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Do I treat phragmites the same as I treat cattails? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Do I treat phragmites the same as I treat cattails?

Q: Do I treat phragmites the same as I treat cattails?

Ben – Clio, MI

A: Phragmites are trouble. These perennial, warm-season grasses are an invasive species in many parts of the country. When the dense stands take over a lake or wetland area, they can cause adverse ecological, economic and social impacts – including reduced access to your swimming or fishing hole and increased fire danger.

Before we discuss how to control these weeds, also termed “common reed,” let’s learn a bit more about them.

Phragmites 101

In their information-packed booklet titled, A Guide to the Control and Management of Invasive Phragmites, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Natural Resources describes phragmites as plants that can reach 15 feet in height with flat, stiff, tapering leaves. During growing season, the plant grows gray-green foliage and purple-brown-silver seed head plumes at the end of long stocks, which appear in late July. In the fall, the foliage turns tan and falls off, leaving behind the stock and plume-topped shoot throughout the winter.

But the worst part of phragmites is its rhizome and root system, which can grow to an incredible 60 feet in length and 6 feet deep. More than 80 percent of the plant’s yearly biomass is contained below ground, making it very difficult to treat and control.

Managing the Biomass

To eliminate phragmites, you have to attack the right portion of the plant at the right time within its life cycle. Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Herbicide Treatment: In the late summer, early fall when the phragmites are flowering, treat them with an herbicide. We typically recommend Shoreline Defense® to control cattails, but sometimes it only provides partial control of phragmites. In those cases, use Kraken™. When you use either herbicide, make sure you use Treatment Booster™ PLUS, which contains a surfactant that will help the chemicals enter the plant’s system faster.
  2. Remove the Dead Weeds: In two to three weeks, after the weeds have died, cut them down with a Weed Cutter and manually remove the dead weeds – including the seed heads and rhizomes, which should be bagged and thrown away.
  3. Controlled Burn: In situations where it can be used safely and effectively, a prescribed fire is an effective and ecologically sound method for controlling phragmites. It’s critical, however, to first treat the area with herbicides and then follow-up with the controlled burn the following year in the late summer, according to the DEQ. Work closely with your local departments to ensure safety, proper permits are in order and timing is correct.

For more information about removing these invasive weeds and reclaiming your pond or late, contact your local Department of Natural Resources or Department of Environmental Quality. They have a wealth of knowledge and know-how to help.

Pond Talk: Have you successfully battled phragmites? What was your strategy?

Treat Nuisance Weeds & Phragmites - Kraken™ Aquatic Herbicide & Treatment Booster™ PLUS

Why can’t I use lawn weed killers to clean up my pond’s shoreline? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why can’t I use lawn weed killers to clean up my pond’s shoreline?

Q: Why can’t I use lawn weed killers to clean up my pond’s shoreline?

Kevin – Heath, OH

A: If you read the fine print on your favorite lawn weed killer and your favorite aquatic shoreline weed killer, you’ll notice that they both contain the same active ingredient—glyphosate. This broad-spectrum herbicide works wonders in destroying actively growing foliage. In fact, it’s one of the most popular weed destroyers out there.

Inert Ingredients

Just because the lawn weed killer and shoreline weed killer have the same active ingredient, however, doesn’t mean you can use them interchangeably. You see, the inert or inactive ingredients used in the formulas are different. Those different ingredients make the shoreline chemicals safe around bodies of water and lawn chemicals unsafe around bodies of water.

By law, these differences and designated uses must be noted on the herbicide’s label. The Environmental Protection Agency approves the label and warns consumers of any dangers. In fact, if you continue to read that fine print on your lawn weed killer’s label, you’ll find it says to not apply the product on or around water sources.

Stay Legal

If you’re treating weeds around your pond or lake, be sure to use one that has been approved for use around water bodies, like Shoreline Defense® and Treatment Booster™ PLUS. When applied directly to the foliage, the aquatic herbicide safely destroys a range of weeds and grasses—including cattails—on the shoreline, beach or anywhere emergent weeds grow.

Like it or not, you should read your labels and use the right formula for the job. You’ll be keeping your water supply safe, the government happy and your land legal.

Pond Talk: How carefully do you read the fine print on your lawn and aquatic herbicide’s labels?

Safely Treat Shoreline Weeds & Grasses - Pond Logic® Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS

I bought an aeration system this year. What maintenance should I be doing? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I bought an aeration system this year. What maintenance should I be doing?

Q: I bought an aeration system this year. What maintenance should I be doing?

Gary – Saginaw, MI

A: Congratulations on your purchase of an Airmax® Aeration System—and good for you for thinking about regular maintenance, which will keep it operating well for years to come. Here are some things to inspect on a routine basis:

  • Check Your Cooling Fan and Pre-Filter: Regularly clean out your pre-filter and check to see that the fan is indeed operating. Hot air should be blowing out, not air being pulled in. An easy way to remember to do this is to always check your fan and shake off your pre-filter when you cut your lawn.
  • Check Your Air Pressure: Check to see that your air pressure has not risen or dropped significantly. Normal operation will range between 5 and 10 psi. Also be sure to check your pressure relief valve to make sure no air is escaping.
  • Check Your Air Filter: Clean and replace your air filter every three to six months, depending on your environment, and do not place a wet air filter back into the unit. For deep-water units, use the Pond Logic® SilentAir™ Piston Compressor Air Filter; for shallow-water units, use the Pond Logic® SilentAir™ LR Series Air Filter.
  • Purge Your Membrane Sticks: Once per year, purge your membrane diffuser sticks. See the product manual for additional instructions.
  • Use the Maintenance Kit: Finally, be sure to use your maintenance kit for the system you have installed. For shallow-water systems, use the Pond Logic® SilentAir™ Diaphragm Compressor Maintenance Kit every 12 months to keep your diaphragm compressor running its best. For deep-water systems, use the Pond Logic® SilentAir™ Piston Compressor Maintenance Kit every 24 months to keep your piston compressor humming.

Remember, if you have any questions, need additional information or want to read through some troubleshooting tips, refer to your product manual.

Pond Talk: What is your aerator maintenance routine? Do you have any tips to share?

Maximize System Performance - Pond Logic® SilentAir™ Piston Compressor Air Filter

What is the thermocline? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What is the thermocline?

Q: What is the thermocline?

Walt – Cedar City, UT

A: Have you ever swum in a pond without a bottom aerator and felt colder water near your toes and warmer water on top?

You’ve experienced the thermocline.

Simply put, the thermocline is a layer of water between the warmer, surface zone and the colder, deep-water zone.

In ponds and lakes in the summertime, a natural phenomenon called stratification occurs when warm, less-dense, oxygen-rich water sits on top of colder, denser, oxygen depleted water. The thermocline separates the warm layer—the epilimnion —and the cold layer—the hypolimnion. In this stable system very little mixing of the layers occurs, particularly in calm weather.

Fish and other underwater critters (including beneficial bacteria) have trouble with this stratification. As summer marches on, your finned pals have less and less oxygen available below the thermocline, so they have to come closer to the surface to get their needed O2 supply. That means less room for them to swim. It also means your beneficial bacteria below the thermocline become oxygen-starved, which could result in algae growth and odor.

Thank goodness for aeration.

Bottom diffuser aeration, like Airmax® Aeration systems, prevents your pond or lake from stratifying by churning and mixing the temperature layers. The tiny bubbles created by the diffuser force the cooler oxygen-starved water to the pond’s surface where it becomes pumped up with O2. The warmer, oxygen-rich water then drops down, fueling the beneficial bacteria.

The result is an eliminated thermocline and higher oxygen levels throughout the water column.

It’s critical, however, that your system be sized correctly for your pond so the aeration is uniform throughout. If you currently have an aeration system running and you’re not sure if it’s doing its job, take your pond’s temperature. Using a thermometer and string, measure the temperature of the water every 24 inches down in various locations in your lake. If you find that you have more than a few degrees difference in your vertical readings, you’re probably under-aerating your pond.

But once you get your aeration system dialed in, your fish will once again have full access to the entire body of water, and your beneficial bacteria will have the opportunity to grow and thrive.

Call us if you need help mapping the aeration system in your lake. We’re happy to help!

Pond Talk: Have you experience stratification in your pond or lake?

Create The Perfect Pond - Airmax® Aeration Systems

I don’t know if I have chara or another weed. How do I tell? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I don’t know if I have chara or another weed. How do I tell?

Q: I don’t know if I have chara or another weed. How do I tell?

Dan – W Jefferson, OH

A: Though it resembles a pond weed, chara—also called muskgrass or skunkweed—is actually a type of bottom-growing algae that can efficiently take over your pond or lake.

Can’t tell the difference between the two? Here are some tips to help identify and treat the chara.

IDing Chara

Pull out some of the plant in question and take a close look at it. Does it have these characteristics?

  • No Roots: Unlike pond weeds with traditional leaves and well-established root systems, chara is a gray-green branched multicellular algae that lacks flowers, true leaves and roots. Instead, it has six to 16 leaf-like branchlets that grow in spirals around the stem.
  • Distinct Odor: Next, smell it. Does it have a skunky, musty, garlicky-type smell? If so, it’s probably chara. Simply walking close to or around your pond will tell you right away if you have a chara problem, particularly late in the pond season.
  • Crunchy Texture: When you rub the plant between your fingers, what does it feel like? Chara has a crunchy or gritty-type texture that’s different than pond weeds.
  • Quickly Disintegrates: Finally, when you leave it on the dock, what happens to it after a few hours? If it almost disintegrates after a few hours, you’ve got chara.

Treating Chara

Once you determine it’s chara and not a pond weed, you’ll need to treat it with an algaecide rather than an herbicide. We prefer to use Pond Logic® Algae Defense® Algaecide, a fast-acting liquid formula, but use Cutrine®-Plus Granular as for chara growing in water deeper than 3 feet.

About two weeks after treating the chara, we suggest to use a Pond Rake to rake out as much as you can Doing this will help you gain control relatively quickly. (Important tip: Do not rake out chara before treating it because it will spread).

Pond Talk: What kinds of problems do you have with pond weeds or algae?

Eliminate Bottom Growing Chara - Cutrine®-Plus Granular

The geese are really making a mess. How can I prevent them from using my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: The geese are really making a mess. How can I prevent them from using my pond?

Q: The geese are really making a mess. How can I prevent them from using my pond?

Dawn – Ripon, WI

A: Geese can certainly make a mess of a lake’s shoreline—and that mess is unsightly. The best way to keep that mess off your lawn and pond is to prevent geese from stopping in the first place!

One of the best ways to do that is to put up a decoy. They’re designed to dissuade the mess makers from choosing your shoreline for their home.

Swan Decoy: Swans and geese make similar nesting areas, but they don’t flock together. In fact, swans are quite territorial and aggressive toward geese—especially when there are baby swans in the mix. So when geese see a swan decoy, like the Floating Swan Decoy, they will fly on by to find a lake or pond that’s not inhabited by their grumpy cousins.

Alligator Decoy: Whether your lake is in Florida, Wisconsin or Oregon, your resident geese will scatter when an alligator decoy, like the Gator Guard Decoy, is deployed. Geese instinctively fear alligators, even if they’ve never seen one before.

Coyote Decoy: Geese (and just about every other critter) do not like coyotes. The 3D Coyote Decoy looks lifelike from all angles, particularly when the wind blows and moves its tail and body. Geese will spot this movement from a great distance and steer clear of it. Nesting birds and other rodents will not want to seek refuge anywhere near your property if they spot this lurking predator in the open!

When using decoys to deter geese, don’t forget to move them around every few days. If you leave them in the same spot, the geese will realize it’s a fake and move in.

Here’s a fun fact for you: Geese are flightless for one month beginning in late June through early August. They are in a serious molting period. So, it’s best to keep them away prior to being grounded.

Pond Talk: What are some other ways to keep geese off your property?

Keep Pesky Geese Away - OrnaMates(tm) Floating Swan Decoy

When can I start treating my shoreline for new cattail growth? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: When can I start treating my shoreline for new cattail growth?

Q: When can I start treating my shoreline for new cattail growth?

Charlie – Bottineau, ND

A: When the wall of cattails comes between you and your recreational pond or lake, it’s time to retake control of your shoreline! Once the cattails are 18 inches above the water’s surface, you can start treating the new growth.

Here’s how we recommend managing cattails:

Set Boundaries

Not all cattails are bad. They provide a habitat for wildlife, like amphibians, insects, birds and fish. Their below-the-ground rhizomes stop soil erosion. And their green strap-like foliage, which stands 3 to 10 feet tall, adds beachfront privacy. So rather than totally eradicate cattails from your pond or lake, set boundaries for them and treat them when they stray.

Chemical Control

The most common way to control cattails is to apply an EPA-registered herbicide like Shoreline Defense® with a pressurized pond sprayer to the foliage of actively growing plants. The product is absorbed by the weed, ultimately killing it all the way down to its roots. It’s a perfect solution for beaches, shorelines or anywhere emergent weeds grow.

Physical Removal

Once the herbicide has had a chance to fully soak into the cattail’s root system, the plant will turn brown and become limp. At this point, you should remove the stalks. Why? Those dead cattails and decomposing foliage will turn into muck—which will act as a fertilizer for next season’s cattails. Cut the stalks using the Pond Rake and Cutter Combo or the Jenlis WeedRazer® Pro at the base of the plants, allowing for easier removal with your rake.

Stay in Control

Cattails have extensive root systems, and so staying on top of their growth is key to preventing them from turning into a cattail wall—and taking over your shoreline!

Pond Talk: What critters live in your stand of cattails?

Kill Cattails To Their Roots - Pond Logic® Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLU

We love sitting by our pond, but the mosquitoes are active this year. How can we control them | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We love sitting by our pond, but the mosquitoes are active this year. How can we control them

Q: We love sitting by our pond, but the mosquitoes are active this year. How can we control them

Scott – Tampa, FL

A: There’s nothing as irritating as a mosquito. They buzz, they bite, they feed on blood, they leave behind itchy welts and, in some cases, transmit dangerous diseases like malaria, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus, dog heartworm and equine encephalitis. No, they’re certainly not a welcome pondside guest!

Controlling these tiny bloodsuckers requires a four-pronged approach. Here’s what we recommend:

1. Move the Water: A female mosquito prefers to lay her eggs in stagnant water that’s full of algae, plankton, fungi and bacteria, so your first priority should be moving your water with an Airmax® Aeration System near the area where you sit. The agitated water will make her think twice about calling that part of your pond home.

2. Destroy Their Habitat: When the mosquito larvae—or wigglers—hatch, they nibble on all those tiny plants and microorganisms that are floating by as they develop into pupae—or tumblers—and, eventually, adults. So the second item on your to-do list is to cut down on all the debris around the edge of your pond, or at least in the area where you hang out the most, with a pond rake and weed cutter.

3. Put Mosquito Fish to Work: If you don’t already have a fish population living in your lake, consider adding some mosquito fish, which are small fish that gobble the wigglers and tumblers. The American Mosquito Control Association recommends adding predacious minnows or native fish to lakes and ponds for biological control of the insects.

4. Use Mosquito Dunks: If you find you’re still having problems with the vampire bugs, try some Summit® Mosquito Bits® & Dunks®. These handy-dandy little disks and crumbles contain Bt-israelensis (Bt-i), a specially formulated biological pesticide designed to destroy mosquitoes. You simply toss them in your pond or lake and they’ll provide relief for up to 30 days. Plus, they’re safe for use around fish and plants.

Unfortunately, mosquitoes are part of life with a lake or pond. But with a little aeration, physical control, biological control and, if necessary, chemical control, you can keep these irritating bloodsuckers managed so you can enjoy relaxing evenings by your pond.

Pond Talk: How do you manage mosquitoes by your lake or pond?

Eradicate Mosquitoes for 30 Days - Summit® Mosquito Bits® & Dunks®

How do I know if my pond is covered in pollen or algae? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How do I know if my pond is covered in pollen or algae?

Q: How do I know if my pond is covered in pollen or algae?

John – Noblesville, IN

A: Get on your sleuthing hat. Now that summer has arrived, the warm days can trigger both algae blooms and pollen bursts from flowering plants—both of which obscure the clean, sparkling water in your pond or lake. In order to clear things up, you need to first figure out whether it’s algae or pollen. Here are two clues to follow …

TEXTURE

Run your hand over the water surface and see what happens. Does the discoloration break apart at the surface or does it go deeper?

Algae that forms in ponds comes in two types—planktonic and filamentous. Planktonic algae is suspended in the water column, giving the water a pea-soup like appearance. Filamentous algae looks like long threads that grow from the bottom up and intertwine to form mats, commonly referred to as pond scum. When you run your fingers through the water, neither type of algae breaks apart.

Pollen, however, will break apart when agitated. It simply settles on the pond’s surface, giving it an oil slick-like appearance, and does not sink into the water column unless a heavy rain comes through.

COLOR

Next, take a close look at the color of what’s floating on your pond. Pollen, planktonic algae and filamentous algae can give a lake’s surface an off-colored hue.

The planktonic algae, which are microscopic plants, and the filamentous algae strings and mats color the water different shades of green, blue-green, brown or variations in between.

The pollen, however, often tints the water lighter green, yellow or white depending on what plants are releasing pollen spores into the air. Your deducing process can become complicated, however, if you have a combination of pollen sitting on top of a layer of algae!

IT’S ELEMENTARY!

Whether you’ve decided it’s algae or pollen, we have a solution for you: aeration.

A subsurface Airmax® Aeration System keeps pond and lake water circulating, which prevents the algae from forming and the pollen from coalescing into an unsightly slick. It also pumps oxygen into the water, which keeps your plants and fish happy and healthy.

Above the water, a Kasco Decorative Fountain will keep pollen at bay by spraying wet stuff up and over the pond’s surface, causing ripples that prevent the slicks from forming. Plus, they add movement and drama to your pond.

Pond Talk: How do you break up the pollen that forms on your pond or lake?

Add Movement & Drama To Your Pond - Kasco Decorative Fountain

How do I know which chemicals will treat my weeds? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How do I know which chemicals will treat my weeds?

Q: How do I know which chemicals will treat my weeds?

Henry – Markesan, WI

A: Weeds. Whether they’re algae or submerged, floating or shoreline plants, they’re a nuisance—not to mention a potential hazard to your game fish and pond or lake health. In order to manage these green invaders, you should get to know them a little better. Don’t worry: you don’t need to be a Master Gardener to identify and treat them. Here’s all you need to know:

1. Know the Weeds

Before you start dumping chemicals on the weeds in your pond, you’ll first need to understand the different types of aquatic weeds that pop up in lakes or ponds. There are four basic categories:

  • Algae. Algae comes in three basic types: Planktonic, which causes the pea soup look in your water; filamentous, which creates blankets of stringy stuff or pond scum; and chara or muskgrass, which smells like musky garlic. When you take a closer look, these weeds have no defined root systems, unlike their other weed cousins.
  • Submerged. Submerged weeds live underwater. This group of troublemakers includes bladderwort, several types of pondweed, watermilfoil, parrot feather and hydrilla. They look like a typical plant, with leaves, stems and root systems.
  • Floating. Floating weeds generally reside in shallow water and have root systems that reach into the water or down into the soil, allowing their leaves and flowers to rise to the surface. They include watermeal, duckweed, azolla and even water lilies. When not kept in check, these floaters can take over a pond in no time.
  • Emergent. Emergent weeds live along your lake’s shoreline. These plants like to keep their feet wet; their foliage, leaves and flowers live out of water, but their root systems prefer wet, almost completely saturated soil. Emergent weeds include cattails, phragmites, purple loosestrife and bulrush.

2. ID the Weed

Once you identify the category of weed you’re dealing with, head over to our Weed Control Guide and try to match weed with the picture. For example, is it a floating plant with a root system? Then you’re dealing with a type of floating weed. Is it completely submerged? Then you’re dealing with a type of submerged weed.

Each weed included in our Weed Control Guide will describe the best treatment options to manage it. Not sure of the weed? Snap a close-up photo and e-mail it to us at pondhelp@thepondguy.com. Of course, you can always call us toll-free for advice, too, at 866-POND-HELP (766-3435)!

3. Treat the Weed

Once you’ve ID’d the weed, treat it with its appropriate herbicide, remembering to always follow label instructions when applying it to your pond or lake. If you have fish in your pond, we suggest treating in sections as sudden changes in water conditions can affect aquatic species. Treat 1/4 – 1/2 of pond at a time, while waiting 10-14 days between treatments.

4. Remove the Remains

Once the chemicals start working to kill the weeds, make sure you remove the decomposing foliage with a weed rake, like the Jenlis WeedRazer® Aquatic Weed Cutter. Why? Because anything dead will turn into muck and start the weed/algae cycle again—which is not something you want to happen, right?

Pond Talk: What tips do you have for managing aquatic weeds?

Broad Spectrum Pondweed Control - Pond Logic® Ultra PondWeed Defense®

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