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What is the one thing that you can do to attract a greater variety of wildlife to your habitat, regardless of the size of your property. The answer is... add water.
What is the one thing that you can do to O ften when we want to attract more birds or animals, we think in terms of attract a greater variety of wildlife to your offering additional food habitat, regardless of the size sources. While this is certainly of your property. entertaining for us and appreciated by wildlife, there The answer is... add water. are frequently other food supplies in the area, such as berries and seeds, or insects and smaller mammals. Add Water and Generally speaking, a species will limit its population in a locality They Will Come according to the food supply that is available. In addition, most species can survive a certain amount of time without food when supplies are short. Water is a very For more nature habitat information different matter. Visit these helpful websites: We, like our household pets, A Plant's Home need water all year around, and A Bird's Home cannot survive for very long A Homesteader's Home without it. The same thing is true of all living things, including those in the wild. When development fills in or pollutes wetlands and ponds, or a drought dries up vernal pools and there are no rain puddles or drops of moisture on leaves, or a long stretch of very cold weather freezes the usual water sources, then the stress on wildlife is tremendous. By providing a clean, dependable supply of water you will attract and benefit a far broader spectrum of wildlife than with any type of food. This means that you will attract birds that don’t eat seed and won’t appear at your feeders, animals which are normally too shy to appear in the open, and creatures that you usually don’t think about © WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 1 A Plant's Home feeding but which are very beneficial, such as frogs and “Of all the garden developments you can undertake to butterflies. increase habitat diversity, ponds are probably the most effective and the most gratifying. If you have the space, a When trying to create an large pond offers a wide range of possibilities, but even a ecosystem in a limited area, tiny pool can make a noticeable difference." water is your most important resource. – The Natural Garden Book Peter Harper If you are trying to provide water for a wide variety of fountain, and even a few fish. Sunshine can also be a creatures, then you should Ideas would include large terra problem, since the water in present it in several different cotta pots, half barrels, stone containers can overheat easily, ways. The first consideration is troughs – you are only limited so if your climate is very hot, height. Water at ground level, at by your imagination. provide some shade, especially the height of a standard bird if you are including fish. bath, and still higher above the Containers which aren’t ground, perhaps in a tree, will waterproof can be lined to make Think about the wildlife that meet the needs of many them suitable. The depth of the you hope to attract, how much species. container will determine what space you have, and whether plants you can grow, and you want the water to merge Then you can think about size, whether or not it is useful for with your living space or be depth, still or moving water, amphibians or birds. somewhat removed. solid or earth-bottom, clear or containing plants and rocks, In colder climates these Many people begin with a and so on with endless containers may freeze in winter, standard bird bath on a possibilities. killing the plants and fish and pedestal. There are many styles possibly splitting the container on the market, or you can make Small Spaces itself. Sometimes a heater can your own. Whatever you choose If you don’t have much space, be added, or they can be should gradually slope to no many common containers can brought indoors until warmer more than 3 in. deep and should hold water, plus some plants, a weather returns. have a rough surface. Birds fear deep water because they can easily drown, and smooth surfaces allow Container Waterfall them to slip and lose control. If it’s at least 24 in. to 36 in. wide it will allow several birds to drink and bathe at the same time. Bird baths should be out in the open, about 15 ft. from shrubs or trees. This allows the birds to see approaching predators and gives them a safe place to which they can escape. Be Creative Once you have the basic bird bath installed, think about variations. By sinking a bird bath bowl – or a garbage can lid © WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 2 A Plant's Home or similar object – into the Birds in particular are fond sand, will attract butterflies. ground so that the lip extends of moving water, and the They not only need water to up a couple of inches (to keep sound alone is often enough drink, but also require dirt from washing in), you can to attract them. Some bird minerals from the wet dirt. create an instant drinking pool. baths provide fountains, and there are kits to create your Larger Bodies of Water Depending on its location, own fountains in other Now that the birds and this type of arrangement can containers. There are also insects are provided for, you also attract reptiles and special misting attachments can think about other amphibians, insects, and small that can be added. creatures which will appreciate mammals. If you are striving for larger and deeper sources of a completely natural look, If you are working with a drinking water. Ponds have consider a large stone with a limited budget, a hose draped been recognized for the depression that can hold water, over a tree branch and allowed beauty that they add to any or a log that has been partially to drip very, very slowly into a home landscape. hollowed out. container of water will provide the desired effect. As a result, there is a There are also bird baths wealth of information available which can hang from tree A similar solution would be to on building ponds of all sizes, branches or from brackets replace the hose with a bucket, as well as kits to make your attached to a deck railing or plastic jug, or other watertight job easier. wall. These are excellent for container with a tiny hole in the apartment dwellers, or anyone bottom, just large enough to let This publication will primarily who has limited yard space. the water drip out slowly . give you an overview of the Some even use suction cups to basics of building and attach to windows, allowing you A series of half-barrels or maintaining an informal pond to have a close-up view of the other containers at different designed to attract and serve action. heights, plus a recirculating wildlife. Any bookstore, library, pump, can create the illusion of large home improvement store Whatever water source you a waterfall as the liquid flows or nursery, or your Cooperative provide, it needs to be kept through spouts or other Extension Service can provide clean, filled, and free of any connectors from one level into you with seemingly endless chemicals. For winter use, there the next. books and information on are heated bird baths, or more elaborate construction separate heating elements Maintaining a packed area of techniques. that can be added to any small moist soil, or providing a water feature. shallow container of damp Most pond construction books will give guidelines about waterfalls, elevation and “All too often, gardeners, when confronted with wet areas, excavation, water tables, and attempt to alter the habitat by drainage or fill, with the liner and pump sizes. If that purpose of creating lawns or planting shrubs in an attempt type of pond is your goal, to shape a landscape into a scene resembling every other taking time to do the research developed landscape... now will mean far few problems Why not work within the parameters of the existing in the future. environment, making use of water to create a landscape of both stability and beauty. Use the assets of the site, such Your first step should be to as its natural moisture for a pool or a marshy habitat analyze your space and decide rather than fighting nature. The creation of a wet habitat where you want to locate your also offers unexpected pleasures in the form of the wild pond. To get the most species that may appear naturally or be brought in by enjoyment, it should be visible migrating birds." from the house and customary outdoor living area – Gardening with Native Wild Flowers Samuel Jones and Leonard Foote such as a deck or patio. © WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 3 A Plant's Home Situated closer to the If you take a photo of your shallower is certainly safer house, you will have the yard and get inexpensive paper than deeper. relaxing sound of the water, photocopies made, you can and a constant view of the draw many variations of your Try to visit a number of flowers, fish, insects, and ideas until you’re happy with different ponds in private yards, small creatures that are the results. public places or botanic gardens attracted to the pond. Larger to get a feel for the style and mammals are more cautious Simple or Elaborate. features that you’d like to and will be more likely to visit The style of your pond is a incorporate. a water source that is farther very personal choice, and it can from human activity, although be simple or elaborate, casual When it comes to ponds, it can certainly still be in easy or formal. Safety, however, is larger is generally better. view. critical. Some localities have Professionals say that they are specific zoning ordinances often called in to enlarge a Unless you are fortunate relating to water features, and pond, but never to make one enough to have a large “farm anything deeper than 2 ft. may smaller! Larger ponds tend to pond" which is spring-fed or be designated a “pool," so be stay cleaner and the water can rely on rainfall, your pond sure that you are meeting any temperature fluctuates less, needs to be in reach of a hose requirements such as fencing. placing less stress on the fish for filling and cleaning. and plants. Also check for any The surrounding area can get restrictions in your Although any water in your very moist and soggy when homeowner’s insurance policy. yard is better than none, if you rainfall is heavy, so providing Utility companies will usually have sufficient space try for a for paths or stepping stones come to your home at no pond that is at least 6 by 8 ft. will add to your enjoyment. charge to mark the location of underground pipes and wires. Lay out your design with a To appreciate the peace and piece of rope or hose so that serenity that your pond will If you have children in the you can easily experiment with bring to your yard, include family, or even in neighboring shape and dimension before you some kind of seating houses, water depth is an actually start digging. Unless arrangement where you can important factor. Although it you need a geometric shape for relax and contemplate the is possible to drown in just a a specific formal plan, use beauty around you. couple of inches of water, curving lines and avoid sharp Wildlife Pond Deepest part Shallow pebble Deep-water of the pond Bog plants – beach to allow aquatics should be at choose native small animals Add a bucketful grown in least 2 ft. so as species access to the of water from an baskets to protect pond Paved area water without established pond life in winter for birds drowning to introduce and people aquatic life Butyl liner Old logs and tall 2 in. layer of Bog garden grass to sand above and encourage below the liner Marginal plants insects and 2-3 in. layer of grown in baskets animals heavy soil on top Oxygenators and placed on a of the sand layer planted into the shelf soil layer – The Rock and Water Garden Expert Dr. D. G. Hessayon © WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 4 A Plant's Home corners – they won’t look Some ponders use sand bags At the same time, don’t natural and will have a tendency to form ledges. Many people choose the lowest site on your to collect debris. choose to add electrical property. If it is too low, you elements to their pond design, may have problems with Know in advance where you are such as pumps, filters, heaters, contamination from debris or going to put the dirt that you and lights. pollution from runoff. remove. Some suggestions are to use it for a berm around the The most common filters are Creating a berm, or raised pond, to form an island, or to either mechanical (pulling the mound, around the edges of create a new garden (perhaps a water through filter pads) or the pond will help prevent this. raised bed) elsewhere on the biological (passing the water The more level the site, the property. over cleansing bacteria living in easier it will be to correctly dig a contained space). the pond. Consider Climate Find out the anticipated The details about filters, as If there is any slope, be sure freezing depth for your area. In well as different types of that the low side faces away most climates, 2 ft. is pumps, are available in most from the house or other area sufficient for small fish and pond construction books. With where overflow could cause plants to survive the winter anything electrical, you need to problems. If your water supply (but plan on at least 1 ft. research local regulations, and is chlorinated or treated with deeper than the usually be sure that any lines are safely ammonia, you will have to thickest ice). buried and that everything is neutralize it since these grounded and intended for use chemicals can be toxic to Adequate depth is also outdoors and around water. wildlife. important in warm climates, since it is dangerous for fish Although you can choose a Treatments are available and plants if the water gets shady site, remember that you through companies which sell too hot. will have to remove falling fish or water plants. Before leaves in the autumn so that treating, you will need to know Ledges at various depths they aren’t sinking and the water capacity of the pond, (starting at about 10 in. below decomposing in the water or which can be determined by the surface for marginal plants clogging a filter system. Tree multiplying the length x width x in pots) are recommended for roots can also puncture liners. depth x 7.5 gallons/cubic ft. different species of plants, with the shallowest one at least 1 ft. On the other hand, if your Bottoms Up wide. pond is very shallow, shade will The bottom of some ponds reduce evaporation and consists of packed earth, while overheating of the water. If you others depend on cement, a want to grow a variety of rigid plastic form, or some kind Pond Ledge flowering plants in and around of flexible liner. If you have clay the water, you will need to be soil, digging a depression and sure that the site receives at packing down the earth may be Shelf for marginal plants least five hours of sun per day. all that you need to do. Unless you are designing a If you have soil that drains formal pond to be incorporated rapidly, or you want to be sure into a specific landscape style, that the soil stays really wet choose a site where the pond all the time in order to will look natural. support water-loving plants, then you will need to add a You wouldn’t expect to see a liner. Other than an earth body of water sitting on the top bottom, a flexible liner is the slope of a hill in nature, and it most versatile since it will fit – The Rock and Water Garden Expert won’t look right in your yard any shape that you choose to Dr. D. G. Hessayon either. dig. © WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 5 A Plant's Home Polyethylene liners are lowest Pond Maintenance If you have an unexpected in cost but don’t last very long Clean out debris regularly, freeze, you can repeatedly (perhaps up to 10 years); PVC because it can rob the pond of place a hot pot on the ice until liners are mid-range in price oxygen as it decomposes. Some it melts a hole (keeping control but are stronger and may be owners use netting to catch of it so that it doesn’t sink!). reinforced with netting; and falling leaves in autumn before Don’t hammer on the ice to Butyl sheeting is the most they enter the water. make an opening because the expensive but also the vibrations could kill the fish. strongest, tolerating both Destructive insects should sunlight and frost. It can be be washed off the plants or Water Color expected to last 20-50 years. the affected leaves should be The color of the water is removed. Don’t use any significant. If your pond is Beware of using swimming pesticides. healthy, the water should pool liners or other materials actually be amber rather than not designed for ponds, In winter, discard tropical clear, indicating the presence because often they have been plants and move hardy ones to of beneficial organisms. Green treated with chemicals which a depth of 18 in. or more. Stop water indicates the growth of can be toxic to wildlife and feeding any fish when the algae and is normal during the plants. Look for products temperature no longer goes first few weeks after filling the marked “fish safe." above 50 degrees. They have no pond. digestive systems and rely on When using a flexible liner, the bacteria that only grows in The fish and submerged pad the ground first with a warmer weather. plants will help the pond come thick layer of newspaper and/ into balance. Brown water is or sand to protect the plastic The fish will instinctively due to particles of sediment from being punctured by small move to the deepest part of stirred up by the fish, or by stones. the pond. When temperatures strongly moving water. This go below freezing, it is can be reduced by removing To determine the size of liner necessary to let oxygen into some of the debris which has needed, measure the length the water and also to let any settled to the bottom. and width of the pond, adding gasses caused by leaf an additional foot to each for decomposition escape, or else Black water means that tree overlap on the top edge, then the fish will suffocate. leaves are decaying in the multiply the maximum depth water, and they need to be times two and add it to the A heater or deicer can be removed since they can release first figures. used to keep a small portion of toxic gases. water unfrozen, or you can drill Let the water settle before 1/2 in. holes along the length of Decaying water lily leaves can trimming away any excess, but a piece of 4 in. PVC pipe and leave a film of oil on the leave enough material to fold sink it at the deep end with 4 in. surface which can be removed some over the sand or rocks of the pipe extending above the by placing a sheet of that are holding the edges in water surface. newspaper on top of the water place as you fill the pond. Hide and then pulling it off. If the the remaining visible edge water has a white, cloudy material with additional rocks. appearance, look for and “...a small informal wildlife remove dead fish or other Leaving some excess will let pond can be accommodated animals which may have you make adjustments in the in most gardens, as it is the drowned. future, if necessary. Using natural population rather stones and plants around the than the pond itself which Types of Plants edges, putting some smooth is the main attraction." There are several kinds of gravel in the water, and using a pond vegetation. The most dark-colored liner will all serve – The Rock and Water Garden Expert common are submerged plants, to make the pond look more Dr. D.G. Hessayon marginal plants, water lilies, natural. and floaters. As a general rule, © WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 6 A Plant's Home plants should cover about 60% especially if it has a high clay of the water’s surface to keep content. Small gravel on the NATIVE PLANTS SUITABLE FOR algae growth under control. top will hold the soil in place. PONDS, BOGS, OR WETLANDS Many aquatic plants, provided Water lilies prefer quiet Floating Rooted Aquatics with a constant supply of water water, so they are not s Floating Heart (Nymphoides aquatica) and nutrients, can be very compatible with fountains. s American Lotus vigorous, and are often grown in Tropical species cannot survive (Nelumbo lutea) submerged perforated winter temperatures, but hardy s Water Lily containers to keep them within varieties will live if the foliage is (Nymphaea odorata) reasonable bounds. cut back and the pot placed in s Spatterdock (Nuphar advena) the deepest part of the pond. Free-floating Aquatics As a rule, use good garden s Mosquito Fern soil without organic matter They are called “rooted (Azolla caroliniana) and low in nutrients, since floating aquatics" because s Water Spangles (Salvinia minima) these things will encourage they are planted in soil but Large Duckweed s algae growth. their stems stretch to the (Spirodela polyrhiza) water’s surface. s Inflated Bladderwort The plant species which grow (Utricularia inflata) underwater are called Floating plants don’t anchor Submerged Oxygenators oxygenators and they keep the in pots or dirt, but rather let Fanwort s pond clean by removing excess their roots dangle in the water. (Cabomba caroliniana) nutrients, thus starving the Like water lilies, their leaves cut s Eel Grass algae. They also provide hiding back the sunlight, and thus the (Vallisneria americana) places for fish and other algae, and their roots consume s Waterweed (Elodea canadensis) underwater creatures. excess nutrients. s Common Water Nymph (Najas guadalupensis) Generally speaking, to keep Many of these are very s Hornwort the water healthy, plan on vigorous growers and can take (Ceratophyllum demersum) planting 12 cuttings of over a pond, so be prepared to Marginal Plants submerged plants for each sq. scoop some out as necessary. s Duck Potato ft. of pond surface. (Sagittaria latifolia) The removed plants add good s Arrow Arum These are planted directly nutrients to a compost pile, (Peltandra virginica) s Three Way Sedge into the soil at the bottom of and the water is great fertilizer (Dulichium arundinaceum) the pond. A layer of pea gravel for flower beds if you ever have s Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) will help to keep fish from to drain your pond for s Water Horsetail disturbing them. If possible, let maintenance. (Equisetum fluviatile) plants become established s Wild Rice (Zizania aquatica) s Swamp Lily before introducing fish. Sometimes aquatic (Crinum americanum) vegetation can get out of s Pickerelweed Marginal plants are the ones control and threaten the (Pontederia cordata) that you will place on the ledge health of the pond. Often this of the pond, or plant in your bog is due to an excess of Wetland Plants s Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) garden. While they enjoy nutrients, perhaps the result s Lizard’s Tail constant moisture on their of runoff from lawn fertilizers (Saururus cernuus) roots, they don’t want to be or farm animal waste s Woolgrass (Scirpus cyperinus) deep in the water. products. s Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) s New York Ironweed If you pot them yourself, Lowering the water level (Vernonia noveboracensis) don’t use peat moss or allows you to pull the weeds by s Water Willow commercial “soil-less" mixes hand. Any biological or (Decodon verticillatus) because those substances will herbicidal controls should only s Wild Red Mallow (Hibiscus coccineus) float and pollute the water. be used as a last resort and s Swamp Pink (Helonias bullata) Use regular garden soil, with careful supervision. © WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 7 A Plant's Home Never use any chemicals in Add a liner if your soil If you live in an area with cold streams or ponds that connect doesn’t naturally retain winters, mulch bog plants well. to or overflow into estuaries. moisture, but this time poke The additional moisture in the some small holes in the liner soil can cause severe “frost Create a Bog and fill the depression with a heaves" which may kill your While they don’t get the mixture of sand, humus, some perennials if they aren’t amount of public attention that soil and water. protected. ponds do, many naturalists prefer to create bogs in their The formula recommended by If you already have wet areas habitat. Ken Druse in The Natural on your property, enhance Garden “three parts acidic is them rather than try to These provide water and humus, such as peat moss or overcome them. Drainage support a range of wildlife and oak leaves, to two parts sand, ditches can be deepened and plants, yet don’t have the to one part loam – good lined (if necessary) and then safety concerns of electricity or topsoil ." planted to become lovely deep water, and don’t require stream features. the more intensive commitment Placing a soaker hose (one of time and money for with tiny perforations along Low-lying ground that never construction. its length) at the bottom of seems to dry out can become the bog, with one end sealed a valuable bog or wetland They can also do well in partial and the connecting end area. If you can locate the shade, and don’t have as many sticking out enough to be source of the water – possibly problems with tree roots. As accessible, will let you add an underground spring – then before, start with a depression water as needed without you can center a pond there, about 18 in. deep. disturbing the surface. and surround it with a bog garden. If the bog area is large Some people also choose to enough, create some mounds create bog areas around a The constant moisture will to accommodate acid-loving more traditional pond, thus allow you to plant flowers that shrubs like blueberries and accommodating any overflow wouldn’t grow well under normal pussy willows which appreciate from heavy rain, while at the garden conditions. Some constant moisture but don’t same time creating another thoughtful landscaping can like to live in standing water. distinct habitat environment. turn what seemed like a negative feature into the focal point of your yard. Bog Garden STEP 6: COMPLETE THE GARDEN Attracting Wildlife Rake 2 oz. Growmore or balanced organic fertilizer Toads and frogs will be happy per sq. yd. into surface if the sides of your pond slope STEP 4: ADD COMPOST LAYER gently and are covered with Compost mix of 3 parts topsoil, 3 parts peat and pebbles. Avoid purchasing 1 part lime-free grit STEP 5: ADD STONE EDGING tadpoles, since they usually Place pebbles along either side of the bog end up being bullfrogs which will STEP 1: LAY THE LINER garden to hide liner displace smaller, native frogs. Use butyl sheeting – place under the flexible or rigid pond liner and on top of 2 in. sand layer Many amphibians appreciate protection in the form of bushes, lily leaves, rock piles, or an upside-down flowerpot with STEP 3: a broken-out “doorway." STEP 2: ADD GRIT LAYER MAKE DRAINAGE HOLES Place 2 in. layer of lime-free grit or gravel at the base One 1/2 in. hole every 3 ft. is necessary Branches which overhang the pond allow tree frogs to lay – The Rock and Water Garden Expert eggs and have them drop right Dr. D. G. Hessayon into the water. © WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 8 A Plant's Home For winter cover you can How About Fish. Sticklebacks are more create a hibernacula by digging Many pond owners choose to appropriate if you want to a pit (3 ft. wide by 6 ft. long add fish, but you need to maintain a native ecosystem. and up to 18 in. deep is ideal) consider some of their and filling it with loosely drawbacks as well as their Sometimes construction packed sticks and rocks. Leave beauty. While they eat techniques and materials can lots of spaces and layer with mosquito larvae, they also eat seem overwhelming to nature leaves and wood chips. Add a the eggs of amphibians and lovers who just want to provide layer of soil and mulch and top insects. water for the local fauna. with straw or wood chips. They will provide easy meals To illustrate how feasible a Salamanders and newts will for herons and raccoons, an simpler approach is, we have look for daytime hiding places important consideration if you only to look at the experience such as dead logs. Dragonflies have spent a lot of money on of one WindStar Master will come if the water is kept the fish. Don’t overstock your Wildlife Habitat Naturalist. He clean, and bees will be attracted pond or it will be out of balance fully intended to build an by the flowering plants. Like the ecologically. elaborate pond system, frogs, many insects which are complete with waterfall, in his attracted to water Wait several weeks to let the suburban yard, but he had to environments, including water pond settle before introducing stop temporarily after only beetles and damsel flies, will any fish, and plan on only one digging a shallow depression in make your life more pleasant by inch of fish per five gallons or the ground. eating many mosquito larvae. per sq. ft. of water surface unless you are using pumps Before long deer, rabbits, The toads are especially and filters. frogs, birds, and a variety of helpful in cutting down on other creatures were populations of harmful garden Overfeeding will also pollute appearing regularly to take pests. the water. Don’t give them more advantage of the rain water than they can consume in five that collected there! Pond Birds will also come to the to ten minutes. Once the pond aesthetics are geared to pond, and if you have flocks of is stabilized and balanced with people; wildlife just needs the 30 or more you should plants, there shouldn’t be much water. consider a pond at least 8 by need to feed the fish at all. 15 ft., so that it doesn’t become overly contaminated by Feeder goldfish are hardy and This article was written by their droppings. inexpensive, compared to koi Maryland Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist which cost a great deal, need Cathy Gilleland. As discussed previously, be water at least 4 ft. deep, and sure that part of the pond is require a lot of care and For more information or for the very shallow and has rocks just attention. Species such as name of a Master Wildlife below the surface for perching if Gambusia (mosquito fish), Habitat Naturalist in your area, you want to attract birds. Rosy Minnows, or Three-spined please contact: WindStar Wildlife Institute RESOURCES E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org s The Complete Pond Builder, Helen Nash (recommended by http://www.windstar.org many pond owners) s How to Attract Birds, Ortho Books (creative birdbath ideas) WindStar Wildlife Institute is a s Garden Ponds, David Squire national, non-profit, s Water Gardening, Ken Druse conservation organization whose mission is to help individuals s The Rock and Water Garden Expert, Dr. D. G. Hessayon and families establish or s Gardening with Native Wild Flowers, Samuel Jones and improve the wildlife habitat on Leonard Foote (good list of native aquatic plants) their properties. © WindStar Wildlife Institute Page 9 A Plant's Home
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