If you want to attract wildlife to your garden, one of the most important things you can do is introduce water. Not only do ponds look great, but they also attract more wildlife than anything else you can plant in your garden.
Water can attract many insects to your garden, including dragonflies, pond skaters, bees, and butterflies, but it can also attract frogs, toads, and even larger mammals.
Providing access with shallow sides and gentle slopes will bring frogs, toads, and birds to your pond. A carefully placed branch or rock can give many animals a place to drink or bathe from. Ponds attract many species of insects, including dragonflies and bees.
If you have room for a pond, this will encourage wildlife in your garden. You can create different areas that suit specific animals by choosing the right plants.
Providing Pond Access
If you already have a pond in your garden, you may have seen tadpoles or maybe even a frog or toad. You may have noticed plenty of insects whizzing around and on the surface and may have noticed birds coming down for a drink or a bath.
It is excellent to have an established pond, but there are ways to make it even better for wildlife. By providing maintenance to your pond and improving wildlife access, you may notice that you get some different animals using your pond.
If you want to attract frogs and toads and their offspring, tadpoles, you may wish to provide a gentle slope and shallower sides so they can get in and out quickly. This will also attract more birds as they do not have to worry about drowning.
Although your pond may not have this, you can place some stones or bricks. If you don’t have large rocks or bricks, you can always use an upturned plant pot to access them better. You can create a slope into the water by putting these in or around the pond. If these seem too smooth, I recommend some hessian to give more grip.
Shallow water can be created this way, and submerged planting will bring dragonflies to your pond. They may even lay their larvae, and you may notice tadpoles from a frog or toad.
Something else that I noticed brought more birds to my pond was adding a branch that broke the water’s surface. This gives them a great place to stand and drink some water.
When setting up your pond, try to think about the wildlife needs, but you can also think about what you can do to get the best photos or views of the wildlife in your garden.
How To Maintain Your Pond For Wildlife
You can do several things to make your pond as inviting for wildlife as possible. In different seasons there are various ways of maintaining your pond.
Ensure that the oxygen levels in your pond are good so that tadpoles and other wildlife can breathe. Removing dead leaves will increase the oxygen levels in your pond, so make sure to remove these when you see them. Clearing the pond in the fall is essential as so many dead leaves fall from the trees. There is also a lower amount of wildlife visiting your pond this season, but it is best to leave these next to the pond for a couple of days so any insects can move back into the pond.
Plants can also take over your pond, causing less oxygen to get in, so make sure you remove any spreading too much. You can take them out and divide them up by repotting them. If you remove any plants from the pond, try to leave them by the pond for a day or two. Although you may not see any insects on them, leaving them for a day or two by the pond will allow any trapped plants to move back into the pond.
Too much algae in your pond can also lead to deoxygenation. Algae thrive on debris in the pond, so clear any residue from the pond. Putting barley straw in hessian sacks into your pond can help remove excess algae.
Keep your pond as sunny as possible by cutting back any trees or bushes that may cast a shadow. This allows the light to get to the aquatic plants and the heat.
If you want to attract frogs, toads, and tadpoles, it is best not to have fish in the pond. Fish will eat insects, which will make the pond less appetizing for other animals. However, if you already have fish in your pond, you will still find that frogs and toads use it.
Keep a rain barrel in your garden, as you can use this to top up the pond. Do not use tap water as this can introduce chemicals to your pond that can upset the PH balance causing damage to your plants and the wildlife. I use the Hosana rain barrel. It holds 60 liters when complete, but I use this one because the faucet isn’t right at the bottom like on so many others, giving you room to put a bucket underneath. You can find it on Amazon.
In winter, make sure that you keep the ice from freezing over completely. Either break the ice gently or keep a ball that will float, like a tennis ball in the pond, to stop it from freezing completely.
How To Put Plants In A Wildlife Pond?
When buying aquatic plants, they sometimes come in plastic baskets. These are great for keeping the roots and potting compost in place. I would recommend that if the plants come like this, it is best to transfer them to fabric plant pots.
I used plastic pots, and they almost always cracked, allowing the soil into the water. Most aquatic stores or nurseries will sell the fabric pots separately, but I use them from Amazon. They won’t crack, and I have never had any problems with them.
Always use aquatic potting soil, as this is meant to be used for aquatic plants. There are several different brands out there, and they all seem about the same to me. Most have low amounts of compost and peat, as these will float around the pond. Look for a heavy loam content, as it will fertilize the soil without polluting the pond.
When filling the soil into the mesh pot, I usually serve it with about two-thirds of the dirt. I earth to place the plant before adding soil so that it sits just under the top. Please put it in a bucket of water for a couple of minutes to water it, and then cover the top with a gravel layer.
Some plants are oxygenators meant to be submerged, but most are not. If it is not, place the plant in its final position in the water. If you need to prop it up to ensure it is not fully submerged, you can use bricks, stones, or upturned plant pots.
There are three main types of plants for ponds. These are:
Floating Plants To Attract Wildlife
These should sit on the surface of the water. However, be careful as they can quickly spread and become invasive.
- Water Soldier
- Water Lettuce
- Water Velvet
- Floating Marsh Marigold
Submerged Plants To Attract Wildlife
Submerged plants are great oxygenators and can be planted in the deepest parts of the pond.
- Water Milfoil
- Water Crowfoot
- Water Violet
Marginal Plants To Attract Wildlife
Marginal plants are best planted in shallower water and around the pond’s edge.
- Lesser Spearwort
- Marsh Marigold
- Water Forget-me-not
- Swamp Lily
- Flowering Rush
Plants Around The Pond To Attract Wildlife
Plants do not only have to be planted in a pond to attract wildlife. Plants around the pond can create a perfect habitat for many species, giving them a safe space to move between the garden and the pond.
Many plants will grow well around ponds and will also attract wildlife.
- Zebra Rush
- Lady’s Smock
- Salad Burnet
- Wild Angelica
- Great Willowherb
- Ragged Robin
- Arum Lily
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.