond, I started by identifying the lowest point in the wilder part of the backyard, where the water naturally pools after the rain.

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Then I started digging…

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At first my ambitions were quite grande: a decent pond, deep enough to have a few fish swimming in it, a couple of waterlilies… you get the idea. I mean, why not? I love digging, and there’s plenty of space. But then I encountered rocks. In fact, I believe there is more rocks in their soil than the actual, well, soil…

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And then, at about one foot deep (not even knee-high!), I hit a solid rock. I gave it some thought, and the little bit of common sense that still resides in the back corner of my mind suggested that maybe this was good enough. It was quite clear that without heavy machinery I will never dig deep enough to have a fish pond. So in that case, there is nothing wrong with a shallow pond, the frogs can still spawn, maybe a couple tritons would come over, a few native water plants – and we will have ourselves a small yet functional wildlife pond. So I stopped, at about one foot deep in the center and a gentle slope in corner, roughly four by four feet.

 

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Looks quite pathetic, doesn’t it?

 I then layered the pond liner. At first I thought we might be ok without it, with the solid rock bottom and the overall propensity of water to gather in that spot. But then, I did not want to risk it drying out in the middle of summer. So a compromise was achieved by buying the cheapest (and flimsiest) pond liner I could find…

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I made sure all the liner edges were covered with soil and rocks, to give the pond a stable shape. I don’t want to use city water, so over the next couple of weeks I will wait and see if April showers can fill it up with rain water. I will then start “landscaping” the banks, making a couple of toad abodes and other wildlife-friendly structures. I really hope it is not too late this year to have some frog spawn! I will also see if I can find some native water plants to populate the pond. And of course, I will keep you posted about further progress!

Do you have any wildlife-friendly water features in your garden?

 

Update 04.20.2019: the pond is filling up with rainwater!

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