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We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?

Q: We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?

Dylan- Garner, IA

A: Ponds and lakes get plenty of visitors – including different species of snakes that linger around water. Some of the more common varieties that call the northern states home include the Black Rat Snake, Corn Snake, Garter Snake and the Northern Water Snake.

Water snakes live wherever there’s water, like near lakes, ponds, marshes, streams, rivers and canals. During the spring, summer and fall, when the weather is warm, you probably see these snakes slithering in and around your pond and in the grassy fields, looking for food and for places to sun themselves. But during the winter, they disappear. Where do they go? They’re holed up and hibernating.

Summer Home, Winter Home

Snakes are ectothermic, which means they use the environment to regulate their body temperature. When it’s warm, they’re warm – and they ensure that by basking on rocks, stumps or brush in the full sunshine. In fair weather, rocks, aquatic plants, muskrat houses and beaver lodges are good places to find water snakes, which like to hide among the sticks and plant stems when they’re not sunning themselves.

But when it’s cold, they go on hiatus. These snakes are unable to generate their own internal body heat, so they rely on outside forces to keep their metabolisms churning. They need to overwinter in areas that will not freeze. The underground becomes their winter home, where they spend their time in temperature-stable burrows below the freezing line, and often share the space with other snakes.

Preferred Diet

In the spring, summer and fall, these slithering, mostly harmless critters are active day and night. During the day, water snakes hunt among plants at the water’s edge, looking for small fish, frogs, worms, leeches, crayfish, salamanders, young turtles, and small birds and mammals. At night, they concentrate on minnows and other small fish sleeping in shallow water.

When the cold weather sets in; however, snakes go on a season-long diet. Their metabolism slows way down. Food supplies, like frogs and toads, dwindle. If snakes have undigested food in their bellies when they go into hibernation, they can die.

Friends and Foes

Water snakes have many predators, including birds, raccoons, opossums, foxes, snapping turtles, bullfrogs and other snakes. Humans who mistake the harmless snake varieties for dangerous ones, like Copperheads and Water Moccasins, can affect the population, too.

For the most part, these guys are our friends. They may eat some fish and frogs and hunt some of the indigenous wildlife, but they also do damage to the rodent population – which everyone can appreciate. If you see a snake on your property and you’re not sure if it’s a safe or dangerous variety, contact your local university extension office and describe the snake’s size, color, scale pattern and where you found it. Never kill a snake without good reason, because they are important to our environment.

Pond Talk: What kinds of snakes do you have around your pond or lake?

Shade & Protect Your Pond All Year Long - Pond Logic (r) Pond Dye

For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?

Q: For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?

Chuck- Tipton, IN

A: Diffusers – and the oxygen they pump into your pond or lake – ensure the health and well being of your fish. Year-round aeration circulates the water column and fills the pond with oxygen. If your pond freezes over during the cold months of the year, an aeration system will can also help maintain a hole in the ice to allow harmful gases to escape.

Move Your Diffusers:

As part of your winter-prep chores, you will need to move the diffuser plates to a shallower spot in your pond or lake. Why? Give your fish a place to safely overwinter in deeper, warmer water. When the plates are closer to the surface, they will also help to keep a hole open in the ice.

Close the Valves:

In addition to relocating your diffuser plates, you can also close about 50 percent of the valves (unless you have the PS10 or LS10 models of Airmax® Aeration Systems, in which case you leave the valve open). You won’t be mixing as much water, but you will be adding enough oxygen to the pond and allowing for gas exchange at the surface.

Stay Safe:

Because you’re aerating your pond over the winter, consider putting up a “Thin Ice” sign near the shoreline. Air pockets form in ice sheets created on aerated ponds, and they make the surface unsound and not safe to walk or skate on. Warn would-be hockey players and figure skaters of the danger before they get into trouble.

While you’re thinking about safety, make sure you have a Life Ring, first aid kit and blanket stowed lakeside in a weatherproof bin just in case someone does fall through the ice.

Pond Talk: How spectacular are the fall colors around your pond or lake right now?

Aerate Your Pond in All Seasons - Airmax (r) Pond Series (t) Aeration Systems

I see pond nets for little ponds, but how do I stop leaves from getting into my 1-acre pond?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I see pond nets for little ponds, but how do I stop leaves from getting into my 1-acre pond?

Q: I see pond nets for little ponds, but how do I stop leaves from getting into my 1-acre pond?

Casey- Wichita, KS

A: Pond netting works great to prevent blowing leaves and debris from landing in small water features, but they’re not practical – or possible, really – for large ponds and lakes like yours.

Can you imagine what it would take to install a supersized 1-acre pond net? It would be like you and 20 of your friends trying to cover Fenway Park’s field in rain delay tarp while maneuvering tiny tricycles. Entertaining for those watching, but almost impossible for those installing!

Instead, we suggest a three-pronged approach that involves a little manual labor, some beneficial bacteria and a lot of aeration – but no tricycles.

Shoreline Cleanup

The first step is to manually remove fallen leaves and debris from the shoreline with a tool like a Pond & Beach Rake or PondSkim™ Debris Skimmer. When you rake up or skim all that decomposing material and dump it in your compost pile away from your pond, you’re preventing it from decomposing in the water, where it turns into algae-feeding muck.

Bombard with Bacteria

To break down the organic material that does find its way into your pond, use muck-busting beneficial bacteria like those found in Pond Logic® MuckAway™. The pellets can be used throughout the fall, as long as water temperatures are above 50° Fahrenheit. They’ll sink to the bottom and instantly begin to break down debris and improve water clarity.

Aerate and Oxygenate

An aeration system, like the Airmax® Aeration System, removes dangerous gases like ammonia while delivering oxygen to your fish and muck-eating beneficial bacteria. It churns and turns over the water column, circulating that oxygen and keeping your pond or lake healthy. And if your pond freezes over in the winter, your aeration system can create an air hole in the ice for gas exchange.

They may not make 1-acre nets, but you can keep those blowing leaves managed with these three easy tips. Good luck!

Pond Talk: How do you prevent leaves and debris from landing in your large pond or lake?

Remove Unwanted Leaves This Fall - The Pond Guy (r) Pond & Beach Rake

Why does it seem harder to kill algae in the fall than in the spring? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why does it seem harder to kill algae in the fall than in the spring?

Q: Why does it seem harder to kill algae in the fall than in the spring?

Dwayne- Charlottesville, VA

A: Fall algae is tough stuff to control. Once the weather starts to change, it’s almost as if this green nuisance develops super powers and becomes resistant to every weapon in your algaecide arsenal. Why does this happen, and what can be done?

The Magic Number

Don’t worry: The algae in your pond is not morphing into a super villain. The problem lies with the effectiveness of your algaecides in cooler weather. When water temperatures start to fall below 60° Fahrenheit, all those chemicals in your arsenal actually become less able to do their job. It’s like asking Batman to fight crime without his utility belt – he can do it, but it’s not pretty.

Fighting Fall Algae

Though your tactics may be limited, the war against fall algae can be won with a three-pronged approach.

  1. Go Heavy If Necessary: First of all, if you have denser or more well-established algae blooms in one area of your pond or lake that have sprung up later in the season, you may need to use heavier doses of algaecide to combat them. Read the product’s label for safe usage guidelines.
  2. Be Ready for Resistance: Algaecides work well, but algae can become resistant to them if they’re applied throughout the season. Remember that as more algae grows and dies, more nutrients are added to the ecosystem – and those nutrients will fuel algae blooms, even in the fall. Control decomposing biomass with a pond skimmer or rake that will remove those fertilizing nutrients.
  3. Use the Right Product: Finally, make sure you’re using the right algaecide for the job. Cutrine®- PLUS Granular Algaecide is designed to control bottom-dwelling chara or algae blooms deeper than three feet from your pond’s or lake’s surface. Algae Defense® Algae Control – with a boost from some Treatment Booster™ PLUS surfactant – is best suited for algae that is three feet or less from the surface.

Algae can be a frustrating problem to deal with, especially in the cooler fall months, but it can be controlled with some patience and diligence. Good luck!

Pond Talk: Have you experienced fall algae blooms in your pond or lake this year? How have you controlled them?

Quickly Eliminate Pond Algae - Pond Logic(r) Algae Defense (r)

When should I stop using PondClear™ and MuckAway™?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: When should I stop using PondClear™ and MuckAway™?

Q: When should I stop using PondClear™ and MuckAway™?

Alfred- Belmont, NH

A: PondClear™ and MuckAway™ contain colonies of beneficial bacteria that will eat through suspended and bottom-of-the-pond muck – but those microorganisms work best in warmer water temperatures. When the pond thermometer drops below 50° F, stop using the PondClear™ and MuckAway™ as their bacteria lose effectiveness.

Speaking of cooler temperatures, here are some things you can do to prepare your pond for the fall season:

Around-the-Pond-Cleanup:

Take a walk around your pond or lake and clean up any strewn debris like sticks or brush on the shoreline. While you’re at it, rake out the inlets and/or outlets to be sure they’re cleared and ready to handle the coming precipitation.

Treat Algae & Weeds:

To ensure your pond or lake is algae- and weed-free going into the colder season, add a final dose of algaecide and herbicide, like Hydrothol-191 Granular Aquatic Algaecide and Herbicide. Once the foliage turns brown and dies, remove it with your Pond & Beach Rake to prevent muck from accumulating during the winter.

Treat with Beneficial Bacteria:

Treat your pond with muck-devouring bacteria one last time before water temperatures drop to 50° F.

Once spring returns and water temperatures rise above 50° F, start using those microorganisms in PondClear™ and MuckAway™ again! PondClear™ attacks debris suspended in the water column, while MuckAway™ battles built-up debris on the bottom of the pond. They’re sold individually and as part of the Pond Logic® ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package.

Pond Talk: What advice can you share with this new pond owner?

Remove Excess Nutrients & Odor - Pond Logic (r) PondClear (t) Natural Bacteria

I’m buying property with a half-acre pond. What do I need to know?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’m buying property with a half-acre pond. What do I need to know?

Q: I’m buying property with a half-acre pond. What do I need to know?

Vernon- Tolono, IL

A: A pond is a great resource to have – and it’s even better when it’s filled with clean water and supporting a thriving ecosystem. To keep it functional and healthy, you’ll need to do a few clean-up and maintenance chores and do a little research to ensure you’re complying with the law. Here’s what we recommend.

Check Regulations

While you’re waiting for move-in day, contact your city, county and state government offices for information about chemical use and pond/pool safety regulations. For instance, depending where you live, you may not be able to use some algaecides or herbicides, or you may need to install a fence around your pond to prevent kids or pets from falling in.

Install Safety Gear

Speaking of safety, you should also make sure safety gear, like a Life Ring, rope and first-aid kit, are installed in a conspicuous and accessible place near the pond in case of emergency. You never know when you’ll need it, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Assess Aeration

Does your new pond have an aeration system installed, does it work, and is it included in the sale of the property? An aeration system, which includes a diffuser, compressor and airline, is an important piece of equipment to have. It circulates the water column and delivers life-giving oxygen to your pond’s inhabitants. If the property includes an aerator, make sure it works; if not, consider investing in one. Measure the length, width and depth of your pond and call 866-POND-HELP to select the right system for your pond.

Power to the Pond

Your aeration system will need to be plugged in, so does your pond have electricity? What voltage is it set up for? If you plan on buying a new aeration system, Airmax® models come in both 115 volt and 220 volt.

Meet Your Neighbors

Before you apply any pond-care products to your pond, find out what kinds of critters live in it. Certain types of fish, including trout, carp and koi, will affect the way you use chemicals in your pond.

Manicure Weeds

If your pond hasn’t been tended in a while and the weeds have taken over, you’ll need to regain control by identifying the unwanted vegetation, killing and removing it. Start by using a Weed Control Guide or email a photo to weedid@thepondguy.com to help you identify the plants and select the right products for the job. Once the weeds are dead, mechanically remove them from the water with a Pond & Beach Rake so that they don’t become algae fertilizer next spring.

Start Maintenance Routine

Your last to-do item: Start a maintenance routine using a series of beneficial bacteria products like those found in the Pond Logic® ClearPAC® PLUS seasonal care package. The microorganisms will break down pond muck buildup and keep the water clean and clear all year long.

Pond Talk: What advice can you share with this new pond owner?

Be Prepared For Any Senario All Year - Taylor Made Life Rings

Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them?

Q: Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them?

Charlene- Brandon, VT

A: Slashing through cattails would certainly be cathartic, wouldn’t it? Well, we don’t recommend it – at least not yet. The best way to rid your pond or lake of those nuisance plants is to use a systemic herbicide with a surfactant, like Shoreline Defense® and Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Apply the mixture on the plant’s leaves with a sprayer. The herbicide then kills the entire plant, rhizome and all.

Destroying that rhizome is critical to controlling cattails. Along with cottony seeds that explode from their brown, conical flowers, cattails propagate via their rhizomes, or root systems, which produce shoots in the fall that sprout in the spring. When you stop their underground spread, you can manage their footprint in your pond or lake.

If you’re new at removing cattails from your pond, here are some tips to make it hassle free.

  1. Treat the cattails between late July and first frost, when the plant is actively growing.
  2. Use a tank sprayer, like the Specialty Pond Sprayer, to apply the herbicide to the leaves that are growing above the pond or lake’s surface. Make sure they’re at least 12 to 18 inches out of the water.
  3. Completely wet the foliage for maximum results when rain is not in the forecast for 24 hours.
  4. Once the plants have completely died and turned brown, you can get out your Weed Cutter and slash through those dead stalks. Aim for the base of the plants, which will allow for easier removal with your Pond & Beach Rake.

Cattails aren’t all bad. Besides adding to the aesthetic value of your landscape, they also make a good home for a variety of birds, insects, amphibians and underwater inhabitants. Consider leaving a few of the cattails around for those critters – but keep the plant carefully controlled with Shoreline Defense®.

Pond Talk: Various parts of the cattail are edible, including its rhizome, young shoots and green flower spike. Would you ever consider harvesting and eating your cattails?

Treats Shoreline Weeds & Cattails - Pond Logic(r) Shoreline Defense (r)

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