A pond in rehab

I’ve noticed with gardening that things have a three year cycle. In the first year you create something new and it all looks a bit bare.  In the second year the plants come into their own and your border or bed fills out nicely. By the third year things have reached bursting perfection, but after that everything goes downhill as the dominant species take over and it all gets a bit out of control. (There is probably a lesson here for me to adopt a more regular and scheduled approach to garden maintenance).

Today I tackled a job I have been putting off for a while – rescuing my overgrown pond from turning into a bog.  I only build the pond in 2018 so its not quite been three years but it certainly needed sorting.

Some of this years newtlets from the pond.

When we moved to this house there was a bathtub sized ornamental pond right in the centre of the lawn.  Because the lawn is not level, the pond had been dug very deeply to accommodate the slope and the edges lined with vertical slabs.  The effect was more quarry pit than a pond, and being slap bang in the centre of the lawn it rapidly filled up with footballs and discarded kids toys.   However, it did have a healthy frog and newt population so in 2018 I built a new wildlife pond in a better place and decanted all the wildlife over before filling the old one in. Here are some pics of the building process.

Only two and half years in, the pond has already passed ‘peak vegetation’.  The pond plants have fused into one solid mat of leaves and roots that filled the pond from edge to edge.  The main culprit seems to be the spearwort, which looks like a buttercup and is just as rampant with its spreading rhizomes.  The pond edges have been taken over by a small creeping euphorbia that looked lovely and feathery to start with but has now all just got a bit too much.  As you can see from the 2018 vs 2020 photos below, you can hardly tell that there is a pond there at all.

When I built it I was conscious of all the frogs and newts I was rehoming so went overboard buying and begging pond plants to create a nice lush habitat straight away.   I had a waterlily, flag irises, marsh marigolds, greater spearwort, brooklime, watercress, equisetum and various waterweeds – not surprising really that the whole lot went a bit mad in a small garden pond.

I spent this afternoon hauling out plants and hacking back mats of roots with an old bread knife.  I also pulled the euphorbia up and cleared a mass of creeping jenny, which finds its way everywhere in this garden.  I disturbed three frogs in the process, a multitude of water snails, pond skaters, a few leeches, lots of water slaters and a newtlet.  I need to properly i.d. the newts in breeding season, as I’m unsure whether these are palmate newts or the very similar looking common newts.

Now I have finished, everything looks absolutely awful – brown soupy water with a few battered looking plants and bare pond liner showing through.  Hopefully this is short-term pain in exchange for a happier pond in the long run, and I’m sure nature will bounce back fast.


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