Animals, Megan, Ponds, Wildlife

Whether you have a pond, or you’re thinking of building a pond in your garden, you may be wondering about the wildlife ponds attract. Pond are rich habitats for all sorts of wildlife. To find out more about the pond wildlife you may spot in your garden, read on.

Pond Wildlife

Frogs

The common frog is one of the most recognisable types of pond wildlife you will find taking a dip in your pond. Long, striped legs and smooth, moist skin characterise the common frog, which are found throughout the UK in damp habitats. They are active throughout most of the year, only hibernating during the colder winter months. Frogs are carnivores and their diet consists of insects including flies, mosquitoes and dragonflies.

Pond Wildlife - Frogs

Toads

Toads are distinguishable from frogs by their skin, which is dry and warty in appearance. They travel by crawling rather than hopping and are larger than the common frog. Although especially found in wet locations, toads can also inhabit open countryside and other dry areas well away from standing water. Toads are nocturnal, so you are unlikely to see them until dusk, when they venture out often travelling great distances to hunt. A toad’s diet consists of insects and they have even been known to consume small mice.

Pond Wildlife - Toads

Newts

There are three species of newt that are native to the UK: the great crested newt, the palmate newt and the smooth newt.

The great crested newt is the largest, measuring up to 16 cm in length. Appearing almost black, they are actually dark grey-brown and covered in darker-coloured spots. You are most likely to spot them during the spring breeding season, as they spend the rest of the year in woodland and grassland. Great crested newts are the least widespread of newt species in the British Isles, and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Pond Wildlife - Newts

In contrast, the palmate newt is the smallest of UK newt species. Olive-brown in colour, they prefer shallow ponds and are active during the daylight hours. Fascinatingly, the females lay their eggs individually and wrap them in leaves of aquatic plants to protect them.

Very similar in appearance to the palmate newt, smooth newts are species you are most likely to spot in and around your garden pond as they are the most common newt in the British Isles.

Invertebrates

Harder to spot because of their size, garden ponds can be home to a wide variety of invertebrates including:

  • Dragonflies
  • Mayflies
  • Snails
  • Water fleas
  • Pond Skaters
  • Water beetles

Pond Wildlife - Dragonflies

All of these species are important parts of the ecosystem, playing roles as both prey and predators. Many feed on algae and aquatic plants and others, such as dragonflies, are carnivorous and feed on smaller insects.

Birds

Most smaller garden ponds are too small for wetland birds such as ducks, swan and geese. However, you may spot wild birds using your pond to bathe in or take a drink from. You can introduce sloping sides and logs to your pond to make it a safer environment for these birds. Adding pond plants and keeping up with general pond maintenance will also make sure there’s bountiful amounts of insects for insect-eating birds.

Wild Birds

One feathered visitor that may not be welcome to your pond is the heron. They mainly feed on fish, and often visit garden ponds looking for an easy meal. If you want to deter herons from your pond, you can take a look at our post on how to heron proof a pond.

Ponds are home to a wide variety of wildlife. If you are particularly fond of observing wildlife in your garden installing a pond is a no-brainer.

 

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Bird Baths, Charlie, Decoration, Water Features

Why Doesn’t My Water Feature Have a Plug?

Plug or no plug, always take care when installing the electrics for your water feature.

Many of our water features are supplied without a plug. While it might seem counterintuitive this is actually done to make installation easier. Many people prefer to install their water feature by threading the cable through an external wall and from there into the mains electricity supply, to do this the plug must be removed – so for simplicity’s sake we often opt to supply without a plug to make this process easier, especially in the case of larger water features. While it is still possible to plug your water feature in conventionally using an extension cord, even this, with an outside feature, has to involve a fully weather resistant plug casing or box for the connection for safety reasons. Primrose supply such boxes from Dribox which offer a good solution.

Please Note:  Primrose always recommends getting a qualified electrician to do any electrical work that may be needed when installing a water feature.

How Much Water Does a Water Feature Use? How Often Should I Top It Up?

Another running cost associated with water features is water usage, especially if you are on a metered supply. However – all our water features are either designed for pond use or self contained, which means none of them need to be connected to a mains water supply. While they will need topping up occasionally with fresh water, especially in hot weather when the water evaporates quickly, the water use associated with most of our water features is minimal.

Please Note: With all water features containing a pump it is important to keep the water feature topped up when running – this is because the pump must remain submerged when switched on. If the pump emerges from the water due to evaporation, this has the potential to cause damage to the pump and reduce its lifespan.

How Much Electricity Does a Water Feature Use? Can It Be Left On?

How much will running a water feature set you back?The amount of electricity a water feature uses is generally dependent on the pump type and size, specifically the wattage of the pump attached to the water feature. On most of our product pages for water features we have the wattage indicated under the specifications.

To calculate how much a water feature will cost to run per hour, simply enter your pence per kWh electricity rate, found on your electricity bill, and times it by the wattage on the product page. For example if we take one of our larger water features, the Stone Effect Regal Three Tier Fountain we can see it has has a Pump Wattage of 12W, so times that by the average UK electricity rate of roughly 13p per kWh and we get a cost of 0.16 pence per hour, or 3.7 pence a day if left running constantly. This translates to less than a fan or electric heater, so it doesn’t cost as much as you might think to have the sound of running water going constantly.

Of course, if you opt for a water feature from our solar range, you won’t have to worry about running costs at all!

What Steps Should I Take to Care for My Water Feature in Winter?

Please see this guide for tips on protecting your water feature against frost in winter.

When Will a Solar Water Feature Run and Not Run?

Solar water features are great in that they are entirely self contained, however due to their reliance on the sun’s rays, there are certain situation where they won’t run, for example on overcast days or at night. You can extend the period time a solar water feature will function by purchasing one with a battery back up, this can store up to three hours of pump life in the battery, however it is important to note that in order to charge the battery the features must be left in prolonged sunlight for a period of time, so even solar water features with a battery backup may not have much life in the winter months.

A stunning solar water feature – just best not left too long in the shade!

CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

See all of Charlie’s posts.

Current Issues, Guest Posts, How To, Solar Lighting, Sustainable Living, Water Features

solar power garden

Using solar energy for a more sustainable and efficient living is no longer far-fetched. More and more people are opting for this alternative source of energy that saves money, energy and the environment. Obviously, the cost-effectiveness of solar energy is one of the biggest perks for the majority of homeowners, and especially those that pay a great deal of attention to gardening. Providing plants with the necessary energy during the colder months, and even watering, requires a lot of energy, which can truly turn into a financial issue. The bigger your garden needs, the bigger the bill. In that respect, investing in solar panels may be the perfect way to keep your garden flourishing and cut expenses.

solar lights

Solar lights

One of the most popular ways to use solar energy to power your garden is to use it for the lighting. Essentially, solar panels can accumulate enough energy during the day so that you can light up and illuminate your garden at night. You can create different effects with low-energy LED lights and even light up your garden pond.

Power up the fountains

Speaking of ponds, you also have the possibility to power your fountains with solar energy. In general, solar energy doesn’t require complex wiring, which makes the installation of various water features quite simple and almost effortless. However, pumps may not work during the night (unless they have a battery back up) so keep that in mind if you want to keep fish in your pond.

solar fountain

Water your plants

This may as well be one of the best uses of solar energy when it comes to gardening. Plants need watering and depending on the size of your garden, this task can become quite tedious and time-consuming. If you opt for an irrigation system, you can save yourself a lot of time, but you can also save yourself from trouble and unnecessary expenses thanks to the solar irrigation system. Of course, you’ll need to keep track of the process for a couple of days until you adjust the settings perfectly, but after you’re all set with how the system works, you’ll be able to focus on other, more entertaining parts of gardening worry-free.

Solar-powered sheds

Do you want to take your gardening to a whole new level? If you want to turn your shed into a gardening heaven, you can still make the most out of solar panels. After all, the bigger your needs for electricity and the more you use solar power, the sooner you’ll notice the benefits and savings that come from using renewable energy. Of course, more serious steps require a more serious approach, so make sure to choose top quality. For instance, if you seek quality you can count on Skylight Energy, one of the leading providers of solar systems. It’s all about your needs, and these days, you can easily find someone to meet them.

Solar glazing

This is something that truly requires a bit more of initial investment, but if you plan to go big on your gardening and need a way to power the whole greenhouse, solar glazing is the perfect way to go about it. Essentially, this technology allows you to harvest the solar power straight from the windows. It’s still quite a new concept on the solar energy market, but the efficiency and functionality of it all is bound to make it one of the most popular trends in the world of renewable energy and gardening.

When it comes to installing solar panels, it’s important to do your research. The starting investment may put you off, but the long-term savings can be absolutely incredible. Of course, there are different options depending on what you need the energy for as well as the amount of energy your garden requires. However, combining solar power and gardening seems like a perfect fit so don’t hesitate to check your options and see whether you can benefit from such a change and help the environment along the way as well.

Robert ClaytonRobert Clayton is a blogger with a degree in engineering based in Sydney. His interests and passions include DIY, green technologies and home improvement. He also loves good food, music, dogs and enjoys spending time by the ocean. He’s a regular contributor for Smooth Decorator, An Australian Home improvement website.

Gary, How To, Ponds

For the life in your pond, autumn is a period of winding down after a busy summer. By the end of September, animal activity will have started to slow down and your plants will have completed their flowering and seeding. All this activity leaves a lot of detritus behind and now is the time to get started on the cleanup and get ready for the rest of the year.

Early – Late September: Protecting Your Pond

Leaves are a big problem for your pond as they start to fall from the trees and into the water. Too big a build up on the surface can cause oxygenation problems, and an overabundance of decomposing organic matter can throw off the ecological balance of the water (in extreme cases acidifying the water)  making it dangerous for the life in your pond. Prevention is better than cure in cases like this and your first line of defence should always be a net  or cover guard . In the case of a net, you will find that some leaves always get through, a few leaves won’t be a problem but be sure to keep on top of it by skimming your pond with a net or a surface skimmer.     

Late September – mid-October: Cleaning Your Pond

During spring and summer, your pond care regime should be focused on curbing the growth of microbes and algae in your pond, in Autumn,  the focus moves to the cleaning of silt and debris that build up in the water as leaves, seeds and insects fall into the water.

You should be cleaning your pond regularly as a matter of course, but a thorough clean around mid-October ( with a complete clean every 5 years)  is essential for an easy start to spring. Not cleaning out your pond will result in a springtime mess of silt and debris that result in a bog rather than a pond, you are also risking a blanket weed and algae problem once the days start getting longer.

An effective and thorough clean should follow these steps:

  • Start by preparing a holding tank for your fish in a shady area. Make sure you use some of the pond water in your tank (unless it is overly cloudy)
  • Drain the pond slowly: a pump is usually the easiest way of doing this, but use whatever method is best and easiest for you.
  • As the water level goes down, remove fish from the pond as they become visible with a dip net and get them quickly into the holding tank.
  • Do the same with any pond plants you come across  – use this opportunity to re-pot plants if you need to. marginal (water’s edge) plants will survive out of the pond as long as they are kept moist and shaded.
  • Skim and leaves and detritus from the pond with a net. Make sure to place decaying plant material on the side of the pond, so any smaller creatures can return to the water before you throw them away.    
  • Scoop up excess silt from the pond and dispose of some of it ( you can use this silt as a good fertilizer for your border plants) keep the rest in a safe place. You don’t have to be overly paranoid about getting everything because you will be returning some of the collected silt anyway to re-establish microorganisms.   
  • Clean the  liner with a scrubbing brush and water, bailing the dirty water out with a bucket (do not use soap)  
  • Return the saved silt and water to the pond. Refill the pond ( preferably with rainwater), positioning plants as you go
  • Carefully return fish and other creatures to the pond.

Prune plants of dead and excess leaves before returning to the water.

Mid-Late October: The Close Down – Preparing for winter

The later seasons of the year are the most shocking for pondlife, and you should use the tail end of autumn to make its life easier during winter. Giving your pond a headstart is pretty easy and you only need to take small actions to have a big effect.

The first changes you make should make are to plant life – start by moving your marginal plants to deeper waters to prevent them from freezing. Non-hardy plants like Water Hyacinths should ideally be removed from the water and kept in warm frost-free conditions until things start warming up.  

The diet of your fish should also change around this time of year, wheat-germ-based foods are ideal for the winter months as they are easier for your fish to digest in colder conditions. Moving to this type food makes your fish produce waste with a reduced ammonia content, meaning it won’t build up as quickly in the water whilst the ammonia eating microbes are dormant.

Your final task in preparing for winter is the closing down of your pond – this means closing down and shutting off all electrical pumps and UV clarifiers. This is an important step as pumps are likely to circulate cold water throughout the pond which can negatively affect the life inside it.  Closing down your pond is a simple process, the basic steps are to:

  • Disconnect the pump, filter and UV clarifier before water freezes
  • Store UV clarifier indoors for protection
  • Store filters indoors (if manufacturer’s directions suggest)
  • Purchase or have the pond de-icer ready for installation

Once done, you are all ready for winter and the unique challenges it presents. But until then there is plenty to be done in preparation. A pond can sometimes seem like a lot of work but come summer when the plants are in bloom and your fish are happily swimming in clear water you will be glad that you put the work in early.

Gary ClarkeGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.