The Boiling Pond

Like the GilbertWhite of Abriachan, I crept stealthily up the path towards the pond, camera switched on, lens extended, fingers hovering expectantly over the focus.
I was down-wind, I had deliberately neglected to put on potent midge repellent lest it disturb the still morning air, I was wearing my most woodland-blending combination of greens, greys and browns, surely this time they would not see me coming!
SPLAsh SpISH SPlarg Gloop ShLUuop splOSH


Once more outwitted by frogs, 16 frogs to be more accurate (at last count), the newest and most endearing residents of the pond.
(I promise they are in the photo somewhere)
They moved in last week and since then the water has been boiling with their activity, there are now several big patches of frog spawn floating like translucent sago pudding, yet despite my best efforts, my attempts to sneak up and photograph them as they lounge on the banks and leaves have failed, and all I am confronted with are 32 big eyes on teeny frog faces peeking up at me.
One of my winter jobs was the transformation of what Margaret termed "The Quaking Bog" into something that once more resembled a wildlife pond.
So with a set of waders, a spade and a look of steely determination in my eye, I went forth and did battle.

January/February is the best time for you to tackle your ponds, as it is when you are going to cause least disturbance to wildlife which is at its lowest ebb in the winter months, and also when you are best able to divide your pond plants before they start to grow away in the spring.

The rapid flow of water through our pond, (connected to a fast flowing burn) brought with it a great deal of silt and other detritus, so I had to dig a great deal of content out, to return the pond to a depth of 3ft, restoring it to a suitable environment for wildlife and readying it for fresh planting in the coming months.
If you own a stand-alone pond which you refill/refresh/pump or otherwise oxygenate, you will probably have far less content to clear out as there will only be the fallen leaves and rotting plant material to deal with, however it is still a job that should be done tri-annually to benefit the health of the pond.

Here are a few tips to help you in your endeavours: 
  • Waders are a great investment - Digging out a pond from the bank is near impossible and you are like as not to strain your back, and receive no sympathy from friends and family as "You should have known better."
    Also, a welly boot, once full of sludgly mud, tends to be more of a hindrance than a help and may lead to you becoming wedged in the gunge in the very centre of the pond, having to perform a complex manoeuvre where you use the spade to lever out one foot so you can make a lunge for the bank, leaving the other welly behind in its new watery home, where it looks at you smugly while you sit and wring out your socks.
  • Stop the flow of water into your pond while you are cleaning it, and if possible drain out most of the water to make your job easier.
    I would imagine that if you have fish, transferring them elsewhere at this stage would be a pretty good idea.
  • As you dig out the contents of the pond, shovel it all onto the bank and leave it there for at least a few days, so anything that has been living in the murky depths can wriggle its way back down into the water.
  • Once the silt is wriggler-free, you can move it elsewhere.
    I have used ours to fill a new bed which I will plant with Primulas later this year.
    You may have to mix the pond contents with compost and additional feeding depending on the level of nutrients - I will be adding manure and leaf compost to ours.
  • Dig deep to get out the roots of all the plants you do not want in your pond. In our case, reeds, rushes and grasses which would, if left, invade the whole pond area.
    You can keep a small patch of reeds for your wildlife if you like, but there are plenty of alternative plants which wildlife love and which are easier to keep under control.
  • Divide your lilies, irises and other abundant pond plants, plant them elsewhere, give them to your neighbours, sell them, donate them, barter them..... just ensure you leave enough for oxygenation and habitat.
  • Hold off on re-planting with new plants until after the last of the hard frosts.
  • Ensure your pond has at least one gradually graduated side, so frogs, toads, newts and other wildlife can get in and out easily.
Best of luck with your own ponds, they are such a great addition to your garden and as well as providing an environment for animals and insects to live, breed and feed, they give many more birds and animals with a place to drink and bathe.
Our own wee Scottish food chain contains damselflies, dragonflies, water boat men, pond skaters, whirligig beetles, caddis flies, water snails, frogs, toads, ducks, a visiting heron......  and recently observed, the lesser-spotted mud-encrusted Scotsman.

Written by Donald
Frog graphic from the fabulous Graphics Fairy


  1. Great blog post, and even greater to see so many frog spawn in your pond! Will all help keep pests at bay naturally :)

  2. Just been watching the frantic frog activity at the pond in our local wood. Very helpful post even if we have the waders but not the looks as if it was dark by the time you finished!

  3. What a lot of hard work that must have entailed but it will definitely be worth the effort. I have a small pond in my polytunnel but alas no frogspawn as yet.

  4. I just found your Blog this morning and am going to follow you. I live and garden along the shores of Lake Michigan in USA and I thought it would be interesting to follow you on the shores where you live. Thought I might learn a few things about the wonders of you place which we all hear about from stories. I do lots of photos with the lake in the background as much as possible. If you check out some past postings you will see it and the beauty of this place. See you very soon. Jack

  5. Thanks for the info on looking after the garden pond. Ours is tiny so not quite so much hastle. It is usually the end of March before the frogs arrive at ours. Well some of them are so large they could well be toads.


Thank you for leaving a comment - it is always great to hear about other peoples gardens and lives. If you ever drop by the nursery, make sure you say hello. (Margaret & Donald)

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