As part of the Permaculture design course that I started last month I have been doing a lot of reading on the subject. At the moment I'm reading the wonderful Sepp Holzer's Permaculture. Sepp Holzer is an inspirational farmer and grower who lives high on the mountainside of the slopes of Mount Schwarzenberg in Austria on a farm that extends to 45 hectares and which is all between 1100 and 1500 metres above sea level. The book is a great read - it's really accessible and gives a fascinating insight into the way that Sepp has managed to profitably cultivate areas of land in a way that others told him would be impossible. And how's he done this? In short, by developing a process of cultivation that observes and responds to local natural ecological systems in order to get the very best out of the available land in a way that bears no resemblance to the typical mono-cultures that we are more used to seeing in modern agriculture.
A particularly interesting section of the book is about the use and management of water on Sepp's land and the fact that doing this sensitively is crucial to developing a growing environment that works well. This inspired me to have a closer look at the pond that we've got on our allotment. Although this pond's essential function is an aesthetic one rather than anything else it still plays an important part on our plot. It's very much a natural environment, as you can see from the picture, and can pretty much be left to its own devices. All we really need to do to it is to make sure no plants become too much of a bully and remove leaves if an excess fall into the water in autumn and winter. And what benefits do we get back in exchange?
Well, the pond is a haven for newts in particular but is also well used by toads and frogs who love the shady beds of rhubarb and comfrey that are right next to the water. There is also a shallow area at one end that the birds love to drink from and splash around in during the summer months. The water is a great attraction for certain types of insects like dragonflies that flit and flutter around the plot on long hot days and lay their eggs on the reeds and other plants at the waters edge. The waters edge is also a popular place for plants like rushes and irises that thrive there in abundance, alongside the glorious waterlilies that keep the water cool and shaded on sunny days. In fact, all in all, it's amazing how many species thrive around such a small body of water.
And the disadvantages of having a pond? Well, none that I can think of except if you have children, in which case the pond needs to be securely fenced to keep them out of harm's way. And I would personally go for a fenced pond over a netted one any day as it keeps the pond safe but also means that the creatures that benefit from the water still have full access it.