Design a Wildlife Garden–Instalment Last

Design Your Wildlife Garden

We’ve had an overview of the Wildlife Garden with “How to Design the Wildlife Garden”. That covered a lot about Birds.

Next were a bunch more B’s–Planning Your Wildlife GardenBees, Butterflies, Beneficials.

Pacific Chorus Frog. Photo Credit.
Painted Turtle, not to be confused with Slider Turtle, which is NOT native,.
Painted Turtle, not to be confused with Slider Turtle, which is NOT native. Photo Credit.
Long-Toes Salamander, smaller than my palm.
Long-Toed Salamander, smaller than my palm. Photo Credit.

Finally, let’s look at ponds and bogs. I’ve linked to NatureScape BC several times, and this is no exception: here’s a great quick primer on designing your pond.

(And lest I forget to mention, never release store-bought frogs, snakes, tropical fish, turtles, or any other critter into your outdoor pond. There is always a risk that it can become an invasive species and/or spread disease among native species. Remember the snakehead fish story!)

Back to designing our wildlife garden:

To get a mixture of wildlife enjoying your pond, you’ll need a variety of quite a number of things. A variety of water depths, of sun exposures, of textures, of plantings. I’ll go over each of these.

Birds will want shallow and moving water, frogs will want shallow and deep still water. So when you plan out the shape of your pond, design it with 2 sections; one is dug to about 0.5-1 metre deep, the other only 0.25 m deep. It’s particularly important to have a shallowly sloped edge–like a beach–so that nothing ends up drowning because it can’t get out. And birds like to frolic in toe-deep water, even underneath dripping water.  Have a little waterfall positioned on the shallow side, which of course will flow over to the deeper side.

As for sun exposure, at least 4 hours of direct sun is recommended. It’ll be dang hard to dig a pond under an older tree, so you’ll have to locate it more in the open. But all your little guests will appreciate some shade, as will some of your plants, so plan to plant some taller shading flowers, grasses, shrubs, even small trees around the periphery.

(The above picture is in Seattle (thanks to Houzz). I love the overall look of it, but would add more tall and overhanging plants to cast shade on the water. A lovely little Japanese maple would do the trick.)

Since we’re going for inviting our native species to this pond, include both native plants as well as others that will appreciate the same environment with no added water, fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides. Goes without saying (yet everyone dos go on to say), pesticides and herbicides are going to kill off the very wildlife you want to attract. Include bog and moisture-loving plants right along the edge of the pond (a nice spot for Pussy Willow–Salix discolor), and dry soil-lovers like sedums and sempervivums (hens and chicks) among the rocks. And you’ll want to include actual water plants which will both aerate the water, and keep it clean. They in effect become a “filtering system”. Along the edge that will be your own “viewing spot”, have minimal plant growth, but along the back side, have nice dense growth with lots of layers/heights.

Along the edges and even in the water itself you’re going to want different sorts of rocks, from very flat rocks like flagstone, to rounder rocks/boulders that will add contrast to some of the plantings, to pea rock or small scale river rocks along the “beach” side. Again, the more variety you offer, the more varied will be your inhabitants.

About fish. Having a few comets or mosquito fish will increase the diversity in your pond garden because they’ll help keep the ecosystem balanced. The little problem is keeping them. What with racoon, herons, skunks and neighbourhood cats, their lives are pretty precarious. If you can keep them from becoming lunch, then by all means add them to the pond. And don’t feed them–they’re there to serve a function–eating debris and mosquito larvae not least. Oh, and being entertaining!

Now clearly, this is not a treatise on how to build a backyard pond. There are lots of details, from how to construct the waterfall to what kind of products to use to where to position your pump–none of which I can address here. My purpose is just to get you thinking about how you can increase the diversity in your property, even in your region. Your neighbours will inevitably like what you’re doing (creating your wildlife-friendly garden), and want to do likewise. And now you may have the beginning of a “habitat corridor”.


Would love to hear your comments. Go to Client Site Analysis page for design help.

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