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How to build a frog pond

How to build a frog pond

Monday, January 11, 2016

Last month we brought you a story on "Creating a healthy pond environment". 

This was our top story in our December e-newsletter so to keep our readers happy we thought we would bring you another great story on how to build a frog pond and things to keep in mind from Sean Morrow at One Earth Education.












Sean spoke at workshop that was sponsored by SEQ Catchments and hosted by Noosa Landcare in 2015, where he presented practical tips on how to attract frogs and other creatures into your garden/property. 

We hope you enjoy this story!

Frog ponds and habitat gardens

When I was eight years old I built my first frog pond at home in Sydney with my father.












Over the following years I managed to convince dad to let me put in another two ponds where we lived.

This was the beginning of my journey to create frog ponds and habitat gardens where ever I was allowed.

Of particular interest to me were native frogs, birds, reptiles and insects.

Fast forward 35 years, and I have set-up over 260 frog ponds throughout the east coast of Australia (mostly in NSW and QLD) for clients who enjoy bringing their gardens to life.

For the past 14 years I have been living on 6.5 acres in the Noosa Hinterland where I have already set-up 36 frog ponds with a plan to set-up another 40+.

These ponds have made a tremendous difference to the amount of animals now living on and sharing this land with us.

What do I need to get started?

1. If you have a passion for native animals and want to give them more habitat it is important to start with one of the most important elements- WATER. 


Many of the creatures you may want to attract into the garden need water to drink, swim in or lay eggs into. Water is critical in the web of life, critical in establishing and maintaining healthy bio-diversity in the garden. 

2. Mulch is an important part of creating habitat in your garden. 


As it breaks down it feeds the soil and supports abundant macro/microbiotic life. 

It protects the soil from heavy rain, wind and sunlight. Decomposing mulch can also maintain a warm temperature which can favor cold blooded animals such as frogs, lizards and snakes. This is also useful for some egg layers.

Rocks, logs/branches, river stones and sand/gravel can all help to create habitat and retain heat long after the sun has gone for the day.

3. Vegetation layers are another key focus to creating greater biodiversity.


Remember, animals live in all these vegetation layers in the garden (underground, in ground covers, grasses, shrubs, trees, palms etc). 

4. Insects, Insects, Insects…….and spiders?


They are an extremely important part of the food chain for many predators in the garden. 

The best way to attract insects into the garden is to allow parts of the garden to be a little more wild and overgrown. Let your vegetables, herbs and/or weeds flower in the garden. 

This will attract a large amount of beneficial insects. 

Spiders are also a key part of the food chain and are also needed in the garden as predator and prey.

5. For attracting birds you will need to plant things that produce seeds, fruit and/or nectar.


You will also need places for them to hide, nest or escape the weather. For small birds, dense or thorny nesting trees/shrubs are handy to keep predators away.

Hollow logs or nesting boxes can be installed in existing trees. The way you design your garden depends upon what type of birds you are trying to attract.

A garden for small birds like Finches and Wrens would be planted differently to a garden for Kookaburras, Magpies, Butcher Birds and Native Miners.


 

Things to be cautious about?

1. Consider the location of any proposed pond. Will the sound of many frogs keep you and your neighbour’s awake at night?


2. Consider the depth of water in the pond.


Check local council laws on the fencing requirements and depths of ponds allowed in your area. If you have very young children you may consider fencing the pond until they are old enough.

3. The pond needs to receive direct sun and shade throughout the day. 


Not too much of either one. Too much sun will turn the pond green with algae, too little sun and the pond will not grow enough algae to feed growing tadpoles and other aquatic life.

4. Be aware that when you set-up a frog pond you will possibly attract predators that like eating frogs (birds, snakes, goanna’s and small marsupials). 


5. Avoid setting up a pond in a windy, hot, dry and exposed location. 


6. Keep cats and dogs inside at night when most frogs are active.


7. Avoid using any chemicals in the garden like herbicides, fungicides and pesticides……………become an organic gardener!


Digging the hole and preparing the site for a pond (using different materials)

1. What material should I use for the pond?


You could use a plastic pond liner, a pre-fabricated fiberglass pond base, an old bathtub or laundry sink, any container that holds water will be suitable for a pond.

If using a plastic pond liner- once you have chosen the site, dig the hole whatever size and shape you want to suit the material you are using. 

2. When digging a hole for a small pond (1m-2m diameter) make sure to dig it around 20% bigger so you have enough space for the rocks and logs that will go inside the pond prior to filling with water.


Once the whole is dug, check and remove any sharp roots or rocks that might puncture the liner. 

Once clear I lay down 2-3 layers of old carpet underlay (a thick foam roll that is flexible to the shape of the hole and will not decompose).

You can also use multiple layers of weedmat or shadecloth, or any other material that will protect the liner from direct contact with the earth. Root development around the liner will be reduced and the chance of damage reduced.

Cover the liner completely so it is protected from potential sun damage and from animal claws (dogs and kangaroos) that might puncture the liner when jumping into the pond. Once complete, the pond liner should be invisible.

3. You could also build the pond above ground using bathtubs, laundry sinks, animal troughs and even your kids unused plastic sandpit covers.

 

One method I often use at home is setting up a bathtub off the ground. It is set on four star pickets driven into the ground (level). 

The bathtub has one star picket under each corner. I use silicon to stick the bathplug in place. This option is great for breeding treefrogs and is also good for attracting birds.

Once complete, you fill in the space under and around the bathtub with rocks, logs, mulch and plants. Then place just enough material in the bathtub to hide the fact that it is a bathtub.

Fill it with water and wait for the frogs and birds to arrive.

By Sean Morrow

More information

If you would like to find out more about the range of services I offer, from workshops to one on one garden consultations, plus landscaping and garden services, please check out:
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