Gardening Magazine

The Boiling Pond

By Lochnessgarden @lochnessgarden
The Boiling PondLike the GilbertWhite of Abriachan, I crept stealthily up the path towards the pond, camera switched on, lens extended, fingers hovering expectantly over the focus.
I was down-wind, I had deliberately neglected to put on potent midge repellent lest it disturb the still morning air, I was wearing my most woodland-blending combination of greens, greys and browns, surely this time they would not see me coming!
SPLAsh SpISH SPlarg Gloop ShLUuop splOSH
Once more outwitted by frogs, 16 frogs to be more accurate (at last count), the newest and most endearing residents of the pond.The Boiling Pond(I promise they are in the photo somewhere)They moved in last week and since then the water has been boiling with their activity, there are now several big patches of frog spawn floating like translucent sago pudding, yet despite my best efforts, my attempts to sneak up and photograph them as they lounge on the banks and leaves have failed, and all I am confronted with are 32 big eyes on teeny frog faces peeking up at me. The Boiling PondOne of my winter jobs was the transformation of what Margaret termed "The Quaking Bog" into something that once more resembled a wildlife pond.
So with a set of waders, a spade and a look of steely determination in my eye, I went forth and did battle.

January/February is the best time for you to tackle your ponds, as it is when you are going to cause least disturbance to wildlife which is at its lowest ebb in the winter months, and also when you are best able to divide your pond plants before they start to grow away in the spring.
The Boiling PondThe rapid flow of water through our pond, (connected to a fast flowing burn) brought with it a great deal of silt and other detritus, so I had to dig a great deal of content out, to return the pond to a depth of 3ft, restoring it to a suitable environment for wildlife and readying it for fresh planting in the coming months.
If you own a stand-alone pond which you refill/refresh/pump or otherwise oxygenate, you will probably have far less content to clear out as there will only be the fallen leaves and rotting plant material to deal with, however it is still a job that should be done tri-annually to benefit the health of the pond.

Here are a few tips to help you in your endeavours: The Boiling Pond
  • Waders are a great investment - Digging out a pond from the bank is near impossible and you are like as not to strain your back, and receive no sympathy from friends and family as "You should have known better."
    Also, a welly boot, once full of sludgly mud, tends to be more of a hindrance than a help and may lead to you becoming wedged in the gunge in the very center of the pond, having to perform a complex maneuver where you use the spade to lever out one foot so you can make a lunge for the bank, leaving the other welly behind in its new watery home, where it looks at you smugly while you sit and wring out your socks.
  • Stop the flow of water into your pond while you are cleaning it, and if possible drain out most of the water to make your job easier.
    I would imagine that if you have fish, transferring them elsewhere at this stage would be a pretty good idea.
  • As you dig out the contents of the pond, shovel it all onto the bank and leave it there for at least a few days, so anything that has been living in the murky depths can wriggle its way back down into the water.
  • Once the silt is wriggler-free, you can move it elsewhere.
    I have used ours to fill a new bed which I will plant with Primulas later this year.
    You may have to mix the pond contents with compost and additional feeding depending on the level of nutrients - I will be adding manure and leaf compost to ours.
  • Dig deep to get out the roots of all the plants you do not want in your pond. In our case, reeds, rushes and grasses which would, if left, invade the whole pond area.
    You can keep a small patch of reeds for your wildlife if you like, but there are plenty of alternative plants which wildlife love and which are easier to keep under control.
  • Divide your lilies, irises and other abundant pond plants, plant them elsewhere, give them to your neighbours, sell them, donate them, barter them..... just ensure you leave enough for oxygenation and habitat.
  • Hold off on re-planting with new plants until after the last of the hard frosts.
  • Ensure your pond has at least one gradually graduated side, so frogs, toads, newts and other wildlife can get in and out easily.
The Boiling PondThe Boiling PondBest of luck with your own ponds, they are such a great addition to your garden and as well as providing an environment for animals and insects to live, breed and feed, they give many more birds and animals with a place to drink and bathe.
Our own wee Scottish food chain contains damselflies, dragonflies, water boat men, pond skaters, whirligig beetles, caddis flies, water snails, frogs, toads, ducks, a visiting heron......  and recently observed, the lesser-spotted mud-encrusted Scotsman.

Written by Donald
Frog graphic from the fabulous Graphics Fairy

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