AS winter creeps in, ponds become a magnet for fallen leaves and if they are allowed to sink to the bottom in great quantity, they will make the water unpleasant for fish, plants and wildlife.
· Avoid the problem by spreading plastic netting right across the surface and anchor it with bricks or stones around the edge. Every week or two, remove it and dispose of the leaves into a leaf mould bin or black polythene sacks where they can be left to rot down for a year and then used as soil enrichment.
· Many of the plants around the edge – the marginal aquatics – will also be looking tatty now. Have a go at them with shears or secateurs, cutting the faded leaves and stems back to ground level and add what you remove to the compost heap. Soon the scene will begin to improve and once all the leaves are down, the netting can be removed so that you can enjoy the reflection of the sky in the water.
· Fish become much more sluggish in winter, spending their time on the bottom of the pool, so there is absolutely no point in feeding them. Ease off over the next couple of weeks – they can happily live off their “hump” during the winter.
· If you can reach the faded leaves of water lilies, remove them, but if you can’t don’t worry, they will rot down to almost nothing and do not pose nearly as much of a problem as the fallen leaves of deciduous trees.
· Make sure that the edges of straight-sided ponds are equipped with some means of allowing birds to reach the water and drink. A plank of wood will make a suitable ramp, but it may need weighting down to prevent it from floating.
· Not all waterside plants will have faded, so don’t be too keen to chop them down. Even when some of them do go brown they will offer welcome cover and in the case of seed heads, food for birds and shelter for other forms of wildlife.
It may seem that in winter very little goes on around your pond, but it still provides a valuable resource for wildlife and within its depths, all kinds of creatures will be overwintering and just waiting for that moment in spring when the air warms up and the whole cycle begins again.
You don’t have a pond? Well, this is the perfect time to plan one for building early next year!