Some questions, and some answers

From Matthew (in the comments 25 March):

When I reshaped the edge contours to make some shallow areas about 4 cupfuls of soil spilt into the pond (then my son threw in a few handfuls for good measure). With your emphasis on clean water, I’m feeling all angsty that I should siphon out the pond and let the sky refill it again when it’s clean?

J – I think 4 cupfulls of soil won’t hurt. In my pond I’m aiming to minimise nutrient inputs (and, of course, other pollutants). If you keep down the major sources small additions like this probably won’t hurt. So I don’t think you need to refill from the sky. 

The pond is 50cm at deepest x 1.5m x 1m. I could hope the soil is not too nitratey and a good substrate for plants?

J – It could be a plant substrate but anyway I don’t think this small amount of soil will hurt. 

At least I haven’t put 5cm of seived soil on the pond liner as recommended elsewhere.

J – You had a lucky escape! And people wonder why their ponds are full of algae!

Your bucket of stonewort looks lovely and clean. I’m interested you’ve put stonewort in a bucket but nothing into your pond!

J – We wanted to see whether plants would come naturally to a small garden pond – we know they do out in the countryside but we didn’t know what would happen in the garden. That’s why we didn’t add anything, and it’s also why I was so exited by my colonising bulrush because it proved that it was possible for wild plants to colonise my pond.

The stoneworts in the buckets, on the other hand, are a little experiment in keeping the water clear. It would be WONDERFUL if people could have garden ponds with wild stonewort populations. I think its entirely feasible – and something we’re thinking about getting people to help with.

Also, in Nick Baker’s ‘New Amateur Naturalist’ he says for breeding, toads are fussier than frogs, requiring deep water…..they breed in fewer ponds (one toad pond to every five used by frogs).

J – It’s true  – common toads are less widespread than frogs, and they certainly do occur in large deep ponds – but they also are found in quite small, garden-pond sized, ponds too. So whether they actually need deep water is a bit more open to question.

Toads do seem to like big fishy ponds, and their tadpoles can survive with fish because the tadpoles taste horrible. But whether toads need fish, or the tadpoles can’t compete with common frog tadpoles (which are eaten by fish) no-one really know.

When we asked people what lived in their garden ponds – a pilot survey preparing for our forthcoming national garden pond survey – we found a surprisingly high proportion of people said they had toads in their garden ponds (though the question was put in such a way that they might just have seen a toad in their pond, rather than knowing there were tadpoles).  

He doesn’t say how deep, but could that be a good reason to recommend a pond of say 70cm depth rather than to stop it freezing solid? 

J – It could be a good reason, although without some better infromation about garden ponds and the habitat preferences of toads we’d still be guessing a bit. But when we launch our garden pond survey later in the spring this could be one of the things we get people to tell us about.

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