the ideal decorative duck pond
in the IRDA Yearbook 2003
feature of our garden is the 25 diameter pond which we excavated
just after we moved in. Our house adjoins some old gravel-pits,
now a private lake with a wonderful range of wildlife and rare wildfowl.
The original purpose of the pond was to lure wildlife from the gravel
pits into the garden, a plan that met with rapid success; before
long dragonflies, grass snakes and kingfishers were taking a dip
freely within view of the back door.
And then came
the ducks! Although I didnt design the pond with them in mind,
I found I had created a good duck pond, one which seems to have
stood up to their attempts to destroy it fairly well. However a
number of neighbours have given up on duck keeping because they
wrecked the garden pond, so its worth considering some of
Dont try to cut corners on materials, buy the best. Engineering
a pond is a lot of hard work, and once completed you want it to
last. We used very heavy duty polythene land-fill liner, which claims
to be resistant to willow roots (so far so good!). Although butyl
is good, I would be afraid it wouldnt be robust enough to
cope with roots or erosion from claws over time.
We also protected
the edges with felted pond underlay before burying them under several
inches of riddled soil/gravel for added protection from erosion/UV
damage, and for a natural appearance.
Size and volume
Many people make the mistake of making their ponds too small and
shallow. Small ponds contain a relatively small volume of water,
which is prone to more fluctuations of temperature and biochemistry
than a larger one. This results in a rise in temperature/salts that
favour the growth of algae, blanketweed and possibly poisonous anaerobic
quantity of oxygenating plants (such as Elodea crispa, (Canadian
pondweed) will help stabilize the situation, but not as much as
allowing for a larger volume which will react to temperature changes
much slower. Ours is 4 at its deepest point. I wouldnt
even consider making one less than 10 or 12 across and
24" deep. If they pond is large enough you wont need
pumps, filters or bottles of algicide!
Firstly patience helps. If you allow the plants to get firmly established
before acquiring/letting the ducks loose, they will stand a much
better chance of survival. Most will form large mats within a season,
which as if like theyve been there a lifetime! Although most
waterplants are on the robust side those with floating leaves (waterlillies,
frogbit etc) just cant cope with a duck battering. Many pond
marginals are real thugs of the horticultural world, which makes
them very well matched to the efforts of ducks. Most burst into
vigorous growth within a short period in mid-May. Keep the birds
in their runs for a few days and theyll be faced with an virtually
indestructable jungle when they return.
include: Marsh Marigolds (Caltha sp.), Mares Tails (Equisetum
sp.), Shuttlecock ferns (Mattheucia struthiopteris),
Miscanthus grasses (M.sinensis and the giant M.floridulus),
Pickerel weed (Pontederia sp.), all Petasites sp.,
decorative rhubarb (Rheum palmatum)
and primulas are not quite as robust, but still good( esp. P.
florinidae and P. bulleyana, which will self-seed freely
possibly even aided by dabbling). Some of the Crocosmia family
are very good, esp. C. paniculata and Lucifer.Planting
the water edge with rapidly spreading species such as Creeping Jenny,
Pennyroyal, Red Peppermint (or watermint) and Mimulus. The
fibrous stems and roots will help stop dabbling bills from eroding
the soil around the banks. I plant directly into soil/gravel which
covers the liner. These tough plants soon form a dense mat of roots,
rhizomes which form a good defence to probing bills.
Rhubarb R. palmatum Red Herald with Matteuccia Struthiopteris
For more gardenin
information/inspiration visit Arborvitae,
my online gardening magazine site.
Although runners dont strictly need access to swimming water
(older birds barely take a dip at all), they do really enjoy it,
particularly youngsters (but only after 5 weeks, when they have
enough proper feathers to be water-proof) and breeding birds. It
also allows the latter to build up minerals from the invertebrates
and greenstuff they find. However, they only have supervised access
to the pond during the daytime, and still need secure runs with
regularly replaced fresh water.
Access and safety
Both ducks and wildlife enjoy easy access to the pond. Plan areas
on a couple of sides that have a very gentle slope for easy access,
both for the ducks and any hapless creature that tumbles in! These
may be covered with gravel to form attractive beaches,
or larger flagstones if the traffic is particularly heavy. Clear
access points will also stop ducks from flattening plants unnecessarily.
can also cause ducks problems. Parrots feather myriophyllum
has very long stems in which younger ducks can become entangled.
young and adult birds to mix in a pond; adult drakes will hold youngsters
under the water and drown them!
just because they have access to lots of water that young birds
wont suffer from sunstroke; I try to keep young birds away
from water during the hottest times, as they can exhaust themselves
in water very quickly.
youre prone to brazen, midday fox attacks (as we now are)
dont assume they will be safe on the water. Some birds instinctively
head for the duck house rather than the water, and I doubt theyd
be safe on the water anyway!
Wildlife and ducks dont always mix that well. Ducks will scoop
up almost every living thing smaller than themselves, including
dragonfly nymphs, tadpoles, and small frogs. My runners also dive
for goldfish, which can be very entertaining to watch, unless your
fish are valuable!