Autumn & Winter in the wildlife pond

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Autumn in the wildlife pond

  • Use a pond net in early Autumn for the wildlife pond.
  • Cover the whole pond area so no leaves fall in but lift it off the ground so frogs and hedgehogs can not get trapped.
  • Cut down excess pond plant growth to reduce decaying plants rotting down to form a smelly compost heap on the pond base.

Create areas in the garden in Autumn for the pond wildlife to feel safe:

  • A loose heap of leaves is ideal for amphibians to over winter in.
  • Collect a heap of Autumn leaves into a wire mesh cage (wire fencing with 3-5cm grid) so leaves do not blow back into the pond water.
  • Provide log piles and homes for amphibians near the pond so many creatures have safe places to hide & overwinter.
  • The insects that hide here provide food for the overwintering amphibians.
  • Create a hibernaculum or Bug House from old pallets and collect a variety of materials to fill the different spaces.
  • Find fir cones, hollow bamboo canes, twigs, tiles, straw, pipes etc
  • Leave an area of uncut grass close to the pond.

Wildlife still in the pond in Autumn:

  • Remove surplus horizontally growing plants from the pond but check that you have not also removed wildlife creatures.
  • Dragonfly larvae spend several years under the water before emerging as adults and these larvae easily become removed from the water when you remove plant growth.
  • Late hatchings of newts can stay in the pond over winter and can be hard to see at 1/2″ long.
  • Some frogs and toads bury themselves at the bottom as they can breath through their skin.
  • Backswimmers or Greater Water Boatmen will also become trapped if you collect armfuls or netfuls of plants in a twisted mass.
  • Shake the plants you are removing over the pond to free the creatures.
  • Leaving the plants on the side of the pond is not sufficient if you have twisted the plants or blanketweed into a ball or tight clump.
  • Unravel, open out and shake over the water.
  • Leave oxygenating plants in the pond.

Your nearby moist or muddy bog plants are important in Autumn too:

How does wildlife survive in a frozen pond in Winter?

  • Amphibians like frogs, toads and newts tend to go on land for Winter
  • Make plenty of places for the wildlife to hide nearby - see above.
  • Build your pond deep enough so it will not freeze completely.
  • Some frogs may stay in the pond and go dormant.
  • Beetles, Water boatmen and dragonly larvae will dive to the bottom of the pond and stay dormant in deeper water.
  • The biggest danger to pond wildlife is getting trapped in the ice layer.
  • Birds need water to drink and bathe in - put a bowl of fresh water out for them or melt a hole using a metal saucepan.
  • Contrary to popular belief melting a hole in the ice will not help with the amount of oxygen diffusing into the water.
  • Do not break the ice as this can send shock waves out that can kill overwintering creatures.
  • Boiling water is not a good idea either. Using a kettle to heat the water will raise their heartbeat rate.
  • Sometimes trying to help nature does more harm than good.
  • Try leaving the pond to cope on its own - like a natural field pond.
  • By preparing the pond as carefully as possible in Autumn you will be doing your best to give all wildlife creatures the best conditions you can to overwinter successfully.

Maintain oxygen levels in the pond in Winter:

  • Do not thin out oxygenating plants before Winter as the better oxygenated the wildlife pond is in Winter the better it is for any wildlife that stays in the water.
  • Thin out oxygenating plants in Spring.
  • Clear any fallen snow from the ice with a broom so that submerged oxygenating plants can see more light and be able to photosynthesize and produce oxygen.
  • Leave a pump running over the winter as pushing the water back to the pond will help pump oxygen into the water.
  • Reduce the likelihood of animal  'Winterkill' by maintaining good oxygen levels in the pond.
  • Frogs can be affected by 'Winterkill' due to a lack of oxygen - see our Frogs page
  • Their bloated bodies will float on the surface after the frost and snow has gone. Remove them to prevent further water contamination.
  • To reduce the possibility of amphibian deaths remove dead leaves & rotting vegetation in Autumn that will use vital oxygen supplies as they decompose.