When I first started wildscaping, providing adequate water for wildlife was the most intimidating aspect. I started very small — a saucer of water for a toad — and gradually worked my way up to larger bodies of water, always approaching projects with frugality in mind. I know many other homeowners are in the same boat, so to speak. We picture the ideal — a large backyard pond — but the initial costs can be overwhelming for those on a strict budget, not to mention the amount of digging that might be required. Birdbaths and saucers are the quick solution for a water resource, but eventually you might find that you want to take your water resources to the next level.
You’ll want a basin of some sort. This might be as simple as a lined hole. For our front pond, we dug a hole, inserted an $11 rectangular tub used for mixing cement, then lined it with leftover rubber-liner scraps from another pond (we really didn’t even need the tub, but we chose to place it there for stability). I often see basins, liners, and other pond materials available for free or cheap on Craigslist, so see what you can find and reuse.
We obtained some flagstone leftovers from another homeowner on Craigslist and arranged them around the pond edge to hold the liner in place. We also used them to create a simple waterfall, and we made a sort of backdrop with rocks obtained from a neighbor. We also made sure to create an escape route — a ladder of rocks — to help small creatures escape if by chance they fell into the pond. We spent the big bucks ($36) on a small 300gph pump, guided the tube to let water trickle over the waterfall, and voila – we had a recirculating moving-water pond.
Inside the pond, I placed a little submerged Hornwort for oxygenation and pond-waste recycling, a Horsetail Reed plant, and a small umbrella plant, all collected from our other pond. Even pond plants are available on Craigslist, and often local pond clubs are more than happy to share their plants for free.
The sound of trickling water immediately brought toads and frogs, who began a nightly chorus. Mud daubers collect wet soil from the plants. Butterflies collect minerals from the wet stone. Birds bathe in and drink from the waterfall. The tiny pond has become a favorite place for dragonflies and damselflies to lay their eggs in, and we have found numerous nymphs in the pond. The moving water also keeps mosquitoes from laying their eggs, a good thing because this pond is right by our front door.
In total we spent about $47 on our little pond, but with a little extra patience and Craigslist surfing, we might have brought that cost down to $0.
So don’t be intimidated by high-cost ponds — small ones are beneficial, too, and wildlife don’t mind that you are on budget!
Meredith O’Reilly gardens for wildlife in Austin, Texas, and writes about her garden adventures at Great Stems.
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