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Do I need to divide my aquatic plants every year? If so, how do I do it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to divide my aquatic plants every year? If so, how do I do it?

Q: Do I need to divide my aquatic plants every year? If so, how do I do it?

Ellen – Kirkwood, SC

A: After a long, cold winter, you’re probably ready to put your green thumb to work in your pond – and digging into your aquatic plants is a great place to start. Your potted bog plants and water lilies will need to be divided, but how you do so will depend on the type of plants you’re dealing with. In general, your bog plants will need to be divided every one to two years, and your water lilies will need to be divided every two to three years.

Below, we’ve included some simplified step-by-step instructions for how to do it. So pull out your waders, pruning tools, extra plant baskets, planting media and garden hose – and let’s get to work!

Dividing Bog Plants
Bog plants include species like corkscrew rush, dwarf cattails and irises. Some have clumping roots, some have runners and some have rhizomes. Regardless of the type of root mass, here’s what to do with them:

  • Step 1: First, lift the pot or container out of the pond and gently remove the root mass.
  • Step 2: Using your garden hose, wash the soil off of the mass and trim away any dead leaves and foliage.
  • Step 3: Divide the root mass depending on the type of root system. For plants with clumping roots like corkscrew rush, separate the roots into sections, leaving some roots intact with each section. For plants that divide by runners like dwarf cattails, cut the runner root and leave the root base with each section of the plant. And for plants that are rhizomes like irises, simply divide them into sections.
  • Step 4: Replant each section of plant in its own container and dispose of any plant overgrowth.

Dividing Water Lilies
Water lilies – both tropical and the hardy variety sold in our Grower’s Choice collection – are also relatively easy to divide. You’ll know it’s time to separate them when you notice fewer pads, reduced blooms or splitting pots.

  • Step 1: First, lift the pot or container out of the pond, locate the tuber and gently remove it.
  • Step 2: Rinse off the soil, and trim away root growth and old foliage.
  • Step 3: Identify the crowns, or the little buds where a new lily pad group will sprout, and cut between them with a sharp knife. Keep the pieces 3 to 4 inches in length. Each one of these will become a new water lily plant.
  • Step 4: Using aquatic planting media, plant each section separately at a 45-degree angle so that the growing tip is still exposed above the soil.
  • Step 5: Place your repotted lilies in a shallow area of your pond where only a few inches of water cover the plants.
  • Step 6: Once new growth appears, move the lilies to the deeper areas of your pond.

Fertilize and Tend
Once you’ve divided and replanted your aquatic plants, don’t forget to give them regular doses of fertilizer to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need to thrive and produce vigorous blooms. And keep your colorful beauties looking good by keeping them trimmed and regularly removing dead foliage throughout the growing season.

Pond Talk: When you divide your aquatic plants, what do you do with your extra cuttings?

Add Beauty To Your Pond - Grower's Choice Hardy Water Lilies

If I can’t do a big spring cleanout on my pond, what is the best way to get the debris out of the pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: If I can’t do a big spring cleanout on my pond, what is the best way to get the debris out of the pond?

Q: If I can’t do a big spring cleanout on my pond, what is the best way to get the debris out of the pond?

Maggie – Amherst, OH

A: An annual spring cleanout is an important chore when you own a backyard pond. It’s when you remove all the decaying organics that collected over the winter, trim back dead foliage, kick on your filtration and aeration systems, and generally spruce things up around your water garden wonderland.

But what if your pond was well-sheltered and protected from leaves and debris, or you live in a temperate climate where a total pond shutdown was unnecessary? Or what if you simply don’t have time to dedicate to all that cleaning and maintenance?

Well we have some shortcuts for you. Though it may be better in the long run to do a thorough cleanout at the start of the season, these five tips will cut down the time it takes to do your spring chores.

  1. Do a Partial Water Change: To help remove some floating and suspended debris, do a partial water change. Let 10 to 20 percent of your water drain from the pond, and add fresh water along with some Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS to remove heavy metals and prevent your fish from getting too stressed.
  2. Add Some Shine: Oxy-Lift™ Defense® will quickly shine up your waterfalls and shoreline rocks. It’s simple to use: As you’re doing your partial water change, sprinkle Oxy-Lift™ Defense® on scum-covered rocks, streams and liner before you refill your pond. In just 24 hours, you’ll see the gunk break free with no scrubbing at all!
  3. Vacuum Debris: Use your ClearVac™ Pond Vacuum to easily suck up gunk, sludge and decaying organics on the pond bottom. It has four different attachments – gravel, string algae, narrow and wide – along with extension tubes, so you can vacuum almost any surface. For debris larger than 3/8 inch, simply pull out your Collapsible Skimmer and Fish Net and scoop it out.
  4. Add Seasonal Defense®: To break down debris that your pond vacuum missed, add some Seasonal Defense® beneficial bacteria to the water. The microorganisms, which are designed to work in cooler temperatures, will break down leaves and sediment that have collected over the winter. It also kick-starts your pond’s biological filtration system, priming it for summer.
  5. Rinse Your Filter Media: Finally, remove your filter media and give it quick rinse with your garden hose to break up and wash away any accumulated gunk. No need to scrub it too thoroughly; the bacteria living in the pads or BioBalls™ will come back to life once temperatures rise.

Of course, for a truly healthy pond, we still recommend a complete cleanout. We’ll describe those chores in depth over the coming weeks. But for now, this quick fix will get the debris out of your pond, giving it a facelift for spring soirees.

Pond Talk: What shortcuts do you use to skirt spring chores?

Reduce Timely Pond Maintenance - The Pond Guy® ClearVac™ Pond Vacuum

Some of my rocks and stream shifted over the winter, and I think I may have a leak. What is the easiest way to fix it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Some of my rocks and stream shifted over the winter, and I think I may have a leak. What is the easiest way to fix it?

Q: Some of my rocks and stream shifted over the winter, and I think I may have a leak. What is the easiest way to fix it?

Pat – Cumberland, MD

A: Ice and snow can certainly do a number on a landscape – if you’ve ever seen how a glacier can carve through the earth, you know what we’re talking about! Around your pond, the same type of thing can occur, albeit on a smaller scale. Ice, snow and even heavy bouts of rain can shift rocks and soil, cause erosion and move or puncture your liner, resulting in leaks.

So what can be done? You’ll need to do some investigating to determine where the problem is and then get busy making repairs. Here’s what we suggest.

1. Rock Steady

Because the rocks shifted over the winter, the first thing to do is return them to their original position them and lock them into place. As you move the rocks back, check to see if they tore the liner or shifted it out of place. If so, patch the hole and tuck the liner back in. Use PondBuilder™ PondBuild ‘N Foam to fill in gaps between the rocks, support them and prevent them from moving again next winter.

2. Rule Out Evaporation

During the heat of summer, you can expect some evaporation – and it can cause your pond to lose up to an inch of water a day. If you have a long stream bed with a lot of surface area or a large pond with few floating plants, even more water could transform from liquid to vapor. To rule out evaporation, fill the pond back up and keep an eye on the water level. Any more than an inch or so of water loss could indicate a leak.

3. Check for Damp Spots

If more than an inch or so of water is disappearing daily, one clear clue that could lead to your leak is a damp area around the pond’s perimeter. That water has to go somewhere, and a low-lying patch of wet ground is a great place to start looking for its source. Walk around the pond and carefully inspect the soil for signs of unexplained moisture.

4. Rule Out the Liner

If you’ve ruled out evaporation and found no damp areas, there are two more possible leak culprits: your waterfall or your liner. Shut down waterfall pump and wait for several hours. If the pond’s water level stays the same, then you’ll know the leak is not in the liner itself. It’s likely in the waterfall or plumbing. Check your waterfall box and skimmer for cracks or if the liner isn’t attached, and inspect your plumbing for loose connections.

5. Track, Repair Liner Leak

At this point, the bad news is that you probably have a hole in your liner, and finding it won’t be easy. But the good news is that it is possible to track it down and repair it.

To find it, use Pond Logic® Pond Shade or some milk to visually track the leak. Simply add a few drops on the side and watch it as it finds its way to the leak. This will take some time, a few attempts — and patience. You can also let the water slowly go down. (Depending how low it goes, you may need to temporarily relocate your fish.) The water level should stabilize, which will allow you to visually inspect the first few inches of liner above the water surface for the hole.

Once you’ve found the hole, patch it up with an EPDM Liner Patch Kit or use some Gold Label Pond Sealer. The 6-inch liner patch is easy to use on small punctures: Just peel off the protective film and press onto the liner. The sealer can be used in wet or dry conditions and will seal completely in 48 hours.

Good luck tracking down that leak and repairing it!

Pond Talk: Tell us about your most mysterious pond leak. How did you find it and repair it?

Quickly Repair Winter Damage - Tite Seal™ EPDM Pond Liner Patch Kit

We are thinking about putting in a pond and most seem to be the same shape. Does the shape of the pond matter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: We are thinking about putting in a pond and most seem to be the same shape. Does the shape of the pond matter?

Q: We are thinking about putting in a pond and most seem to be the same shape. Does the shape of the pond matter?

Beth – Hinesville, GA

A: Round, oblong, square, kidney-shaped, oval or otherwise, ponds come in all shapes and sizes. In most cases, they’re designed to fit into and enhance their environment. But does shape matter? Read on to learn more.

Tried-and-True Standards

Many ponds are curved and centered toward the viewing area – and there’s a good reason for that. An oval- or kidney-shaped pond allows you to see more of your water garden from one place. Imagine sitting on your deck or patio and enjoying a 180-degree view of your natural-looking waterscape. When compared to a perfectly round or square pond in the middle of your yard, you can see why one might have more aesthetic appeal than another.

Oval- or kidney-shaped ponds also allow for optimum circulation, particularly when a RapidFlo™ Ecosystem Pond Kit or AllClear™ Ecosystem Pond Kit is installed. A waterfall located at one end of a slightly curved pond will gently push the water toward your skimmer or pump for circulation and filtration. Round ponds or those with many coves or inlets may have areas of little circulation, which will require extra waterfalls, fountains or pumps to move the water and prevent it from stagnating.

Outside the Oval

Of course, if you want to play with pond shapes and design a waterscape that’s outside the ordinary, have at it! A rectangular pond teeming with colorful koi could be a stunning centerpiece in a modern-themed yard. A haphazardly shaped pond outlined with irises and arrowhead could transform a suburban postage-stamp yard into a natural wonderland. Just be sure you provide adequate aeration to all its corners and coves.

Regardless of its shape or size, a koi pond or water garden will make a valuable addition to your yard. Check out magazines for inspiration. Pin favorites on Pinterest. Sketch out your ideas. When you’re ready, talk to one of our pond design experts – and get ready to start digging!

Pond Talk: What shape is your pond? Is it tried-and-true, or is it outside the ordinary?

Pond Building Made Easy - The Pond Guy® RapidFlo™ Ecosystem Pond Kits

I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better?

Q: I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better?

Dana – Altadena, CA

A: The media you use in your filtration system matters. Just think about its purpose: To house billions of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that keep your pond alive, crystal clear and algae-free. Thanks to their ample surface area, both lava rock and bioballs will work, but bioballs have some benefits over the rock. Read on to learn more.

Lava Rock’s Limitations

Lava rock – that igneous rock that’s formed as an erupting volcano’s molten lava cools and hardens – is very porous. When chunks of it live in your filtration system, you’re providing a lot of surface area for those beneficial bacteria to colonize and grow. That’s what makes it such a great filter media.

It does, however, have its drawbacks.

  • Clogged Holes: Over time, the porous rock can become easily clogged with muck and debris. Once the holes and pockets are clogged, they can become very difficult to clean out – which ultimately creates less overall surface area.
  • Hard Water: Lava rock naturally contains a variety of minerals, including iron and magnesium, that could affect your water’s pH, making it harder. Hard water could make it more difficult to treat algae that forms.
  • It’s Heavy!: They may be porous chunks of rock, but hefting bags of it takes some strength – particularly when its wet and full of gunk.

Benefits of BioBalls

Bioballs, like The Pond Guy® BioBalls™ filter media, are plastic spheres made up of dozens of thin rods that provide plenty of surface area for beneficial bacteria to thrive. Two hundred of the bioballs in a mesh bag will filter about 1,000 gallons of water in a pond with minimal fish.

Compared to lava rock, bioballs have some definite benefits.

  • Easy to Clean: Bioballs can also become clogged, by they’re easy to clean. Just rinse them off with water from your pond and you’ll be good to go.
  • Indefinite Lifetime: Because they’re made from long-lasting material, bioballs will not degrade and will function equally well year after year.
  • Shape Shifters: The bioballs’ round shape allows them to more easily conform to any filter, no matter its shape.
  • Lightweight, Easy to Handle: Each one of these tiny, 1 1/2-inch plastic spheres weighs a scant 0.3 ounces; 200 of them weigh a whopping 3 1/2 pounds. They’re easy to deposit and remove from your filter thanks to a mesh filter bag.

Consider making the switch from lava rock to bioballs. You’ll see better results and you’ll need to do less maintenance. What’s better than that?

Pond Talk: Why do you prefer bioballs over lava rock?

Lightweight & Easy to Clean - The Pond Guy® BioBalls™

What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish?

Q: What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish?

Sherry – Raleigh, NC

A: The term “cycle” refers to the nitrogen cycle – and it’s an important process to understand if you plan to keep fish in your pond. The nitrogen cycle provides the biological filtration in the water, which keeps the water free from toxic compounds created by decaying organic matter. The process is a complicated one, so here are the basics.

Nitrogen Cycle 101

Before we discuss cycling a new pond, let’s dive into how the nitrogen cycle looks in an established, mature pond. As organic material – like uneaten food, dead plant matter and fish waste – decay, the bacteria that break it down release ammonia, which is toxic to living organisms. One particular microorganism called nitrosomonas, however, loves ammonia. It feeds on ammonia and oxygen, and releases a chemical called nitrite.

Nitrites are also dangerous to fish and aquatic critters, and so another group of microorganisms – nitrobacter – enters the nitrogen cycle picture. These bacteria transform nitrites into relatively harmless nitrates, which are then absorbed by algae and plants or reduced by water changes.

New Pond, New Bacteria

A new pond doesn’t have healthy populations of nitrosomonas and nitrobacter yet, and so the pond must be “cycled.” This refers to establishing and maturing your pond’s biological filtration system so that it’s able to turn ammonia into nitrates. To do so, you need to start the process with an ammonia source (a few hardy fish) and seed the pond with these beneficial bacteria, which can be found in Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® and in Microbe-Lift® PL Gel.

Nurturing Nitrosomonas

In the early spring when established ponds are waking up after a long winter, a similar cycling process will take place. Some nitrosomonas and nitrobacter will survive in your filtration media and gravel and begin to colonize, but it’s a good idea to give them a boost. Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® is formulated for use in cooler temperatures – making it perfect for early spring applications. Since those microorganisms live in your filtration media, avoid washing it when you’re doing your spring cleaning.

Cycled and Ready for Fish

The cycling process can take four to six weeks, though in the warmer spring and summer this time may be reduced. Keep an eye on your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels with a test kit, like our PondCare® Master Liquid Test Kit. Once it indicates that nitrates are present, your pond is considered cycled. Add only a few fish at a time to prevent ammonia levels from spiking again.

Keep in mind that this ammonia-nitrite-nitrate cycle is always occurring, so test your pond regularly to ensure the health and wellbeing of your finned friends.

Pond Talk: What has been your experience in “cycling” a pond?

Keep Pond Water Safe for Fish - PondCare® Master Liquid Test Kit

I just saw my favorite koi. He used to have black spots – but where did they go? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I just saw my favorite koi. He used to have black spots – but where did they go?

Q: I just saw my favorite koi. He used to have black spots – but where did they go?

George – Price, UT

A: Koi aficionados call their fish “living jewels” for a reason. With their rich red, brilliant white, velvety black and shimmering metallic scales, these swimming beauties resemble vibrant precious stones that glisten and glimmer as they glide through the water.

Colorful, Dynamic

Thanks to generations of careful breeding practices, koi hobbyists have developed more than 20 varieties of nishikigoi (brocaded carp) that differ by their scale color and pattern. Some of the stand-out types include:

  • Kohaku: White body topped with large red markings.
  • Sanke (Taisho Sanke): Similar to the Kohaku but with the addition of small black markings called sumi.
  • Showa (Showa Sanke): Black body topped with red (hi) and white (shiroji) markings.
  • Ogon: Metallic scales in one solid color, usually orange, white, silver or gold.

A koi’s color pattern is dynamic through its entire life; the colors and markings change as the fish grows in size and loses and regrows its scales. For instance, a black spot on your Sanke’s back may seem to shrink or disappear beneath its red markings – only to return a year later in a morphed size or shape.

Bring Out the Brilliance

Though it’s part of a koi’s DNA to change its spots, environmental factors can cause modifications as well. Poor water quality, parasites and fungal infections, for example, may fade scale color. Insufficient sun exposure during the winter months, too, may cause colors to wane. But once the water quality is back up to par and sunless sky gives way to bright sunshine, those brilliant colors will return.

On the flip side, some external factors can actually enhance a koi’s color. Fresh vegetables and citrus fruits, like green peas, oranges and grapefruit, can bring out the vibrant red and orange tones, brighten the whites and deepen the blacks. You can also find commercial diets that are packed with ingredients, like vitamin C and spirulina, formulated to boost color.

Summer Color

As warmer weather approaches and your fish start to get hungry again, start them off with an easy-to-digest wheat germ diet, like The Pond Guy Spring & Fall Fish Food, followed by a higher protein, color-enhancing diet, like The Pond Guy Growth & Vibrance Fish Food. Also test your water quality and do what’s necessary to make sure it’s the best it can be. In time, you’ll likely see your koi’s black markings return – or change into something completely different!

Pond Talk: What changes have you seen in your koi’s color and markings?

Perfect for Cool Weather Feeding - The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food

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