A pond in the backyard can make for hours of fun for kids and adults alike. Like all water elements, ponds are relaxing and lovely,reflecting sky and nearby plants. They can also attract frogs and beneficial insects, like dragonflies, that lay their eggs in water. Maintaining a healthy pond isn’t as complex as it may sound.Here are seven simple tips to get you started.
1. Create a happy mess. If you want crystal clear water and manicured plantings, a pond is probably not the way to go. Backyard wildlife ponds should be messy, with an imprecise combination of mud, twigs and leaves to house wildlife. Don’t over-manage if you want to encourage a healthy habitat.
2. Build in shade. Sun is fine and helps aquatic plants with photosynthesis. But don’t put your pond in full sun. It doesn’t matter how many hidey-holes you include for reptiles and animals, plants bear the full brunt of the rays. A mix of shade and sun works best to keep plants growing without excessive organic buildup.
3. Plant politics. Mix your plants and aim for diversity. You’ll want some that float, some that grow up and out of the water,and some that stay submerged. Don’t forget to include plants around the pond edges as well. This provides many habitats for different critters. Look out for and avoid non-native aquatics that can become invasive and block out the others.
4. Deeper isn’t always better. Use the same principal of diversity for the depth of your pond. Mix shallow areas and deep water to give aquatic plants and animals different types of habitat. For small ponds, 12 inches (30 cm.) is deep enough to allow wild things to thrive.
5. No tap water. Don’t fill your pond with tapwater unless you are looking to attract algae, which nobody is. Water from the sink or hose usually contains more nitrates than are good for a pond and turn it dirty green from algae levels. Rain water works best, so wait for it or store it up.
6. Remember runoff. If you use toxins on soil near your pond, they may end up in the pond as water drains. This includes pesticides, fertilizers and any other chemicals. Likewise, sprays drift. Any and all of these can negatively impact your plants and animals.
7. To fish or not to fish. Fish are fun in a pond, and kids love to watch them. But fish don’t always work well with other wildlife like frogs, salamanders and newts. Inviting fish into the space will limit other animals.