Create a wildlife-friendly water feature in minutes
No matter if your garden is more of a yard-en. Whatever the size, placing water in an outdoor space helps support local wildlife through the seasons, quickly attracting bathing birds, sheltering frogs, thirsty bees and other fascinating critters.
If you've always fancied a pond, but aren't quite ready to take on the attendant upheaval and upkeep of a 'proper' one, a mini water feature will help you dip a toe in the water, so to speak!
Skills requirements, practically zero. Time investment, a few minutes? Enjoyment, so much. Just settle back and watch the parade of lollers, groomers and drinkers...
The basics – a low container, a stone and some rainwater
As the main image shows above, even a very shallow water container can draw in a rich variety of wildlife. Check out the frog eyeballing that bee... I'd steer clear if I were you, froggy!
Ceramic plant saucers are better than plastic ones for this purpose: more aesthetically pleasing as part of your garden design, kinder to the environment and their non-slip surface helps visiting birds keep their balance as they splash about. An old-style dustbin lid, upturned and seated in the soil also makes for a good 'instant' water feature, though you may want to add a couple of handfuls of gravel to the bottom if it's slick.
If you can't find a saucer with gently sloping sides, lay one end of a wide flat stone or tile into the water and prop the other end over the side to provide an escape ramp for any unwary creatures who might find themselves suddenly paddling in the drink. Drownings tend to take the fun out of wildlife watching!
A 'clingable' and 'perchable' object placed in the middle of your watering hole adds to its desirability as a hang out. This can be as classic as a weathered stone, as mundane as a broken brick or as spectacular as a miniature version of Canova's Three Graces, the critters won't care what it looks like so long as it's sturdy.
Location, location, location
Miniature versions of classical sculptures aside, this basic water feature is so very simple that you can set several around your garden if you have the space.
>> A little light shade stops your water feature drying out during hot summer afternoons and helps to minimise algae growth.
>> Safety first! So don't stick one in the middle of the pathway - grandad doesn't need any more trips to A&E this year – and always supervise toddlers and small children around even very shallow water.
>> Think of the safety of your visitors, too. Birds and other wildlife need to feel relaxed when bathing and drinking and, sadly, beloved Mrs Floofy McCatticus and her feline friends just aren't good mixers. Try to locate your mini wildlife pond in areas with poor stalking potential if you can.
>> Avoid close proximity to bird feeders, as rotting food discards do not a pretty water feature make.
Use rainwater to fill your newly founded wildlife pond, not treated tap water. Top up the level with rainwater as and when needed.
How often to clean out your water feature? This depends on who's using it, day-to-day, and what for.
>> If your plant saucer gets taken up as a regular bird bath, then to keep the local population free from disease, you'll need to make removing the poop and algae part of your weekly cleaning routine. It's a fairly quick job and worth it, we promise!
>> If other animals with less exuberant habits move in, simply monitor the water feature and give it a good clean out if you spot any unhealthy signs.