Improve your space for nature: providing water
All life needs water. At best a person can survive a week without water, if you’re exercising a lot or it’s very hot this can go down to a couple of days. All life is the same, everything needs water to survive. We’ve all had the dispiriting situation where we’ve forgotten to water a pot plant and it’s died. I’ve even managed to kill a cactus that way.
Water is therefore one of the most restricting elements when it comes to improving your outdoor space for wildlife. No water, no wildlife. Some animals and plants can get by on very little water, and small animals can find water in the nooks and crannies of plants or take it from the soil. If you live in a country that gets a lot of rain, then there will most likely be pools of water collected in buckets, upturned dustbin lids, or even holes in the ground. When it gets hotter and drier though, like late into the summer, we need to help out by topping up the water.
We already water our plants, so keeping your local animals hydrated can be just a matter of filling up an additional saucer or a few tubs as you splash about with your hose. If you have a balcony, or are looking after a patch of pavement, then a birdbath or tub of water is a great way to make sure there is available liquid. Remember that not all animals can fly, so do put water at ground level for things like hedgehogs. It doesn’t need to be deep, just make sure it’s kept topped up.
If you want to provide an ideal water source then consider putting in a pond. It is relatively easy to dig a pond, line it, and pop a few plants in for prettiness, food and cover.
Important Note: It is vital to choose native plants for your pond. There are a wide variety of “pretty” (but foreign) water plants that have turned into monsters when they got into our waterways and have exploded clogging up our rivers and killing off our native plants. Please be especially picky when checking where your water plants have come from and again, only buy native species.
There are hundred of how to videos on the internet for creating ponds so take a look around and pick the one you fancy. Over the years I have dug three wildlife ponds, each one bigger and more ambitious than the last. My latest is about the size and depth of a double bathtub. I may have hit my limit with that.
Ponds are the Rolls-Royce of water provision. They’re a permanent feature that provides year round, reliable water. You’ll see how important they are to neighbourhood wildlife if you set up a camera and see what visits. The activity around a pond at night is astonishing.
Ponds tend to do better in sun than in shade, that is, you will have a wider diversity of animals taking up residence and visiting if the pond is in a sunny situation. If, like me, you have a shady garden, don’t fret, the pond will still be a valuable addition, just a bit quieter.
Important Note: If you are going to put in a pond, make sure you include a way for animals to get out of the water should they fall in. It’s horrible to come home to find a dead animal floating in your pond. It can easily be prevented by having a stone or wooden ramp on one end of the pond that animals can crawl out of.
Pro tip: fish in ponds
Fish are voracious and will eat anything in your pond. If you want a proper wildlife pond filled with creepy crawlies, don’t put in any fish. If you want amphibians don’t put fish in either because the fish will eat the frog spawn. The only thing fish will do, is eat all the mosquito larvae in your pond. If you have a mosquito problem you could consider fish, just be aware you will be saying goodbye to anything else that was already living there. Fish also produce a lot of poo, which is nutrient rich. This can lead to an algae bloom and turn your pond green. If you don’t have fish, you are less likely to have to deal with an over enriched green pond.