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Create a Wildlife Pond

Wildlife ponds are incredibly easy to make and add pleasure to your Bulgarian home. Current trends in gardening mean that many property owners are building gardens with no thought to local nature. Natural wildlife ponds are disappearing and you can play an important part in reversing this, providing a haven for wetland wildlife.

Such a pond can be made at the cost of just a few leva and a little patience. It will be far more interesting than any "ornamental" pond, brimming with surface and underwater life.

Take a look around your garden and find a part which gets both sun and shade. Even better, an area where there is dappled light from trees. A wildlife pond of a decent size will be 2.5 m. x 1.5m. Whatever the size you choose, you will need at least twice the length and twice the width of pond liner.

Try and choose an area as level as possible. When digging out the pond area, you should have part of the pond deeper than 90 cm. to ensure there is unfrozen water during winter time for pond life to survive. About two thirds of the edges should be shallow and sloped to allow birds and animals to get in and out. Remove any sharp stones around the 'banks' and the bottom so that they will not harm the pond liner. Next, line the pond with a couple of layers of old newspapers, followed by a polythene sheet which should extend well over the edges of the pond. It is now ready for the pond liner. Tip: Leave the pond liner out in the sun for half an hour as this will make it more flexible and easier to lay. Lay the liner across the pond so that it is equally spread out. If the pond is large, you'll probably need family or friends to help out.

Once the liner is in, fill slowly with water to the point where it just begins to spill over the edge. The liner will mould itself to the countours of the pond area you have dug out. Cut off any excess liner but leave 12 cm. To sort out the edges you need to lift up the liner and make a cut all round the 'banks' of the pond around 4 cm. below the water line. Tuck the liner into the slit you make. Alternatively, you can use some of the topsoil you dug out to cover the liner edges or stones. At this point you need to leave the pond to settle for a few days.

A trip to a local natural woodland wildlife pond (not a garden pond) will allow you to fill up some plastic bottles with the pond water. Do not get any fish into the bottles as they will contaminate your wildlife pond. These old natural ponds are full of nutrients and organisms which make the magic ingredient to bring your own pond to life.

About half of the edge around the pond should be left for long grass to grow. These areas will encourage frogs and dragonfly larva. Natural long grass should be 2m. or so deep around much of the pond. After several days introduce two water snails into the pond as they will keep the water clean.

Water plants could be : a water lilly, a water iris and some bull rushes. Add a couple of aerating water weeds. Arranging a small rockery area is effective for attracting toads: they love small caves. Talking of toads, remember to put either some bricks or stones under the water, with a flat stone on top just out of the water to let the frogs and toads sunbathe on nice warm days!

Your pond is ready and waiting for the wildlife. Even within a few days you may notice pond skaters arrive. Frogs and toads are likely to turn up, particularly for the mating season; and then spawn will fill your pond. Don't panic if you think there is too much spawn as actually only 5 out of 2,000 eggs will survive. Newts are elusive but it is likely they will turn up. Summertime will be busy with dragonflies and mayflies.

To keep the pond balanced only light maintenance is required, if you think it is really getting out of control. Make sure that half of the pond is clear to permit light through the water but don't thin out weeds when there is spawn in the pond.

The results of a wildlife pond take time and it will really come into its own in about a year, when it will be an absolute haven for wildlife. There is nothing more stress-relieving than sitting at a small distance quietly watching all the wildlife dancing around your pond.