Sunday, August 31, 2008

Summertime Pond Care

Summertime pond care is important when summer arrives, We are already breaking heat records in New Orleans and it's not even officially summer yet. 90 degree temperatures and 110 heat indices are making everything miserable, including our gardens and our ponds.

Summertime maintenance

Keep fertilizing your water lilies. They are heavy feeders and will keep blooming until October when the days start to shorten or until the temperatures sink below 55 degrees F.

If you have lotus, they want more fertilizer than water lilies. I feed them at least twice weekly, even every ten days with one aquatic plant tab per gallon of pot. You rarely have to fertilize other pond plants because fish waste takes care of that for you, but if you are not satisfied with the plants growth, stick an aquatic plant tab in those too. You may wish to stagger your feeding because aquatic plant tabs fertilize all the plants in the pond including the dreaded green algae that will grab nutrients before they can get to what you really want to feed. Bury the plant tabs in the pots and make sure they are covered with soil or sand.

Floating plants

I keep at least 70% of the top of the pond covered with floating plants like water hyacinths, water clover and water lilies especially in the summer to give the fish some shade and some places to hide from predators. Egrets, herons, raccoons, and even your own Labrador retriever are looking for extra food and your pond is a brand new all you can eat buffet that you laid out especially for them. I even suggest making a cave for your fish. You can buy them already made or make your own out of a couple of flower pots on their sides or a flat rock on top of a couple of block shaped ones. The fish don't care how fancy their new digs are, as long as they are safe.

Remove debris

Remove dead foliage as soon as you can. As water lilies grow, the outer ring of leaves starts to yellow and die. Cut those off as close to the pot as possible. A water lily bloom opens and closes for about three days, then dies. Remove it as close to the pond as possible. If other plant foliage yellows and dies, cut it off and remove it. If foliage is allowed to decompose in the pond, waste material builds up, removes available oxygen and can foul the pond and kill your fish. Removing dead plant material makes room for new growth and sure does make the your pond look nicer. It's about the same as tending the rest of your gardens.

Those of you who feed your fish, do not feed them more than what they can eat in 5 minutes, and only 1 - 3 times daily. If the fish do not eat the food, it too, will decompose in your pond and foul water. Also remember that the more the fish eat, the more fish waste you will have to feed algae and make your pond turn green quickly.

Keep your pump running

Maximize your aeration. Warm water does not contain as much oxygen as cooler water, so your fish can struggle to breathe. And just when the warm water holds less oxygen, the fish need more. Add an airs tone or another pump to your pond. Be sure you keep your pump running 24 hours daily in the heat of summer. If your pond is shallow, less than 18" deep, more aeration is a must. If your pond is 3' deep or more, you are safer. The fish can go to the bottom where the water is cooler and more oxygen is in the water, but still keep those pumps running.

What not to do:

Clean your filter only occasionally, if it is a biofilter. If it is a mechanical filter, e.g., foam rubber that strains out suspended material, clean it often. Your biofilter grows a colony of bacteria that can eat the sludge and decomposed organic matter in your pond. Cleaning your biofilter destroys that bacteria colony forcing it to start growing all over again. If you do clean it, kick start it with one of the bacteria products on the market. I like Microbe-Lift PL. It not only kick starts your biofilter, regular use, following the directions on the bottle can keep the dreaded string algae or blanketweed at bay.

Enjoy your pond

During the summer, it is time to relax next to your pond after work. Entertain your friends on weekends, show off your garden, your pond and your beautiful waterfall. Bring out your iced tea or glass of wine, sit and enjoy yourself.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How to Fix a Pond Leak

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How to Repair a Pond Liner

You are sure you are facing repairing your pond liner. Before you panic, make absolutely sure it is a leaking liner and not another problem that is causing your water level to drop. Check your waterfall, check your hoses, check your spitters. Turn your pump off, fill up your pond. Watch it overnight. Did the level drop? If so, you probably have a hole in your liner.

The first thing you must do is find that leaking liner. If you can see it, skip the next section.

Fixing the leak

If you can see the leak, you have an easy job. Assuming your liner is rubber or EPDM and most are, you can patch it just like a tire. You can buy a patch online and while you are at it, buy a roll of patching material, because whatever caused that liner to leak will most likely do it again.

45 mil rubber liners rarely leak spontaneously. Something causes it. It could be raccoon toenails, doggie toenails, a falling tree branch, or maybe a piece of statuary with a sharp end fell and penetrated the liner. No matter the cause of that liner leak, repairing it, while not always a clean and easy job, it can be done by anyone with a bit of effort.

Make sure the liner surrounding the hole is clean and dry. I scrub the liner with the same scrubber you would use for dishes, just make sure there is no soap in it. After scrubbing it clean, rinse it and let it dry. If you are in a hurry, use a hair dryer, but be careful you are connected to a GFI before you use any electrical appliance around water. When the area is clean and dry, apply the patch according to the directions on the package. Your work is done. Fill the pond back up with water. Don't forget the dechlorinator.

Finding the leak

Finding a liner leak can be one of the most frustrating jobs on earth. The liner is black, usually dirty and wrinkled. The leak should be right at the water line because water can't leak out below that. Or can it? Here in New Orleans, our water table is only inches below the ground, so often there can be a hole in the bottom of the liner, but ground water pushes the bottom of the liner so a leak could well be on the bottom and ground water is seeping in the pond.

Pour some milk in the pond. If the water is leaking fast, the milk will make a trail to the leak. But if the water is leaking that fast, you have a huge tear and you can probably see it.

Pour some fine sand in the water. The sand will follow the water to the leak, but as above, if the tear is that big, you should need no help finding it.

Sometimes you cannot find the leak no matter how hard you search. I have resorted to this method as a last resort. Pump the pond water out. Remove all fish, plants, pots, lights, etc. Using a wet vac, vacuum the bottom to be sure all the fish waste, leaves, and other organic matter is gone. Rinse and wet vac again. Make sure the bottom is dry even if you have to wait several hours or get that hair dryer out again. When you are positive it is dry, stick a garden hose under the liner and turn on the water. Watch the liner carefully. Soon you should be able to see water coming up from underneath. You have found your leak. Dry it again and patch with patching material. Replace all pots, plants, fish, lights and refill the pond with water.

It's a good thing rubber liners rarely leak.

Leaks in concrete ponds

If your concrete pond is leaking, there is only one relatively cheap way to fix it. Because concrete is brittle and our ground is always moving, concrete is freezing and thawing, concrete is one of the hardest materials to repair. Clean out the crack and use Plumber's Epoxy to patch it. If that doesn't work, call a professional. If the professional tells you he can patch your concrete and guarantee it, doubt it. Doubt it a lot.

In all my years of pond building, I have never seen a serious concrete crack patched so it will hold water for more than a few weeks. Get your contractors guarantee in writing, get his home phone, his cell phone, his address and his Landscape Contractor's license number. Getting his insurance certificate can't hurt either.

If your pond is built from recycled swimming pool liner or PVC or visqueen and it has a leak, you must start over again with another liner. Same with pre formed hard liners. Once they crack, they cannot be repaired.

Luckily ponds rarely leak. But if yours does, you are now prepared.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Shade Pond

When choosing a location for your pond or water garden, trees in your landscape can be a big problem or their presence can make your pond a shade masterpiece. Shade from trees can be beneficial to your pond especially if you want to keep fish or other wildlife. Shade helps keep algae growth in check. A pond needs to have at least half the top of the water shaded with floating plants. If you have a tree, you can dispense with the floating plants and be able to see your fish better. You will be able to grow plants a sun gardener cannot. Anacharis will grow better for you because it likes to be in the shade.

You can grow ferns in the shade. Ferns, like wood ferns, Japanese Painted Ferns, autumn ferns love the shade.

You can grow broadleaf plants like gingers, birds of paradise, and taro that burn in the sun, but will love being planted around the shade pond making your pond look as if it is in a woodland setting.

You can use callas and taro in the water or out. Callas grow in the water and best in the shade, so you can have the flowers deemed by Katherine Hepburn as 'The perfect flower for any occasion.' Callas bloom early and long, so they will brighten up your early spring. They hate the sun, so make sure it does not hit them. They will shrivel up and die.

Your fish will be cooler in the summer when that hot summer sun beats down on us. They will come to the top to say hi more often because they are in the shade, rather than lying at the bottom trying to stay cool.

While trees can provide welcoming shade and so many other benefits, they can cause numerous problems when they drop their leaves and flowers in your pond.

If you put your pond under a tree, you are adding about ten minutes of maintenance weekly to your gardening chores because the leaves must be removed. I use a net and just dip them out. Some people use special pond vacuum cleaners, either the water powered ones or electrical powered ones. I find a net works just fine. The biggest part of the netting process is removing the anacharis that you dipped out along with the leaves. You can avoid this if you pot up the anacharis in the bottom of the pond. You can do this easily in soil or not. Anacharis does not need soil to grow. An easier way is to put the anacharis in a pot and put some stones on it to keep it in place. It will be happy that way and even flower for you. When it flowers, the tiny white flowers look as if someone threw popcorn on the water surface.

If you do not remove the leaves or other rotting plant material regularly, you take a chance of fouling your water with the ammonia that builds up from the decomposing material, so take that extra ten minutes weekly and remove it. If you do choose a shaded site, make sure you are not under a maple tree or a pecan tree. The maple tree drops those winged things in the spring and there they go into the pond. In the fall, they drop their leaves over a period of time, so you are always having to get them out of your pond.

I built my first pond under a pecan tree. I had to fish out not only winged things in the spring but also leaves in the fall, and then pecans when they dropped later in the fall. I learned that lesson soon and never did it again.

I have seen ponds under trees, but the pond keepers being as lazy as I am, built a canopy for the pond, so leaves fell on the canopy and then onto the ground missing the pond. I have also seen people cover their pond with a net, so that would catch the leaves. I think the net is so ugly that I would rather remove the leaves, seeds or pecans than have to look at that net all the time. Now the net does deter egrets and other fish eating birds, but again, I would take my chances on the birds.

Be aware ahead of time that you cannot have water lilies because they require at least 5 hours of sunshine daily, but your plant palette is expanded rather than compromised if your pond is in the shade.

I rather prefer a shade pond. Algae are not nearly the problem in the shade as in the sun, maintenance is minimal. Leaves do not fall every day or even every week. You have a small amount of time each year when your maintenance time in increased. The rest of the time you can relax in the shade of your tree and watch your fish play.

Be aware of all the good and bad parts of putting your pond under a tree. It can be worth it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to Control Pond Algae

Pond Algae: Green Pond Blues

Pond algae are pretty easy to control. If you have koi, you must have an extensive filtration system to control algae. If you have goldfish and feed them, you must have filtration, but you can control algae. If you do not feed your goldfish and do balance your pond, algae rarely grow at all.

When sun hits water, algae grow. That is the way of nature. In order to break that cycle, there are things you can do easily to keep your pond water clear and healthy. Most of the following suggestions are germane only if you have goldfish and do not feed them. I have included a few for you goldfish feeders who simply cannot help yourselves.

Balance your pond ecologically. Use bog plants like irises or umbrella plants. You must have oxygenators or submerged plants. The best is anacharis, followed by cabomba and hornwort. You must have one bunch of these submerged plants per square foot of pond surface. These plants arrive with a rubber band holding them together. Remove the rubber band before you put the plants in your pond. If you don't want them floating freely, you may pot them up in several pots that sit on the bottom of your pond. The submerged plants are fertilized by fish waste and CO2, a fish byproduct. The fish eat the submerged plants, but they grow faster they the fish can eat them. Nice cycle, huh? Nature takes care of itself if we can just leave her alone. If you have too many fish, they will eat all your submerged plants and you have to start over again. A good rule for fish load is 1 linear foot of fish per 25 square feet of pond surface area; tails don't count. If your pond gets green, have patience. It will fix itself

When pH gets on the basic side algae flourishes. Vinegar is weak and it takes forever (days) to neutralize. But it takes an expert to use muriatic acid properly, so do not put concentrated muriatic acid in your pond to balance pH unless you know what you are doing. You can buy commercial products, usually called pH down or some such. They are expensive, but work well.

It is good to have algae slime on the sides of your pond... this is a sign of a healthy pond and can generate up to 70% of the oxygen needed for your pond.

If you feed your fish, these simple ways of keeping your pond clear will not work. You will need a filter, preferably a biofilter.

You must cover at least one half the top of the pond with floating plants. Parrots feather is great, as are water hyacinths, water lettuce and water lilies. If you live in the tropics, you can have beautiful tropical water lilies. You must be willing to either sacrifice them in the winter or store them away until warmer weather arrives again in the spring.

Scotch Barley bales work, but the pond must be cleared of algae first and it takes some time to work, sometimes up to a month. Always put another barley bale in your pond before the last one is gone.

Black dye works really well in a formal or reflecting pond. The black water sets off the water lilies and they look wonderful. Anacharis can live in the black water. Do not use the blue or green dyes. Trust me they are ugly.

There are several products on the market that will wipe out algae population without harming fish or desirable plants. The downside is they kill all the algae. It clumps up in the bottom of the pond. This can cause oxygen depletion and your pond can become anaerobic. I never use any chemicals to kill algae. There is too much chance that other living things will also die. Being an organic gardener, I use nothing that has ëcide in the name. I will not introduce any poisons into our soil or water. We have too many already.

Change 25 or 30% of your pond water weekly. Pump it into your veggie or flower beds. They will thank you. When you refill the pond, don't forget the dechlor.

UV lights will work and are good when you have too many fish. They can also kill many beneficial bacteria and you are back to your anaerobic pond. Using plants to keep your pond clear and clean is certainly the easiest and best way. And it needs little maintenance.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Spring pond care

Keep this until spring in your part of the world. This is part of the continuing series of my articles that number over 40 now. I will be adding to them as needed.

Visit us at Pondlady's Forum to meet more pond people, get ideas and exchange information.

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Gardeners Gumbo

Spring has arrived here in New Orleans, where I live, so it's time for spring pond care. I know you folks who live in northern climes are still feeling some nip in the air, so you will wait a bit before prepping your pond for spring.

But for us, we are excited that our fish are swimming around, our plants are poking green shoots above the water, our waterfalls have come back to life and we are relaxing out of doors in our wonderful spring weather.

We cannot relax just yet, because our temperatures are still fluctuating as are yours. Just because you have a 70 degree F day does not mean that you can start feeding koi. They must not be fed until the pond water temperatures are stable at 55 degrees F at night. Remember, if you have a balanced pond and no koi, you never feed your fish.

Things to Have

Check your filter. It is clean? Even if it looks clean, it probably is not. So give it a good cleaning. If you have a biofilter, give it a kick start with a bacteria/enzyme product like Microbe-Lift PL to ensure a good bacteria colony starts to grow in your biofilter.

Check your pump. Clean it up. Check all your hoses for leaks or cracks. Nothing is worse than coming home from work and finding your pond dry because a hose leaked and your pond is nearly dry.

Make sure you have a dechlorinator on hand. You will need it. I know you think you wonít, but you will. Hereís what happens. You decide to top off the pump. The phone rings. Then you realize you need to get to the bank before it closes, so you dash out. While you are out, you decide to take care of a few more errands. You return home a couple of hours later. Oops!! Your yard is flooded and your fish are lying motionless at the bottom of the pond. Add dechlor immediately. Start the pump is it was not already running. 90% of the time, you can save your fish.

Keep Microbe-LIft PL on hand for blanketweed or string algae growth. With warmer temperatures, algae begins to grow quickly.

Check your nets. Are they useable? It might be time to replace them.

It never hurts to have a few hose clamps in your pond drawer or on your pond shelf. Those rascally things always break when you donít have any spares.

Do you have spare pumps? If so, check them now to see if they still work. Often when a pump is stored out of water, seals can break, especially if the pump was in a freezing garage or shed.

Things to Do

If you have chemicals, fertilizers or fish food left from last summer, throw it away. Most likely they have lost potency or have become rotten. Itís best just to dispose of them and start over.

If you have leaves or other debris in your pond, remove it now. As the water heats up, the debris begins to decompose, fouls your water and fish can die quickly. Spring is a great time to totally clean out your pond. Remove all water, all equipment, scrub the sides lightly (no soap), rinse, use a wet vac to get the last of the dirty water out and then replace everything. Your fish and plants will thank you for it.

Check your fish for any illnesses or wounds. If your fish are still a big sluggish, leave them alone. They are not fully awake until the water temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees F.

Within a couple of weeks after your water reaches 55 degrees F, you can start exchanging 10% of your water weekly. Pond water is the best fertilizer in the world. Pump it into your veggie or flower beds. Water exchanges keep nitrites from building up and keep your fish alive, healthy and happy.

Check your water plants. Spring is a great time for dividing and repotting. Remember, do not use any soil full of organic matter. I have had my best luck with water plants by potting them up in sand. I do not fertilize any pond plants except water lilies. They grow fast enough utilizing fish waste without having those plants leaping out of their pots by adding extra fertilizer. If you have extra plants after you have divided them, you can give them to a neighbor or friend. Remember, though, that many water plants can grow in low, damp spaces in your garden. So if you have taro, umbrella plants, or papyrus, plant them in your garden. Be aware they are very, very invasive, so be careful where you put them.

If you have lost some of your cover or floating plants, now is the time to replace them. Your fish are happiest with 1/2 of the top of the pond covered. That gives the fish a place to hide from predators and keeps them cool in the heat of the summer. It also keeps the blazing sun from helping algae grow in your crystal clear water.

Water lilies will start to grow when the water reaches about 65 degrees consistently. If you removed them from your pond and stored the corms in damp sand, you can pot them up and put them in the water with the top of the pot about 6î below the water surface. Do not fertilize them until the first leaves reach the top of the pond. Then use an aquatic plant fertilizer. I use a tab that I can just poke into the sand. If I am out of those, I have used Jobís Tomato Spikes or lacking those, Jobís Tree Spikes. Take the tree spike, whack it with a hammer to divide into 4 pieces. Use one piece at a time. Throughout the summer, your lilies want to be fertilized at least once monthly. Do not over fertilize or you will be feeding algae as well as your pond plants.

Things to Watch Out For

Be careful as you are beginning to play in your pond again. Big Daddy bullfrog is snoozing between rocks lying in wait for a tasty fly. If you disturb him, he will jump and scare the pants off you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pond Disasters

Pond Disasters

You finally have your pond in your garden and have been told that maintenance is almost nonexistent. And you are right. There are some pond disasters, though, that do happen. To recognize them and be able to deal with them is easy, so donít panic.

Most pond disasters are easily fixable, so let's start with the most common and easiest to deal with.

My Pond has Turned to Green Pea Soup!

The pond has turned to green pea soup and you have only had it a few days. First, don't worry, this is a common problem and an easy fix. Second, do not empty the pond and start over again. You will face the same problem again in a few days. The pond turns green because it is not ecologically balanced. When sun hits water, algae grow. This will never change. Your bird bath gets green, your swimming pool gets green, lakes turn green. So we must balance the pond to keep the algae from growing.

If your pond water turns green, have a look at it and decide if the water has suspended microscopic particles of algae in it or if there is something floating around in there that looks like angel hair spaghetti. You will have no problem seeing the difference.

If the water is green from microscopic suspended algae, hereís why: If sun hits water, algae grow. If we want the algae to be filtered out, we can do it easily and ecologically. Figure out the square footage of your pond (Length times width) and add one bunch of anacharis (submerged vegetation) per square foot of surface area. The anacharis filters out algae. It also is an oxygenator, so fish can breathe and is great goldfish food. Don't worry because it grows faster than goldfish can eat it. You have now solved most of your algae problem.

Next, cover about 1/2 of the surface area with floating plants. That will keep half of the pond in the shade, will keep the water cooler, the fish happier and the sun from being so brutal. Floating plants could be water hyacinths (illegal in some states, so check with your local extension service), water clover, parrotsí feather, water lilies or any of the other floating plants.

You now have a balanced ecosystem that will keep itself clear with no help from you as long as you donít have koi or feed goldfish.

My Pond is Leaking!

Another easily fixable disaster is a waterfall leak. I get calls all the time, îMy pond is leaking.Most of the time, I say, "No, it isn't." And then explain that most likely the reason the water level is falling is because water is leaking from the back or sides of the waterfall.

Turn off the waterfall pump. Fill the pond up with water. Donít forget the dechlorinator. Leave it for 24 hours. Tomorrow, see if the water level is where you left it. Look at that, it is! So now you know that water is somehow leaking out the back or sides of the waterfall. Turn the pump on. Have a look around the waterfall. Most of the time you will find the leak immediately because you can see it. Tip the rocks or move the hoses towards the pond so all the water returns to the pond and your leak problems are over. Occasionally water is splashing out, so check for that as well. If you have statuary, make sure there was not a strong wind blowing and water from the spitting statuary is not being blown out. Also, if the statue is on the side of your pond check it to make sure water is not dripping down the side or front statue and out of the water.

If you are using a weir or biofalls for a waterfall, check at the edges. Sometimes the water can hit a rock and splash out; other times the biofilter box can move around and the seal between the box and the liner can fail.

Water is Splashing Out!

When dealing with splashing water, remember this: Water cannot fall more than one half the width of what it is falling into without splashing. If the area the water is falling into is 4 feet across, the water will splash if it falls from more than 2 feet. This is universal and can be difficult to overcome. You can make the falls lower, you can make the width wider. But if you have purchased a wall fountain or a three tier fountain and put it in a small area, resign yourself to refilling often.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cleaning your pond

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Cleaning The Garden Pond

Once a year, and I think spring in the South or fall in cooler parts of the world are a good times, I recommend a total cleaning of your garden pond. This means removing all plants, all water, all fish and giving the pond a good cleaning. This will get rid the pond of any toxins that have built up over the winter, but perhaps not yet to critical levels. These toxins can build quickly if the pond ices over. Leaves can fall in the pond in the fall and winter and start to decompose when the weather begins to warm. If there is debris in the pond, now is a good time to get outside and prepare to get dirty. If you live where the weather is warmer and some trees do not shed their leaves until spring, wait until after the leaves are gone or you will be scooping dead leaves out of your clean pond. If you do live in warmer climes where your water does not freeze, a partial water change might be all you need.

Cleaning your pond is much easier with two people. See if you can find a helper, even if you have to bribe one. Both of you should wear very old clothes that you will use again only to clean your pond. And maybe even throw away when you are finished. Pond cleaning is not for the faint of heart. Pond scum is as awful as it sounds.

Tools you need:
Solids handling pump with very long hose attached
Wet/dry vacuum cleaner
Fish net
Large bucket or box to hold fish in while cleaning
Trash bags
Boots or waders
2 milk crates
Steps in order:
Put some pond water in the large bucket or box. Put the pump in the pond. If you have a sump in your pond, put it there. I put the pump inside a milk crate to keep the worst of the bottom debris from clogging up the pump.
Stretch the hose out to where you want the water to go; if you have a veggie bed or garden bed or just lawn you want fertilized, place the hose end there.
Plug in the pump. Make sure you are using a GFI outlet. If not use a GFI extension so you will be protected against unknown electrical problems. Keep the ends of the cords out of water.
While the water is pumping out, remove the plants. Yes, you have to get in your pond to do that, so put your waders on first.
If you are dividing plants, do it now. If not, clean the sides of the pots off, cut all dead growth off, remove all live growth that has leapt from the pot. You can repot the extra plants and share with friends and neighbors. Please do not throw them into any public waterways because they can be invasive and become a public nuisance.
Remove your anacharis. Put the clean anacharis in one pile, the dirty anacharis in another. Make your helper remove debris from the dirty anacharis and rinse it off. Your pond should be almost empty now.
Net your fish and put them in their temporary home.

Wet vacuum the bottom of the pond. Rinse it with a strong hose stream, wet vacuum again. Continue until water is clear. Donít forget the waterfall, the pond sides. between the rocks. This is the hardest part of pond cleaning. When you are finished with this, the rest is easy.
Put the debris, fish poop, just plain pond scum you have removed in the other milk crate. When the dirty water drains out, it is not so heavy to carry. It is the best fertilizer you can find, so put it under trees, plants, in garden beds, veggie beds. I know it stinks, but that goes away in a few hours. If you cannot put it in your yard or compost pile, put it in trash bags.
Put the larger debris, e.g., sticks, limbs, old shoes, golf balls in the trash bags.
Put the clean plants back in the pond where you want them to be.
Start running new water in the pond.
When the pond is about half full, put the fish in plastic bags, tie the top closed and float them in the pond for a few minutes so the old water temperature and new water temperature equalize. Release your fish within 15 minutes. Continue to fill the pond until full.
Plug in the waterfall again. The fish will play in it.
Whew, thatís done for another year.

You can also probably find someone in your area who cleans ponds. I used to clean about 200 ponds a year and charged from $245.00 up. That should help you choose someone.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Routine Pond Maintenance

Your pond takes very little maintenance, much less than your lawn that you fertilize and then mow each and every week. But there are a few things that you can do to keep your pond looking beautiful and your goldfish healthy. Keep an eye on your pond. (As if you didn't already). Watch for changes in water color, water level, fish lethargy or pump slowdowns. If you see anything unusual, deal with it as soon as you can. But usually, following these few tips will keep any disasters at bay.

Weekly Tasks

You visually marked where your normal water level was after your pond was built. Check the water level weekly--if it has dropped due to evaporation, top it off. Add a dechlorinator if you add more than 10% of the total volume of water. If it has not dropped, and you have some time, pump about 10% of the water into the surrounding vegetable or flower garden and top off the pond. The water is a great (and free) fertilizer and the water changing deters chemical buildup that can eventually corrode the pump or foul the water.

Check the bottom of the pond for decaying vegetation and remove dead plants, leaves or other organic matter. Dead and decaying plant material can foul the water and kill the fish. Net any debris out and put it in your compost pile or use it as direct compost in your flower beds. Remove childrenís toys, tennis or golf balls or used champagne glasses at the same time.

Monthly Tasks

Fertilize your water lilies with a product made for aquatic plants. Follow the manufacturer's directions for application. Fertilize the lilies from the time the leaves reach the surface in the spring, for us, in New Orleans, thatís in April or May, until the lilies go dormant, usually about the end of October. Most likely by September or October, your lily leaves are getting smaller and not they are not blooming as much. Lilies react to the length of days and nights. As daylight gets shorter and nights get longer, your lily knows winter is coming.

If you have a prefilter with your pump, clean it at least every month. During the hot part of the summer and if your pond is in full sun, clean it more often. If the filter has a foam rubber component, run water through it until the water runs clear. Do not squeeze or wring it out. If it is a biofilter, donít clean it except yearly. If you must clean it more often, you are overfeeding your fish or your bio load is too high. Reduce your fish population. Often when I am cleaning a biofilter, I will rinse it in pond water. If I use water from the hose, I will use specially formulated pond bacteria to kick start the bio process again.

Yearly Tasks

Remove all of the fish, plants and pump out the water. Lightly scrub the bottom and sides of the pond with a brush--do not use chemicals or soap.

Refill the pond, dechlorinate, replace fish, divide plants, repot and replace. Save some of the old water to store the fish in while the pond is being cleaned. I use a big blue storage box that we might also use for blankets, sweaters or lego toys.

Put the fish in plastic bags in the old water. Float the fish on top of the newly cleaned pond until the water in the bag and the water in the pond are the same temperature. Late February or early spring wherever you are is a great time to do the yearly cleaning. Make sure the temperature of the water is above 55 degrees, so you don't disturb all those fish in torpor too soon. If the clean water temperature differs more than a few degrees from the old pond water, you may lose all your fish.

All this said, I live in New Orleans, where hurricane Katrina destroyed my house. One year after Katrina hit, the old house was demolished, I had moved into the new one and was ready to move my pond across town. I had not looked at my pond for over a year. I expected a foul, nasty mess. I found about 8 inches of water in the pond, about a bushel of submerged vegetation and 6 live goldfish. So routine maintenance or not, cleaning or not, ponds may not thrive on benevolent neglect, but they continue to be a healthy ecosystem.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The August Heat

How do we make it through the summer, I wonder. I know that those of you in northern climes are at the end of your summer, but we in the South are wading through 'air you can wear' and wondering if we will ever be able to enjoy our ponds and gardens again. The water lettuce has turned yellow and then brown so it is going to the compost heap. Even the sturdy unkillable water hyacinth is falling apart against the August heat. Water lilies are in full bloom, tho, and want to be fed. Be sure to keep them well trimmed so the decomposing vegetation does not fall to the bottom and decompose.
Please provide some shade for your fish. They will thank you for it.

Canna from the bog garden

Hibiscus next to the bog

Mallow in the bog