Of all the habitat features that can attract wildlife to your yard, a garden pond can be one of the most rewarding. Start planning now for this fun spring project.
“Besides drinking, animals use water for feeding, bathing, regulating body heat, resting and cover,” says Nancy Allen, a faculty member in the Oregon State University fisheries and wildlife department. “In the Pacific Northwest, some of the species most attracted to ponds are raccoons, deer,
dragonflies, songbirds and waterfowl.”
The more natural features a pond has, the more attractive it is to wildlife. Ponds can be any shape or size. They can be still or have running water or fountains.
Many species are attracted to moving water, which also discourages mosquitoes.Adding fish to the pond helps control mosquitoes as well, but this can be a problem if the pond overflows. Nancy suggests placing bird and bat boxes near the pond instead.
The first step to building a pond is to check with local zoning or planning offices to be sure the pond is safe and legal. Check with your insurance company for safety requirements.
Nancy suggest the pond should fit in with the natural landscape of the property and have a curved, irregular shape. For smaller yards, a pond that is 3 feet by 5 feet is a good size. A larger yard could hold a pond 5 feet by 8 feet or larger.
The pond should be at least 20 inches deep at the deepest part. Shallow water around the edge or at one end should include plant shelves as habitat for wildlife. One side of your pond should have a gradual slope. A good slope is a drop of 6 inches for every 3 horizontal feet.
Keep your pond above the water table to prevent damage to your liner. To check the high water line, dig a small hole the same depth as your proposed pond, and observe it for 24 hours. If the hole fills with water on a day with no rain, your water table is high in this spot. Be sure your pond depth is above this level.
Plan where your pond will drain when it overflows from rain or when you clean it. Channel water to your yard or down a hill, or create a small wetland to collect the excess water.
When considering the pond’s location, remember wildlife need a “travel corridor” of tall grass to move safely to your pond.
Most ponds, unless they are shallow, should get at least five to six hours of sunlight per day. This allows enough sunlight for plants to grow but enough shade to prevent excess growth of algae.
Consider all underground utilities, tree roots and other potential obstacles.
Don’t place your pond directly under trees or over-hanging shrubs. Leaves can make the water too acidic for aquatic life and, when decomposing, deplete oxygen and cause odors.
If you need to fill and change the water, place your pond near a water supply. If you plan to have running water and/or a pump and filter, you need to place your pond close to a supply of electricity.
The Oregon State University publication “Create a Garden Pond for Wildlife” describes how to build a simple pond and keep it safe and healthy. Visit https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/ec1548.