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This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Bonnie – Dover, NJ

A:  You’ve been watching your aquatic plants flourish all year. Your water lilies and hyacinth put off big blooms, your irises and cattails became homes for frogs and dragonflies, and your submerged plants provided a home for your fish and snails.

With the cold weather on its way, now what do you do with them? Well, it all depends on where you live and what types of plants you have.

In the Zone

What’s your hardiness zone? The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map will help you determine which plants will thrive in a particular location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones.

In general, if you live in a hardiness zone that’s frost-free, congratulations! All you need to do is trim off dead foliage with your Scissors & Pliers, fertilize the plants as necessary and enjoy them all year round.

If you live in an area that freezes, however, you have some work to do.

Like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants – whether floating, marginal or submerged – are sensitive in varying degrees to freezing temperatures. Some species will overwinter just fine in frostier hardiness zones, while others will wilt and die at the slightest hint of ice.

So before you do anything, get to know your plants and identify which ones are in your zone and which ones aren’t.

Overwintering Your Plants

Winter care of water lilies, marginal/bog plants and submerged plants will depend on if they’re tropical (anything that likes temperatures above your hardiness zone) or hardy (anything geared for temperatures in your hardiness zone or lower).

  • Tropical Plants: These sensitive beauties, including tropical water lilies and canna, will need to be removed from the pond and replaced next season, or removed and relocated to a warm indoor space for winter. Read about how to overwinter tropical water lilies in this recent blog post.
  • Hardy Plants: These easy-care troopers, including hardy water lilies and submerged plants, only need to have dead foliage removed after the first hard frost. Simply use your AquaGloves™ and Scissors & Pliers to trim away any spent leaves, lily pads or flowers. Once trimmed, sink the plants to the deepest part of your pond. Hardy plants will go dormant for the winter and regrow in the spring.

Floating plants, like hyacinth and water lettuce, can be treated like an annual; they will die over the winter, so remove them from your pond once they begin to yellow. Luckily, they’re inexpensive to replace and will grow quickly once re-added. Please note: hyacinth and water lettuce can be invasive so be sure to dispose of them properly and never release into public water.

Good luck caring for your first winter pond!

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

Quickly Trim Away Dormant Plants - Pond Scissors & Pliers

How do I winterize my tropical lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I winterize my tropical lilies?

Q: How do I winterize my tropical lilies?

Marilyn – Morton, IL

A:  Vivid and fragrant, tropical water lilies are the floating jewels of a pond. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone 9 or lower, you’ll need to take extra special care of these warm-weather-loving beauties over the cold season. To overwinter tropical water lilies, you have two choices: send them into dormancy or keep them growing.

Going Dormant for Winter

If you decide to send your water lilies into dormancy for the winter, stop fertilizing them in the fall to slow their growth and help them prepare their tubers for winter. After the first frost, pull out your Aqua Gloves™ and follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. First, remove the lily and planting basket from the pond. Using your hands, dig around in the soil just below the plant’s crown to feel for the tubers. They normally range in size from an acorn to golf ball, but they can be smaller or larger.
  2. Take out the tubers and rinse each one very well with a strong stream of water. Use your pond scissors to trim off remnants of roots or stems. If small tubers are growing on a larger tuber, remove them and store them—they could turn into new lilies plants next year!
  3. Store the tubers in a plastic bag or glass jar that’s filled with damp (not wet!) peat moss, sphagnum moss or sand. Consider dusting them with a fungicide before sealing them up. Keep the container in a room that stays warmer than 50° F.
  4. Once a month through the winter, check on your tubers to be sure they’re still damp. Spritz them with water if they get dry.
  5. When water temperatures climb back to 60° F in the spring, replant the tubers in a planting basket filled with fresh, fertile soil. Position them just below the surface with the pointy side up and round side down.

Keep Them Growing

If you decide to keep your water lilies growing over the winter, set up a space in your home for a grow light and an aquarium or lined indoor pond. After the first frost, take the lilies and their planting baskets inside and follow these tips:

  1. First, trim off the largest leaves and any dead, dry or damaged leaves with your pond scissors.
  2. Place the planting baskets and plants inside in an aquarium or lined pond filled with water.
  3. Keep the water temperature above 60° F, and use a grow light to keep the lilies growing slowly over the winter.
  4. Once the weather outside warms and your pond’s water temperature climbs back to 60° F, transplant your lilies or add some fertilizer to their existing soil and submerge them.

Overwintering tropical water lilies isn’t hard, but it does require some space and planning. Good luck!

Pond Talk: What tips can you share for overwintering tropical water lilies?

Keep Your Hands & Arms Dry - Coralife® Aqua Gloves™

My water is brown. Should I use carbon and, if so, what is the best way to apply it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My water is brown. Should I use carbon and, if so, what is the best way to apply it?

Q: My water is brown. Should I use carbon and, if so, what is the best way to apply it?

Lisa – Gresham, OR

A:  Brown water can destroy a beautiful landscape.

That tea-colored water is typically caused by one of two things: tannins being released by dead leaves, similar to what happens when you steep your chamomile tea; or an optical illusion caused by reflected decomposing pond debris. The two causes have two different solutions. Here’s what we recommend.

Inspect Water

First, take a closer look at the water. Dip a clear glass in the water and hold it up to the light. If the water looks discolored, you’ve got tannin tea; if it’s clear, you’re dealing with a mucky pond.

Clearing Tannin Tea

Carbon is your solution for clearing brown water. Pond Logic® Activated Carbon comes with a fine-mesh bag, which holds the carbon pellets when they’re submerged. It’s easy to use:

  1. Pour the recommended amount of pellets into the bag. A 500-gallon pond, for example, requires 2 to 3 pounds while a 1,000-gallon pond requires 4 to 6 pounds.
  2. Place the bag in a high water-flow area, like your skimmer or waterfall, so as much water as possible flows through the carbon.
  3. Wait for the carbon to do its job! Once the discoloration has disappeared, you can remove the carbon and discard it.

Cleaning Up the Muck

If you have a mucky pond, natural beneficial bacteria and some elbow grease will make your water sparkle again.

  1. Pond Logic® Season Defense®, which works well in cooler fall weather, contains microorganisms that help break down the muck and accumulated debris at the bottom of your pond.
  2. Giving your pond a good old-fashioned cleaning can help, too. Removing the muck and decomposing organics with a pond vacuum or net will give those bacteria a chance to focus on breaking down the small stuff.

Pond Talk: How have you removed brown water from your pond?

Safely Clear Tea Colored Water - Pond Logic® Activated Carbon

In the DefensePAC, there are three products that are all natural bacteria. Are all three really necessary? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: In the DefensePAC, there are three products that are all natural bacteria. Are all three really necessary?

Q: In the DefensePAC, there are three products that are all natural bacteria. Are all three really necessary?

Julie – Sandwood, SC

A: Bacteria is bacteria, right? Well, no, not really. In nature, thousands of bacteria species perform many important jobs. The specific strains used in the DefensePAC® were chosen for their unique ability to break down suspended debris and sunken muck in pond water. And they’re really good at what they do.

The three different aerobic natural bacteria products found in DefensePAC® play different roles in your pond. Here’s a bit more about what they are and how they work to keep your water crystal clear.

Nature’s Defense®

The bacteria in Nature’s Defense® are designed to attack organic debris that’s suspended in the water column, like fish waste, uneaten food and leaves. To use, you simply toss the water-soluble packets in the water. The bacteria will immediately go to work breaking down the excess nutrients like phosphates and nitrogen, and multiply every 20 to 40 minutes. We recommend using Nature’s Defense® in conjunction with Muck Defense® in the summer. The result: crystal clear water.

Muck Defense®

To attack the accumulated organic debris that builds up at the bottom of your pond, Muck Defense® comes in bacteria-packed tablets that sink straight down. Upon application, the tablets release bacteria that instantly begin to break down and digest hard-to-reach muck and sludge from the bottom of gravel and rock pond bottoms. We recommend using Muck Defense® in conjunction with Nature’s Defense® in the summer. The result: reduced muck and no pond odor.

Seasonal Defense®

The bacteria in Seasonal Defense® prefer cooler water temperatures, like those in the spring and fall. While Nature’s Defense® and Muck Defense® can be used when the water is above 50 degrees F, Seasonal Defense® is designed to be used when the water is below 50 degrees F. It accelerates the decomposition of leaves, scum and sediment that create pond muck during the fall and winter months, and jump starts the bacteria population in your pond the in spring.

Though Nature’s Defense®, Muck Defense® and Seasonal Defense® all contain beneficial bacteria, they’re designed to do different things in your pond. Are all three necessary? Yes indeed! When used together, you’ll enjoy clear water, a clean pond and reduced muck and odor all year long.

Pond Talk: How long do you spend cleaning your pond from organic debris?

Improve Your Pond's Water Quality - Pond Logic® DefensePAC®

How often are you really supposed to wash out your filter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How often are you really supposed to wash out your filter?

Q: How often are you really supposed to wash out your filter?

Al – Greenville, RI

A: The filtration system in your pond is made up of two parts: the mechanical filter and the biological filter. They both clean and clarify the water, but they do so in very different ways and require very different cleaning regimens to keep them optimally operating.

The Mechanical Filter

The skimmer or pump sock make up your mechanical filter. Able to function at all temperatures (as long as the water is liquid), their main purpose is to catch larger debris, like chunks of algae, leaves, foliage and other things that blow into your pond and settle on the water surface. These items are collected in a mat or debris net/basket as the water passes through the mechanical filter, which then protects the pump from clogging.

Cleaning the mechanical filter is easy. You simply remove the mat or debris net/basket, dump out the debris and rinse it with a garden hose. This can be done as often as you like or as needed when you see the water flow slow down. In fact, checking it often is a good idea, particularly in spring and fall when debris tends to collect in a pond.

The Biological Filter

Your waterfall box, pressurized filter and in-pond filter filled with beneficial bacteria-covered filter media make up your biological filter. Their main purpose is to break down tiny, suspended debris, resulting in crystal clear water.

Here’s how it works: Unlike a mechanical filter that physically removes debris, a biological filter works at a microscopic level. Aerobic beneficial bacteria colonize and flourish on the surface area of filter media – like BioBalls™, mats and the like. As the water passes through the filter media, the bacteria feed on the debris and remove it from the water. Because the beneficial bacteria are living microorganisms, they function best when water temperatures are near or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit when they’re alive and kicking.

You don’t really “clean” a biological filter at all because you want to retain as much of the beneficial bacteria as possible. In the early spring, perform a cleanout and seed with natural bacteria like Microbe-Lift® PL Gel or Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® to give your filter a fresh start. Throughout the season, do a mild rinse in a bucket of pond water only when the water flow begins to decline. Each time to clean or rinse your filter media, add a dose of Microbe-lift® PL Gel or bacteria from the Pond Logic® DefensePAC® to re-seed the bacteria and replenish any bacteria loss.

Though it may be tempting, don’t power wash or swap out filter media mats. This strips the beneficial bacteria, which may take weeks to replenish! In the meantime, algae will feed on the unfiltered nutrients in the pond water, and you’ll see your water quality diminish as fish waste accumulates – which is something you don’t want!

Pond Talk: What’s your mechanical and biological filter cleaning routine?

Promote Healthy Filters - Pond Logic® DefensePAC®

Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry. | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry.

Q: Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry.

Ruth – Altoona, PA

A: Talk about feeling hungry! If your fish are actively (or anxiously!) swimming around your water garden, nibbling and tasting your budding plants, and gazing at you forlornly as you eat your peanut butter sandwich pondside, it sounds like your finned pals are ready for some grub after their long winter fast.

Signs like these are telling, but to make sure your fish are ready to start eating regular food again, here are some guidelines to follow.

Take Your Pond’s Temperature

Last fall when water temperatures fell below 40 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer, your fishes’ metabolisms slowed way down. For the next few months, they rested in a hibernation-type state when they fasted and lived off the fat stores in their body. They needed no food from you – in fact, feeding them when they’re hibernating can make them very sick.

Now that spring has finally arrived and the sun has warmed your pond’s water to 40 to 50 degrees F, your fishes’ metabolism has kicked back into gear. They’re swimming around and searching for food to fuel their increased activity levels. When this happens, they need a wheat germ food that’s easy to digest, like The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food. Packed with plant-based nutrients, the diet will satiate their hunger, and stimulate growth and fertility.

Pump Up the Protein

Late spring and summer bring even warmer 50 degree-plus water temperatures, and that’s when you can switch your fishes’ diet to one that will help them develop and build some serious bulk. If growing big koi and goldfish is your goal, feed your scaled friends a high-protein diet, like The Pond Guy® Growth & Vibrance Fish Food. It contains 38 percent protein for maximum growth and includes ingredients that will make their colors pop.

If you want to simply maintain their size while supporting their health, offer them The Pond Guy® Staple Fish Food. Perfect for all pond fish, the summer staple diet contains a balanced diet of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It’s easily digestible and designed for everyday feeding. Plus, it floats – so it makes mealtime fun for you and your fish!

Check the Forecast

Mother Nature has fun with weather – particularly with temperature fluctuations in the spring – so be sure to check the long-term forecast before you start feeding your fish on a regular schedule. Ideally, the weather should be consistently keeping the water a warm 40 to 50 degrees F. At that point, feed slowly to make sure they’re consuming the food at a steady pace and increase the amount as they’re ready.

Happy feeding!

Pond Talk: What are your fishes’ favorite mealtime treats?

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

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


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