Pond problems - page 1

Can you recommend a good pond book for beginners?

Consider buying "The Rock and Water Garden Expert book" by Dr. D.G. Hessayon. It costs about £6 from most garden centres. Lots of planting ideas, illustrations and advice.

Do I need to put oxygenating plants in baskets? Which do you recommend?

Many oxygenators are bought with small lead weights attached. They help the plants to sink, and then they just grow in the mud at the bottom of the pond.

Some oxygenators - such as Canadian pondweed are very effective, but can be invasive in large ponds. Smaller ponds where you can reach the middle are OK because excess growth is easily dealt with. It does not need planting in baskets. Most oxygenators do not flower but water violet and water buttercup are both flowering oxygenators. I have both in my pond, as well as the non flowering hornwort and water milfoil. Some of these were originally planted in baskets but they tend to somehow find their way out and float anyway!

For other pond planting recommendations go to this page.

How can I stop herons attacking the fish in my pond?

Netting your pond will prevent heron attacks, providing that you follow this simple rule:- You need to suspend the net between 15-30cm (6" to 1 foot) above the surface of the pond and keep it taut, otherwise the heron may try to land on the net and spear through it. It's effective, but unfortunately it's also obtrusive.

John Bradley from Surrey recommends the following technique - "I had two old pieces of garden trellis which I simply laid across the pond in January. I easily remove the trellis when its job is done, and don't have the fiddle of messing around with netting, which often sags too much without support."

Herons will not normally land directly in the pond but will land in the garden and stalk from there, as landing on the surface of the pond will scare their prey. Another method to consider is to suspend strong fishing line about 30 - 45cm (12-18") above the ground all around the pond perimeter. This should stop the heron getting at your fish. Canes and nylon fishing line might look less obtrusive than netting the pond. The fishing line needs to be about 15-30cm (6-12") away from the pond edges. This will stop the heron leaning over to catch your fish. Alaso consider checking out the Safapond website.

Plastic herons are another alternative, as they work on the principle that herons will not feed close to other herons. Some people claim that plastic herons actually attract other herons in early spring whilst they're searching for a mate, but it's another option for you to consider.

Growing tall marginal plants around the pond will limit the heron's access to the water and is probably the most attractive option.

Herons will also eat frogs as witnessed at our own pond. Herons are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. You could be liable to a £400 fine if you resort to drastic measures to eliminate the problem!

Why are the frogs squeezing the life out my goldfish?

I think it may all be down to the frogs' active desire to mate. Frogs are really quite placid and laid back in temperament so I don't think they have a real desire to harm your fish. In early March it's probably too early for the female frogs to be fully receptive. Frogs have very powerful suckers at the end of their front legs, and the male will grab tightly on to anything that moves, or try to mate with other male frogs if there are no female frogs available.

If frogspawn does appear in the pond, be sure the goldfish will get their own back, as they will probably eat it all before any has a chance to develop!

How can I stop midges round our pond?

Midges are the true scourge of a summer's evening. We've always been plagued with midges etc. even before the pond was built and I don't think things are really any worse now - in fact we now have pipistrelle bats that swoop over the garden, 'hoovering' up hundreds of midges at a time, which is a blessing!

Midges seem most prevalent on warm, humid days when there is little wind and are at their worst just before dusk.

Biting insects are said to be attracted by colour contrasts, so if you are pale skinned, wear pale colours, if dark skinned, wear dark colours. I've not tested that one, so can't vouch for its effectiveness, but anything is worth a try. Citronella oil and citronella candles claim to deter midges and other biting insects - (available from B&Q etc.) Lavender plants attract bees, but are said to repel midges. You could try lotions such as Jungle Formula Insect Repellent. One of our neighbours uses Tea Tree Oil which she claims is effective.

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