There are two major projects that I really want to get stuck into this year. The first I have already mentioned – the polytunnel. The second is a wildlife pond and wooded area. The problem with this project, is that the area that I want to develop into a wildlife woodland and pond currently looks like this:
The path to the sloe bushes is covering over again and it’s a constant battle to make the area accessible. So we need to take matters in hand. Nettles are great for wildlife and I don’t want to wipe them out completely, but this is totally unmanageable… and year by year it’s getting bigger! So the plan is to come in and “gently” attack from the sides and gradually reduce the nettled area until the early winter. The nettle roots will need to be dug out (massive, horrible job) and it also gives any residents time to relocate if necessary.
My plan is to create an area that has plenty of places for frogs, toads, hedgehogs and other small mammals to live and hibernate, with a pond at the centre to attract even more wildlife in. At the side, as mentioned we already have sloe bushes growing (hello sloe gin!) and a couple of elderberries (great for birds).
There is an existing large woodpile in the corner that will remain and we also want to put in a series of silver and paper birch trees to lightly screen us from the houses that overlook The Smallest Smallholding… but the location of the trees and pond will be important as we don’t want to end up with a pond full of mouldy leaves in Autumn. I’ve been doing my research and am currently creating a mood board on Pinterest to help me landscape the area:
We want the pond to be a decent size, but as it’s primarily a wildlife pond it’ll need to be landscaped with shallow sides – safety first for the wildlife. We were umming and ahhing about whether to go for a pre-formed pond but I haven’t been able to find one that’s shallow enough at the sides. Hedgehogs and friends need shallow ‘shelves’ to safely drink from, so that they don’t fall into the deeper parts of the pond and can’t climb out.
So the only solution then is to dig out the pond ourselves and use a pond liner – they are durable, stretchy and using the pond liner means we can dictate the size and shape of the pond and make it work best for us and our needs. If we were on clay soil, it wouldn’t be so much of an issue, but our sandy soil means that moisture is never retained and drains away fast. I imagine we’ll be looking at around 3 x 3m area for our pond size (including some boggy bits around the sides), and possible a kidney shaped design. And the more we discuss it, the more we think we will have to save up and hire a mini digger for a day or two. So before we even thinking about pond planting, between us we have quite a few pennies to save before early winter and the ground gets too hard to work with.
So as you can imagine, I have a lot of work ahead of me this year. Have you ever dug out your own wildlife pond? Got any top tips for me?