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Garden Pond

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This may be a very short thread but here goes anyway.

I have a border at the front of the house which is currently filled with various shrubs and junk.  Its nice but my wife and I have wanted a water feature/pond for some time for wildlife and so we are considering removing the earth and creating a small pond.  The dimensions are between 50cm and 1.4mtres at the widest point and probably 5-6mtr long.  The closest part is about 25cm from front of the house, running across the front

Given its proximity to the house, is this a stupid idea? Would I need to tell anyone, such as planning or my insurance company?  Are there regulations preventing this? (I cant find any). Do professionally installed ponds leak and if the entirety of the water leaked, would this damage the foundations.

Another stupid question is if this turns out to be fine, how do I get hold of a reputable outfit to do it? I really dont want a lad in a van  come out and charge me cash in hand for a shitty job?

Post edited at 13:45
 henwardian 22 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Maybe I can answer a few of these:

If the water leaks out it doesn't matter unless maybe you are on a steep slope in a dry climate where you might be worried that it would weaken soil cohesion and cause a landslip. But assuming you live in the UK where the ground a significant amount of the year totally saturated, a pond slowly leaking into it is going to do nothing at all.

afaik insurance are only interested in rivers because of the flood risk, not ponds.

Before starting, get the legal documents and drawings for your house and find out where the water, sewage and electricity go - digging into any of these would be bad.

In planning terms, just phone up your local planning dept and ask them (or e-mail them), this is the kind of thing they should be able to answer very easily and for free.

You can get single piece moulded plastic for pond bottoms - these definitely do not leak. tbh I would expect that any purpose designed pond bottom shouldn't leak in this day and age.

It sounds more like you are making a moat tbh, if so a drawbridge should be included (a portcullis is handy too but they are very expensive these days).

Assuming you already located the services so any digging is not risking damage to them there isn't any reason why a lad in a van can't dig a hole and put in a pond-liner. It's a very simple task (helped my relatives do this when I was maybe 10 or 12) and anything done untidily is going to be completely hidden by the fact there is a big pond of water on top of it!

In reply to henwardian:

Thank you.  Have a like

 nniff 22 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Much to be said for a hard pond liner - my parents had a large pond with fish.  And a few local herons that would both snaffle the fish and punch holes in the soft liner as they snaffled.

Post edited at 16:48
 Fredt 22 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Would it be accessible (accidentally) by the public?

Thinking of young kids being attracted.

1
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

You can get some great wildlife into your garden by providing a pond...


 Baron Weasel 22 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

We've made a small pond in our garden recently and it's a bit of a breeding ground for mosquito. Not an issue for us as it's 15m from the house but not sure I'd want one that close to the house. 

 cb294 22 Jun 2020
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Yes. We had snakes and lizards and newts and slow worms in and around the garden pond ....

... until the first neighbours decided to have cats. Eradicated them all.

Cats are vermin.

CB

1
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

I have put a few ponds in in my time. I'm not a fan of the pre formed, they are strong but they can be a pain to dig the right shape hole. I prefer a liner but I line the hole with old carpet before I fit the liner.  Never had one leak but that said I have never had a heron either. 

A well planted wildlife pond is excellent, ours is 4 foot deep at one end and only a few inches at the other end plus a beach section so critters like hedgehogs can just walk out

In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

I have had several ponds, all made with flexible liners.  It helps if they are steep sided, which discourages the herons anyway.  Where the water is shallow to encourage amphibians and fish breeding, I cover the bottom with cobbles, which can see (and presumably knows will hurt).  My main tip is to get some depth into the pond as it is very difficult to stabilise shallow ponds and prevent green algae problems - my current one is four foot deep over at least half of it's area.

Wildlife is fantastic - the early Spring sight of well over one hundred frogs jostling for space is pretty good and newts also breed.  The fish are always fun.  We have a cat - a cat that hunts - but it doesn't bother the pond life at all.  It caught a frog as a kitten and the noise it made probably put him off for life (I heard the frog squealing from the front garden and was able to run around in time to see it hop away).

Plus one for lining the hole with sand and carpet or similar

Post edited at 20:40
 Irk the Purist 22 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

I want a pond for wildlife and as I have kids I'd ruled it out. But then I saw the idea of micro ponds... instead of one big pond, sink a few washing up bowls into the ground. Still great for wildlife and so much easier to install and get rid of if they become a faff. Also child safe(r).

I'm planning on doing it this summer so can't give first hand experience yet.

 Martin W 22 Jun 2020
In reply to Dax H:

> I'm not a fan of the pre formed, they are strong but they can be a pain to dig the right shape hole.

Also the soil beneath can erode away after the pre-formed liner has been put in, causing the liner to distort and possibly even fail.

> I prefer a liner but I line the hole with old carpet before I fit the liner.

You can also buy underlay which is designed for this job.  The idea is to protect the liner from rocks (which should have been removed when the pond was excavated, but can emerge later as the soil moves about) and roots.  As Derek says, line the hole with sand first to get a reasonably smooth set of contours, then the underlay/carpet, then the liner itself.

The worst thing about getting a leak is watching your aquatic flora and fauna gradually losing their home.  The next worst thing is trying to find and patch the leak.

 Kevster 22 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

I like ponds too. What sort of wildlife do you want?

Great crested newts like ponds with few or no fish in. 

Frogs are happy with lots of damp crevices to hide in - so a water trickle through layers of stone are great. I know folk will say water pool to breed, but they can breed elsewhere and just live in your feature/ garden if you dont want a full on pond.

Ferns, mosses etc also like dark and damp places. 

Some people like crystal clear water with pretty fish in. In a previous water feature to combat the mosquitos, we put a few mountain minnows in. Guppies will do the same. Just small fish for the larvae. And yes, they survived the winters for years. If you want native, then stickle backs or rudd etc are good for the job too.

Although the water is important, whats around it is more so imo. Good planting will cover any liners and offer the cover many critters like. Equally a level access will help frogs, hedgehogs etc escape one direction or another.

Please do away with slug pellets.

Filters are not always needed - just dont over stock your water with fish, and I'd suggest against feeding the fish, ever. Life is easier that way.

Sit back and enjoy.

As far as installation goes - I've done a number of garden ponds myself. The digging is the bit you want labour for.

Using old carpet can be a good liner for the membrane to stop stones etc. But ethically might not sit so well.

However there are organisations which certify landscapers etc who I'm sure will point you in the right direction if required. 

Closeness to buildings - your footings, rough guide on site is dont dig deeper than the distance away from the edge of the footings. On the plus side, ponds dont have to be deep, or continually full of water.

Water features/ splashes can also be independent, but next to your pond. 

I think you lots of options available.

So jealous, my next place will have a pond. 

Post edited at 22:10
In reply to Kevster:

Why might an old carpet ethically not sit well? 

Reuse is better than go to landfill? 

One thing I forgot to mention, we clay lined our pond at this house. I was sceptical but my mate is a gardener and insisted it was worth it. Awful problems with blanket alge for the first year due to the amount of nutrient in the clay, second year we had a bit but not too bad as the plants starter taking over, year 3 the plants resembled a rain forest and no more alge since

In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Super replies folks. Re the pond life, Id be happy with whatever comes. I'll probably put in a couple of fish species as I would want to keep mozzies out but after that whatever wants to come. We do have one local cat but the dog scares that away.

Does the wildlife simply come by itself or do you need to stock it?

 cb294 23 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Stocking helps. Just rescue some frog spawn from a natural pond that is about to dry up (AFAIK collecting frog spawn in the wild is illegal, and for a good reason), and you are set.

CB

 Armadillo 23 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Small critters (water fleas, snails etc.) may well come in with any plants that you buy in.  I set up a small container pond on a patio and bought some plants to go in it.  A year on and we have an interesting mix of invertebrates that I definitely didn't add (and some of them can't have made their own way there).  The fact that we have some damsel fly nymphs this year suggests there are enough smaller creatures to feed them - hopefully a sign of a healthy pond.

 Ridge 23 Jun 2020
In reply to Armadillo:

My theory is that various critters arrive on garden birds that drink or bathe in the pond.

 Armadillo 23 Jun 2020
In reply to Ridge:

Could well be.  It's amazing what makes itself at home in a pond, whether invited or not.

In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Another good thing to do, put 3 or more large rocks together in the middle leaning against each other, we find the birds love to splash around in the void between them having a bath but because it's in the middle of the pond the cats stay clear. 

Frogs, Toads and Newts all found our pond with zero intervention. I did add 5 goldfish that turned in to over 100 inside of 2 years. 

 Mark Edwards 23 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

> We do have one local cat but the dog scares that away.

I had fish disappearing from my pond and was wondering if a heron was visiting. No such luck, my CCTV caught the offenders, a cat and a crow (and I have two large dogs). So if you are going to have fish some sort of protection is worth considering. I have a soft liner over carpet and a layer of gravel hiding the liner. Resting on the gravel are some bricks that support some concrete slabs on which are some large plants and the fish can hide underneath. Every spring everything gets taken out (and relocated to an old paddling pool) and the mud, leaves, etc gets washed away and the gravel gets pressure washed. I’ve never had a problem with my butyl liner so they are quite tough.

https://flic.kr/p/2jev9g8

In reply to Mark Edwards:

That pond looks super

In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Our wildlife pond, its hard to tell but its roughly 3 meters wide by 6 meters long.

Next to the patio there is a gad about a foot wide and a foot deep full of big bits of stone overgrown with ivy, that's frog village. 


 NathanP 24 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

I've had good results with a flexible liner with old carpet and sand to protect it from puncture from below. Our current pond has been there for 20+ years and the liner doesn't seem to have deteriorated at all. Much easier to build than trying to exactly match the hole to a pre-made rigid pond. 

One thing I'd do differently next time is have a much shallower entry angle on at least one side, with gravel and plants hiding the edge, to give easier access for small animals and avoid the risk of them drowning (not that this has happened in our pond).

I'd recommend making the pond quite deep (3 feet) and maybe cover part of it in the winter to keep some of the surface ice-free, to reduce the risk of the inhabitants being killed off in the winter.

I wanted a wild life pond so no decorative fish. I just filled it up with tap water, put in some water lilies, marginal plants, Canadian pond weed and some rams horn snails then left it to it. I guess the fresh water fleas, shrimps and cyclops must have been in with the plants but, apart from them, it was fascinating to see how quickly different creatures just arrived. After an initial greening, the water cleared and is now perfectly clear, despite having no filtration. I do have to have an annual clear out of pond weed and lily leaves though which I guess helps keep the nutrient level down, minimising blanket week and avoiding green algae.

Water boatmen and water skaters were among the first arrivals. Despite having our own cat and multiple cats in the area there is a big breeding population of frogs and common newts but the newts seem to eat the frog tadpoles so none of those survive to adulthood in the main pond. We have dragonflies and damsel flies (and their larvae) - dragonfly nymphs are savage, they eat everything else and can reach plague numbers. I've seen foxes and squirrels drink from the pond and I assume the badgers use it too. From time to time a heron flies over but sees nothing of much interest in our pond - at least compared to next door's Koi Carp. The ramshorn snails soon died off but common great pond snails arrived from somewhere and soon multiplied to massive numbers.

Despite having no fish, I don't see any mosquito larvae. Presumably something else is eating them. I like the idea of a little shoal of minnows and, soon after building the pond, caught some tiny fish in a local stream. By the time they had grown to about a foot long and eaten all the frogs, I had to admit they probably weren't minnows and returned them to the river.

In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Some great responses here.  I've asked a couple of local garden designers and one will be coming out to see the site in a few weeks to see what can be done.  What I love about all this is that these ponds have just been left to their own devices and then frogs and newts appear.  I would be beside myself to see just a single dragonfly, but a newt, in my pond, that would make my decade.

The only concern I have is the estimated cost I have been given by one - up to £4k.  That really is beyond what I can spend on this.

 hang_about 24 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Get digging! For a small pond that's a lot of cash. My small pond has a preformed liner and cost £40. About the same for plants. Everything else is just time/graft (and then enjoyment!)

 La benya 24 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

I like ponds, despite ripping the one out we had here when we moved in (garden isn't really big enough).  I remember being fascinated with it as a kids- all the slime and animals etc.

I would point out that 'should' some divvy member of the public hurt themselves as it would be accessible at the front of your house and presumably not fenced in, you would be liable.  Your insurance might cover it, but probably only if you told your insurer.  Relying on them not asking wont be enough.

In reply to La benya:

> I would point out that 'should' some divvy member of the public hurt themselves as it would be accessible at the front of your house and presumably not fenced in, you would be liable.  Your insurance might cover it, but probably only if you told your insurer.  Relying on them not asking wont be enough.

Fortunately my house is up a private drive with two properties and my 'front garden' is a wholly enclosed large patio area which is totally private. The only risk to life and limb would be me falling in, trying to get too much of a good view. After a few ales.

 Mike Peacock 24 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

There was a mention of tap water upthread but, if possible, it's perhaps best to fill with rainwater (depending where your tap water comes from). See here:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/may/09/ponds-polluted-tap-water
https://twitter.com/jeremybiggs/status/1274680878384517122
Jeremy Biggs is an excellent source of knowledge of all things pond-related.

In reply to Mike Peacock:

Interesting article but tap water doesn't seem to bother our critters. The house roof runs to a water butt and the overflow runs to the pond but in dry weather if we don't top it up it goes bad fast, let the level get too low and an oily looking scum forms and critters start floating. Top it up every 2 to 3 weeks and it's fine. 

 Mike Peacock 24 Jun 2020
In reply to Dax H:

Does your water come from uplands or lowlands? That will make a difference.

 NathanP 24 Jun 2020
In reply to Mike Peacock:

Interesting from those links that not only have I been polluting the pond with tap water, leading to all the algae and duckweed that we don't have but I also made it too deep, creating  a poor habitat. I'll go and tell the frogs, newts, water boatmen, shrimps, daphnia, cyclops, beetles, snails, leeches, dragonfly and damsel fly nymphs to quickly get out for their own safety! The dragonfly nymphs must have read the same article or follow his twitter feed as they are fleeing the pond this week, climbing up the reed stems to emerge as dragonflies.

It is a good point though about possible problems with tap water. I guess we must be lucky in where we live (in that respect alone, it is Coventry) but it has never created a problem in our pond. I'm sure only using clean rainwater would be better but it may be worth checking what is on the roof and gutters as I've read there is a risk of pollution from there too, especially flat roofs. 

On the comment in the article about pond depth, I think his real point is that the shallows are important for marginal plants that provide much of the habitat. On the other hand, a deep centre will reduce the temperature fluctuations, mean that any sub-optimal top ups of tap water are more dilute and/or the pond can take longer dry spells without drying out. It also provides the necessary depth for full-size water lilies and means you don't have to clear it out very often to maintain a reasonable depth of clear water over the silts and sediments that soon accumulate.

1
 Mike Peacock 24 Jun 2020
In reply to NathanP:

> Interesting from those links that not only have I been polluting the pond with tap water, leading to all the algae and duckweed that we don't have but I also made it too deep, creating  a poor habitat. I'll go and tell the frogs, newts, water boatmen, shrimps, daphnia, cyclops, beetles, snails, leeches, dragonfly and damsel fly nymphs to quickly get out for their own safety! The dragonfly nymphs must have read the same article or follow his twitter feed as they are fleeing the pond this week, climbing up the reed stems to emerge as dragonflies.

Haha, I guess the point is a general one and, like yours, there will be plenty of exceptions to the rule; tap water filled ponds that are deep but still chock-full of wildlife. I do some research on ponds (nothing to do with ecology/zoology though) and get to visit quite a lot. Considering how abdundant they are, and how they can be little oases of life (especially in urban areas), it's a shame that so many get choked with weeds or become devoid of life entirely.

In reply to Mike Peacock:

>it's a shame that so many get choked with weeds or become devoid of life entirely.

And how do you prevent this?

The one I am looking to build will be open, in so much as it wont have overhanging vegetation/trees etc but will be in shade for 6 months of the year behind a reasonably high hedge and in full sunlight during the summer months.  Its on a south facing wall.

 Mike Peacock 24 Jun 2020
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

'Fraid I've no idea sorry. I assume most of the ones that are lifeless that I visit are in that state because they've have high nutrient levels coming in from adjacent farmland or urban areas (motorways and industrial estates). I assume in a suburban setting this isn't so much of a worry, as all your water will come in via rainfall (rather than surface runoff).

In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

Just to comment on the heron issue with soft liners - we get heron(s) which come for the frogs in spring - there seem to be 50+ frogs spawning but dont seem to get depleted much.

The butyl pond liner has never been  damaged from the heron so think piercing pond liner is a bit of a myth. We've had pond for about 15 years now. Depth varies from about 12" to 30".

 NathanP 24 Jun 2020
In reply to Mike Peacock:

To be fair:

1. Only part of my pond is deep - >50% of the surface area is just deep enough to have the top of normal planting baskets below water level. With hindsight, I'd have more shallow areas and, as I wrote before, a gentler slope out of the pond, fading to marginal and marsh plants.

2. I clear the excess Canadian pond weed and dying water lily leaves out every year so that must take a lot of nutrients out that could otherwise cause an algal bloom or excessive blanket weed.

3. The pond is in shade all year round - a big factor, I think, in avoiding excessive algae.

4. The water lilies cover a lot of the surface at the height of summer, reducing the light even more. To TheDrunkenBakers - with a S-facing aspect and depending on your water source, you might need to be a lot more careful about nutrient balance and managing the light on the pond. Maybe a few tall summer plants to shade it, as well as water lily leaves covering some of the surface?

The main things, I think, are that having a good wildlife pond needn't be expensive or difficult and there are worse things than a bit of trial and error. 

Good luck,

Nathan  

Added in edit - and TheDrunkenBakers was quite wrong - not a short thread at all, what a pond-loving lot we are!

Post edited at 21:11

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