How To….Make a Wildlife Pond

10 Mature Pond

A pond is a really useful resource in a garden, providing a habitat for important beneficial insects, invertebrates and vertebrates, which are natural hunters of pests in the garden.

There are infinite versions of ponds, differing materials and a wide range of websites offering you support with how to make a pond.

We have done some reading and put ideas into practice to produce a short ‘how to’ guide on making your own wildlife pond. This is not a definitive guide, just offering you some practical tips in a step-by-step format.

Step One: Choosing your pond material

For our pond we chose a flexible PVC liner with protective underlay. Ideally a wildlife pond would be made from puddled clay, but that is a rare resource in chalky Brighton, so we opted for a liner from a professional supplier with a 5-year guarantee. Well protected from sunlight and sharp stones, there’s no reason the liner won’t last a lifetime. Other options include pre-formed plastic liners and rubber liners. Decide on what suits you best depending on the space available, how large you want it and what your budget is.

If, like us, you opt for a flexible liner, you need to work out what size to buy. Many online pond companies provide a calculator to work out this out depending on what size you want your finished pond.

Step Two: Choosing your pond site and size

1 Mark out site

Choose the place you want to put the pond and mark out the shape and size you have decided on. Using sand to mark the outline is helpful to visualise the final shape. As a general rule, you should choose a sunny site with no overhanging vegetation and the ground should be a level as possible.

A pond needs to be as large as you can accommodate (or afford), but make sure it is at least ½ metre deep to avoid it freezing solid in winter. The pond we made is 2 x 1 x 0.5 metres. Choosing an irregular shaped design is important for wildlife and looks attractive.

Step Three: Digging Out the Pond in Layers

Decide on how you want to place the layers of the pond. A good way to think about it is like an upside down fried egg – the deepest point of the pond need only be relatively small with shallower layers towards the edges. Make sure one edge is very shallow to allow pond fauna to access the water.

One website recommended using vertical (rather than sloping) edges, using a back filling technique over the liner with sub soil. This is possible where you have dug deep enough to hit subsoil – we didn’t go that low for this project. We did dig vertical sides except for our sloping ‘shore’ (seen in the lower part of the picture).

Take care with digging out the soil – plan to do the work over a few days so you don’t injure yourself, or get some friends to help share the work. Also think about where you want to move the excavated soil to – it can be a surprising amount even from a small hole. Keep back a small amount of soil to use to bury the edges of the liner under at the end.

Step Four: Lining the Pond and Filling it

Place the liner protector over the dug out space and carefully mould it to the shape of the pond as closely as possible. Overlay with the liner and do the same. DO NOT CUT THE LINERS YET!

Fill the pond using tap water; this is recommended as it is less nutrient rich than rain water and will help keep out unwanted growth as the pond establishes.

Take care as the weight of the water allows the liner to make contact with the soil – make sure excess liner is carefully pleated and folded to make good contact with the soil. Keep adjusting as it fills.

Step Five: Trimming the Lining and Finishing off

8 trim liner

Once the pond is filled with water, you can trim and bury the edges. Trim about 30cms from the edge all around the pond. You can secure the liner by placing some of the reserved soil you dug out over the edges. It’s important to shade plastic liners from sunlight and you can use off cuts of the pond liner to cover up where it may be exposed.

Wildlife ponds benefit from a range of materials being placed around and near the pond. We used some paving slabs on one side to provide some shade over the pond and weight to anchor the liner. Don’t use slabs all the way around – they get very hot in the sun and small aquatic fauna entering and exiting the water can die from the heat exposure. We used small rocks and stones around the shallow ‘shore’ edge to create a wetland area, and a habitat pile of cut wood to provide damp, dark environment for toads, frogs and newts. Characterful decayed wood was also used to add interest to the overall effect.

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Step Six: Adding Plants

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Now you can introduce some water plants to the pond. Make sure you choose these carefully, going for native options and ensuring they won’t get too big for the pond resulting in having to clear the pond of overgrown vegetation. Choose plants for differing water depths, but make sure you have at least one oxygenator and that around 70% of the water surface will be covered by vegetation. This prevents too much nitrogen building up causing algal blooms and other unwanted growth.

Step Seven: Trouble shooting

The pond is likely to go a murky green a few days after filling and planting. Don’t panic, it will soon turn clear once everything has settled down. However, even with the best will in the world, it is likely that you will get unwanted visitors such as duck weed or the dreaded blanket weed. Pull out what you can as it arises and try using barley straw – a packet of straw which magically suppresses overgrowth of blanket weed and other algae without upsetting any of your wanted plants and animals.

Damselflies mating

Sit back and enjoy watching the visitors arrive: water boatmen, pond skaters, damselflies, dragonflies, mayflies, caddis flies, water beetles, toads, frogs, newts, and even birds looking for a bath!

For more information, look online, and check out our favourite pond expert: @petethepond

Rosehip Jelly

Rosehips are a wonderfully colourful and cheery sight in the local hedgerows, but they also make excellent jams, jellies and cordials, reputedly high in Vitamin C. Take advantage of this year’s bumper crop and make some tasty jelly to cheer up your frosty mornings.

All rosehips are edible, but make sure you only pick berries from plants you can identify as roses.

Ingredients

500g Rosehips

500ml water (approx)

3 apples (for pectin)

Juice of a lemon

1.5 cups of sugar

Method

  1. Rinse fruit and top and tail, removing any bad berries.
  2. Boil rosehips in enough water to just cover the fruit. Add apples and boil all until soft and mushy.
  3. Pour mixture into a muslin bag and strain overnight.
  4. Return juice to a wide bottomed pan, add lemon juice and bring to the boil.
  5. Add sugar and boil until setting point is reached (jelly ‘wrinkles’ when placed on a cold saucer).
  6. Bottle into sterilized jars and keep in the fridge once opened.

A great homemade Christmas gift!

October’s Top Tips

 

Onion Bulbs.jpg

1. Plant spring cabbage, broad beans, garlic & onions.  And why not try sowing some winter greens if you have a sheltered spot or poly to use. Check out last year’s winter greens trial.

2. Plant bulbs & spring bedding (wallflowers, forget-me-nots)

3. Divide rhubarb crowns (see community noticeboard for some crowns going spare)

4. Clear beds & mulch with compost; put old vegetation into emptied compost bins

5. Trim hedges; cut down tired vegetation; protect ponds from falling leaves with netting

Autumn Wild Knowledge Walk led by Vera Zakharov

Toadstool

Sunday 21st October, 12pm to 2pm, Stanmer Park, meet outside of Stanmer House at 12 noon.

Come and discover the diverse and beautiful ecosystems thriving on our city’s doorstep at Stanmer Park. We will focus on edible mushrooms and plants, but will consider more broadly how species work together in a woodland setting, and explore foraging as a mindful practice and entry into caring for our natural environment.

Please note that due to the size and sensitivity of the woodland we will abstain from picking mushrooms, focusing instead on identification and broader knowledge development. Foraging is weather-dependent; please dress suitably for all eventualities. Children and dogs welcomed.

Free to BHOGG members; £10 for non-members or join for £10 on the day.

Jenni’s Autumn Chutney

A quick and easy recipe for using up any last autumn gluts from the garden.  Ready to eat in 3 months – the perfect homemade gift.

Spicey Chutney

Ingredients:

  • 3lb Marrow/ overgrown courgettes (skin & de-seed if tough)
  • 1lb Onions
  • 1lb Tomatoes (use green ones if that’s all you have left)
  • 1lb Crunchy veg (such as cabbage, runner beans, chard stems)
  • 6 good sized Garlic cloves
  • 1oz Root Ginger
  • 1oz Mustard seed
  • 1.5 pints Vinegar (use any: white, cider, spiced – I used cider vinegar)
  • Spices to taste (paprika, ginger, cayenne)
  • 2tsp Salt
  • 2oz Sugar

Method:

  1. Chop all veg into small pieces (think Branston pickle sized chunks) and place in a large flat-bottomed pan
  2. Add vinegar, sugar, salt & spices and bring to the boil.
  3. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally (don’t let it stick!)
  4. Pour into hot, sterile jars & seal

Prepping the veg

Wonderful Urban Worms

Wormery

Ruth has been busy with volunteers at the Phoenix Community Garden welcoming some of the best gardeners’ friends: wriggly worms!  A wormery is a great way of recycling your unwanted kitchen scraps when you live in an urban area and don’t have access to much outdoor space.  Here’s Ruth’s top tips for setting up a new wormery:

  1. Allow worms to settle for 2 weeks before adding any compostable material
  2. Add a handful of garden soil or homemade compost to bedding to add microorganisms
  3. Initially just give a handful of food (raw kitchen scraps, etc) every other day, bury it under damp shredded newspaper to keep it moist & deter fruit flies
  4. Position out of the sun & in winter insulate with bubble wrap
  5. Worms need air: add plenty of egg boxes, damp, shredded paper & corrugated cardboard to trap air
  6. Dry eggshells, crush & sprinkle; this gives them the grit they need & keeps alkalinity good
  7. Avoid onions, garlic & citrus fruit, grass cuttings

Cheat ‘Sun-ripened’ tomatoes

Although we have had more than our average sun quota this year, sadly its not lasted long enough to take full advantage for sun-drying our harvests.  So here is a simple recipe to make the most out of your cherry tomato glut and provide a mouth watering taste of summer in the deepest winter months.

Ripe cherry toms

It does take some time to oven dry your produce, so make sure you choose a time when you will be around for 2-3 hours.   Perhaps use this time to look through some lovely organic seed catalogues and daydream about next year’s plans.

You will need:

Cherry tomatoes – de-stalked, washed, dried and any dodgy ones removed

Olive Oil – for brushing

Salt & herbs for seasoning

Method:

  • Turn on oven to a low heat (around 120C / GM 1 or lower).
  • Line a large baking tray with baking paper or parchment and place a wire rack over this.
  • Slice your prepared tomatoes in half and lay out cut side facing up on the wire rack.  For added ease, I highly recommend this fabulous 1-minute tutorial on how to cut multiple tomatoes: https://www.wimp.com/a-simple-technique-for-cutting-cherry-tomatoes-in-half/

 

Tomatoes before

  • Brush the tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and herbs of your choice.  Basil or Marjoram are good with tomatoes.
  • Pop in the oven checking on the tomatoes’ progress periodically to make sure they are cooking evenly; they will probably fall through the wire rack, but don’t worry about that.
  • Continue to cook until they are squishy but not juicy (or you can decide for yourself the perfect consistency you want from a sun-dried tom).
  • Either use these in pasta dishes immediately, or you can further preserve them by either freezing or bottling.  I have frozen mine in one-meal quantities for easy use. Try searching on line if you want to preserve them in oil – this will take a bit more effort.

 

Tomatoes after

Save TOAST in your diary: The Organic Apple Sharing Treat

Sunday 2nd September, 11.00am at plot 182, Weald Allotment Site, Hove

We plan to pick apples from Alan’s heritage mini-orchard on the Weald allotment site, giving most of them to Fareshare, taking some home to sample, and juicing many of the ‘not quite perfect apples’ to make our own delicious drink. It will be a real treat.

We will also share Viv’s recipe for apple chutney and show you the ingredients so that you can make delicious chutney in your own kitchen and have it with cheese/ fake cheese on toast.

Bring your own organic apples if you have any to share; a press will be available on the day.

BHOGG members only event or join on the day.

What to do with courgette gluts? Sweet and savory recipes

Ross’s Easy Peasy Courgette Pesto

Courgette glut? Fed up of the sight of them? Use this recipe to hide the offending veg and make a super fast, super tasty, super fresh meal. This recipe makes enough pesto for 6 people.

Ingredients
6 courgettes, ideally around 12 cms long. Don’t use the oversize ones, as they may be too bitter for this recipe.
3 tbs olive oil
1 large clove garlic
handful of fresh basil
1 tbs pine nuts (or use cooked chickpeas as an alternative)
salt & pepper to taste
chilli flakes for dressing

Method

  1. Roughly chop courgettes – there is no need to cook, salt or drain them.
  2. Place all ingredients into bowl and whizz together using a hand blender (or put into a blender) – keep the mixture slightly textured
  3. Test and adjust seasoning to taste.
  4. Cook up your favourite pasta – I used linguine
  5. Serve the pasta with a little olive oil mixed through; spoon the pesto on top, garnish with basil and sprinkle with chilli flakes and / or cheese.
  6. Add a tomato salad and warm crusty ciabatta to make into a main meal.

 

Courgette & Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from Allrecipes UK

This is a great recipe for using up all those pesky courgettes coming into season now. The ones I used were a drier variety, which meant I needed to add a bit more water to get the right consistency. I also reduced the oil and sugar to make a less sweet muffin.

courgette-choc-chip-muffins.jpg

Ingredients
200g plain flour
100g caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
100ml vegetable oil
80ml soya milk
1 tbs lemon juice
200g grated courgette (excess moisture squeezed out)
100g bar of dairy free chilli chocolate (cut into chunks) or choc chips

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ Gas 4. Grease muffin tins/ line with cases
  2. Combine flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda & salt together.
  3. In a separate container, mix egg, oil, milk, lemon juice & vanilla extract together. Add to dry ingredients and stir until just combined
  4. Fold in grated courgette & chocolate chips. Consistency should be dropping off spoon, but not runny. Add extra milk or water if mixture is too dry.
  5. Put mixture in muffin cases and place in oven.
  6. Cook for 20-25 minutes; cool; eat

 

Recipes supplied by BHOGG member Jenni.