Build a pond and wildlife will come to dip and dine

2022-11-30 15:38:48 By : Ms. Shero Wang

The four pillars of attracting wildlife to your landscape are food, water, shelter, and space to raise young. A wildlife pond can check all these boxes for a variety of species. Last fall we decided to build one for the urban wildlife that visit the UF/IFAS Extension Leon County Demonstration Garden.

Digging out the pond was the hardest part. The site we chose starts to slowly slope downhill, so we had to make sure we had a well-built berm in place on the lower end to hold the water. Otherwise, as the water rises, a creek could form, and we could lose all our hard work to erosion. Shaping out the bottom of the pond was an endeavor, as we had to spend a few days observing how water we added settled. Pvc Roof Membrane

Build a pond and wildlife will come to dip and dine

We also added a variety of shallow depths around the pond’s edges, as we hoped this would attract more diverse wildlife. The pond slopes to a maximum depth of three feet and aquatic plants will be able to grow in the shallow pockets we created along the sides. The deep parts of the pond will be favorites of eventual native fish and tadpoles that will hopefully start spawning soon.

We used a 45 mil EPDM (a synthetic rubber) pond liner that we ordered from an online pond retailer and we used an online calculator to best estimate the size we needed. This liner was the most expensive part of the project, so we have gone to great lengths to ensure it lasts for many years. Firstly, we lined the hole with old carpeting that was destined for the landfill to buffer the liner from the soil.

This is especially necessary if you have rocky soil. The plants will be kept in pots to prevent their roots from piercing the liner. We never walked on the liner wearing shoes (particularly in the set-up stages) and we were careful not to allow too much sediment to build up that could damage the liner. Since our pond is in full sun, we purchased a liner with UV resistant EPDM material. It is rated to last 20 years if we treat it well.

Pumps and waterfalls can be added to wildlife ponds to provide oxygenation. The site we chose at the Extension Office is not close enough to a power source to include an electric pump. We had the choice to make a smaller pond with a pump closer to the building or a larger pond without one.

After some research, we decided to go with the latter so that we might provide more wildlife with hydration. After four months of growth, the plants seem to be doing a good job of oxygenating the water. If we decide we do need a pump, we may look for one that is solar powered.

In the dry season and in the heat of summer, the water level may dip very low. Therefore, we are considering adding bubblers from our garden’s irrigation line into the pond. The irrigation system is tied to a rain gauge sensor so it will not run if it has rained recently.

Currently, we have some bubblers running into small puddling stations and bird baths in other parts of the garden, so there is no reason why it shouldn’t work on a larger scale.

If we catch a heavy summer rainstorm, we have a built-in overflow that leads to many water loving plants downhill. It snakes through irises and finally ends up at a rain garden with a showy hibiscus at its center point. This illustrates the difference between a rain garden and a pond for our visitors. A rain garden is a landscape feature that slows down water so it can gradually soak into the soil.

You often see them utilized down slope from impermeable surfaces like concrete or asphalt where the water rushes off. The biggest difference between a rain garden and a pond is that a rain garden is not supposed to stay wet. It dries out in between rain events. A pond on the other hand, collects water and has plants that specifically do not want to dry out.

Since some exotic aquatic plants have the propensity to become invasive, we decided it would be safer to stick with all native plants in the water. Some of the native plants we have installed are blue flag iris (Iris virginica), a floating plant called coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), white-topped pitcher plant (Sarracenia leucophylla), pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), and lanceleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia).

We picked up several of these plants at local plant nurseries but also transplanted some from around the Demonstration Garden. Blue flag iris, for example, likes wet feet but can handle some periods of dryness, so it is planted both in the pond and at the edge of the rain garden overflow.

We may still have to contend with invasive exotic plants in the pond, as wading birds could stop by for a visit and bring invasive exotic seeds or plant segments on their legs. We’re hoping they will bring fish or frog eggs on their legs instead, but we are prepared for either circumstance.

In the few months since we have built the pond, we have seen raccoons, songbirds, and many invertebrates visiting the pond. In fact, honeybees were among the first visitors, as the Apalachee Beekeepers Association maintains two hives nearby on the property.

For the health and safety of insects, we have made a pebble beach in the shallow end of the pond. This allows them to land on the rocks and puddle, getting just enough water while not drowning.

While we await an order of native eastern mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki, we have been controlling the mosquito larvae population in the pond with Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis), an organic bacterium treatment that only affects mosquito and black fly larvae.

Once the mosquitofish population is established, they will happily hunt down any mosquito larvae for us. An added benefit is that birds and other predators will be able to hunt the mosquitofish as well.

Creating a pond is a fun way to engage with wildlife.

We have installed a wildlife camera to spot visitors and there is nothing like clicking through the footage to see what kind of critter you attracted with your pond. If you make a pond with wildlife in mind and use native species of fish and plants, you won’t mind if a heron gathers a snack every now and then from your backyard.

In fact, some wildlife visitors might be just what we all need in this time of social distancing.

Rachel Mathes is the Horticulture Program Assistant with UF/IFAS Extension Leon County, an Equal Opportunity Institution. For gardening questions, email the extension office at

Build a pond and wildlife will come to dip and dine

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