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Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now?

Q: Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now?

Karen – McHenry, IL

A: Though we all wish summer could linger on forever, the reality of fall—and its associated pond chores—is nearly upon us. Cooler temperatures, shorter days and those brightly colored (and falling) leaves means you need to take a break from summer fun and get to work.

Here’s a quick rundown of the prep work you should be doing now:

Add Bacteria

When temps start to fall (particularly below 50°F), it’s time to add some cool-water beneficial bacteria to your pond, like the tiny muck-eaters in Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®. They go to work decomposing leaves, scum and sediment that will inevitably build up over the fall and winter, which will result in better water quality for your finned friends.

Clean Up Your Plants

Cut back and remove any dead plant vegetation that’s inside and around your water garden. Use a handy long-reach tool, like the Pond Scissors and Pliers, to cut back water lilies and clear away dead marginals. As the temperatures cool even more, you’ll need to remove floating plants like hyacinth and water lettuce, sink your hardy water lilies and marginals into the deeper areas of your pond to protect them from freezing, and make plans to overwinter your tropical lilies inside.

Cover Up

Blowing leaves and other debris will drop into your pond during the fall, and if you don’t get them out, they’ll decompose over the winter and create a mucky mess in the spring. Plan to put a net over the pond, like the Pond Logic® PondShelter™ Net Kit, to keep them out, and use a skimmer net to remove any stragglers.

Have Supplies Ready

While you’re thinking about fall, now is a great time to stock up on winter water garden supplies. Purchase a six-month supply of Seasonal Defense®. Buy some Spring & Fall Fish Food, which will help your fish transition from their regular diet to one that’s easier to digest in cooler temperatures. Make sure you have an aerator or deicer ready to keep a hole in the ice. Preparing ahead of time will prevent any last-minute scrambling.

Regular Maintenance

Finally, continue to perform regular maintenance chores, like keeping your filter clean and operating well, doing periodic water changes, and feeding and checking on your fish. Summer is nearly over, but don’t neglect your pond-keeping routine!

Pond Talk: What other fall chores do you do in and around your water garden?

Keep Leaves & Predators Out - Pond Logic(r) PondShelter(tm) Cover Net

My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies?

Q: My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies?

Susan – Centreville, MI

A: Lackluster growth or blooms on your water lilies last season is and indication that it’s time to divide them. Early spring is the best time to divide your water lilies but most varieties of hardy water lilies can be divided anytime during the growing season.

For easiest access, you may want to divide your water lilies during your spring cleanout. Hardy water lilies should be divided every 2-3 years to ensure your lilies are producing beautiful blooms season after season. Dividing lilies may seem complicated, but our step-by-step process will explain exactly what you need to do.

Step 1: Remove lilies from pond or container. Carefully move the plant to a workspace and remove from its container. You may need to cut open the basket depending on how root bound your lily is.

Step 2: Rinse off any old soil and remove roots that are not attached to the plant. Split the crown of the plant with a sharp knife to cut through the creamy white rhizome, saving the youngest parts of the clump, typically around the outside edge, for repotting.

Step 3: Cut the tuber down to size. You can safely cut the tuber down between two to three inches on the growing part with a sharp knife. This can be increased to five to six inches on longer plants. Remember to also cut off new buds and older leaves, so that the new root system has a chance to grow.

Step 4: Use Plant Bags or Plant Baskets to replant your water lilies. Plant each tuber with the growing tip facing outward. Fill in around the tuber with aquatic planting media, such as Microbe-Lift, making sure the roots are spread well and the crown is sitting just below the soil surface.

Step 5: If using a plant basket, place in shallow area of pond to encourage faster growth.

Step 6: Once new leaves have reached the surface, lilies can be moved deeper into the pond.

Don’t forget to fertilize your water lilies monthly during the growing season to keep your plants healthy and gorgeous. Remove spent blooms and old leaves to encourage new growth.

Pond Talk: How often do you divide your water lilies and other aquatic plants?

Flexible Pond Planters For All Your Plant Needs - The Pond Guy® Plant Bags

How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond?

Q: How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond?

Ronnie – Salt Lake City, UT

A: This time of year, most of us are suffering with some cabin fever—including your pond fish. After being cooped up all winter long in a temporary indoor aquarium or tub, they’re ready to swim back to their spacious outdoor home.

But before you relocate your fish, you have some work to do first. The best time to return them to the pond is several weeks after you’ve done all the necessary chores to prepare for their homecoming. To make things easy, check out our four-step checklist:

    1. Spring Cleaning: First, clean out your dormant pond. Remove any debris that has settled over the past few months, and perform a thorough spring cleanout to remove winter buildup. This will give your finned friends a nice place to come home to—and minimize algae growth in the spring.
    2. Jump Start Filtration: About a month before you plan to return your fish to the pond, start your filtration system and let it run without fish. Turn on your mechanical filter and seed your filter pads with beneficial bacteria, such as Microbe-Lift® PL Gel, to speed the colony’s growth (but first make sure the water temperature is above 55° Fahrenheit with your pond thermometer). Keep in mind that in the spring, a filter can take four to six weeks to become established, so adding fish without adequate filtration established can result in quick algae formation.
    3. Test Your Water: While your pond is cycling, periodically check your water chemistry with a PondCare® Master Test Kit to ensure the pond water is balanced and pH, ammonia and nitrate levels are safe for fish.
    4. Acclimate Fish: The final step before re-homing your fish is to help them get used to the pond’s water temperature, which will likely be colder than their winter housing. Carry your fish out in a bucket and slowly add water from the pond to the bucket at 10- to 15-minute intervals, using your pond thermometer to check the water temperature as you go. This shock-prevention technique will allow them to adjust slowly—and safely—to their outdoor digs.

Your fish may become stressed during the indoor-to-outdoor transition, but you can keep it to a minimum by preparing their home and making sure they’re as healthy as possible in advance of their relocation. Have fun moving!

Pond Talk: Do you notice a change in your fishes’ behavior when they transition from indoors to outdoors?

Protect Your Prized Fish - PondCare® Master Test Kit

When should I start using the Seasonal Defense® in my DefensePAC®? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I start using the Seasonal Defense® in my DefensePAC®?

Q: When should I start using the Seasonal Defense® in my DefensePAC®?

Chuck – Essex, MD

A: Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®, which is sold separately and as part of Pond Logic® DefensePAC®, contains aerobic bacteria that’s specially designed for cooler water. In the spring, it replenishes bacteria lost over the winter, jump starts the growth of the waste-gobbling microorganisms and breaks down accumulated waste. It’s a great way to kick off pond season!

Add It At 40 Degrees

Plan to start treating with Seasonal Defense® once your pond is up and running and the water temperature is greater than 40° Fahrenheit. You can expect to use it for about one month, or until the water hits 50°F. Once the thermostat tops 50°F, switch to Nature’s Defense®.

Distribute Evenly

Don’t just pile the Seasonal Defense® packets in one place in your pond. Put a packet in each corner to ensure even spread of the beneficial bacteria and breakdown of accumulated muck. Add some to the filter to concentrate and accelerate new bacteria growth on the filter media. Distribute them evenly—but, of course, follow the package recommendations for dosage rates.

Help the Bacteria Work

Don’t forget to aerate the pond and give it an old-fashioned cleaning to make those bacteria’s jobs easier. Along with running your pond’s pump and filtration system, keep your aeration system going to help move the water, add oxygen and disperse the bacteria throughout the pond.

And before you add the packets, clean out any large debris from the pond. Branches, dead foliage, fallen leaves and any other easy-to-remove organic materials that wound up in the water over the fall and winter should be removed so that the bacteria can better spend their time breaking down fine debris and muck.

Pond Talk: What changes do you have planned for your pond this year?

Jump Start Your Pond This Spring - Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®

What do I need to do to perform a spring cleanout? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

What do I need to do to perform a spring cleanout?

Q: What do I need to do to perform a spring cleanout?

Christine – Ballston Spa, NY

A: Like it or not, deep cleaning your pond or water feature is one of those must-do chores in the spring. Though we could write an entire e-book on the subject, we’ve distilled the essentials into this handy step-by-step to-do list.

So pull on your waders and gloves. It’s time to get dirty!

1. Create a holding tank for your fish. First, fill a blue tub, large plastic bin or even a child’s wading pool with existing pond water, install a small aerator in it and turn the air on. Then, use a net to catch your fish and gently move them into the holding tank and cover with a net to prevent them from hopping out. This will be their home away from home while you’re performing your cleanout.

2. Drain the pond. Use a pump and a drain hose to siphon all the water from the pond.

3. Get out the power washer. Once all the water has been drained, power wash your pond’s rocks, decor—anything that has developed a layer of dead algae and/or accumulated debris. Scrub away stubborn debris with an oxygen-based cleaner like Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense® Pond Cleaner.

4. Rinse, drain and repeat. As you power-wash off the debris and rinse the rocks and decor, pump the dirty water out of the pond. This may need to be repeated a few times, depending on how much gunk has accumulated.

5. Make rock, decor adjustments. With your rocks and decor sparkling clean, now is the time to adjust them and make sure they’re still solidly in place. This is also a perfect opportunity to add more rocks if your gravel-bottom pond needs them.

6. Check pond lights, thin plants. In addition to adjusting your rocks, you should also take the opportunity to ensure your pond lights are working properly, and your plants are thinned and positioned on shelves as you want them.

7. Clean out and reinstall pump/UV/filter. Once your pond is thoroughly cleaned out, re-install any plumbing that was removed for the winter, such as your pump, aerator, filter and ultraviolet light (it’s a great idea to invest in a new UV bulb at this time, too, as we recommend replacing it once a year).

8. Fill ‘er up. Refill your pond with water and add necessary water treatments. If you have hard water or city water, add a conditioner like Pond Logic® Water Conditioner; if your water is still slightly murky, add some Pond Logic® Clarity Defense®.

9. Re-acclimate the fish. Finally, prepare your fish for their newly cleaned home by adding some of the new water to their holding tank so they can adjust to the new water chemistry. Be sure to slowly acclimate the fish back to the pond just as you would when first adding them. To help them over the hump, consider adding some Pond Logic® Fish Stress Reducer PLUS to make the transition smooth for your finned friends.

Take some time this spring to give your pond a good deep cleaning. It’ll take some work—but your pristine, well-cared-for water feature will be a fantastic reward, particularly when you’re lounging by it this summer!

Pond Talk: Share some spring cleaning tips that have worked well in your pond!

Lift Debris Away In Seconds - Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden?

Q: Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden?

John – Ivoryton, CT

A: Before we broach this hot topic, let’s “break the ice” with a quick look at the differences between a de-icer and an aerator.

De-Icer: A de-icer’s simple purpose is to melt a hole in the ice that has formed on a container of water, whether a koi pond, water garden or livestock trough. Unlike a heater that actually warms the water, a de-icer melts through the ice sheet, thereby allowing harmful below-surface gases to escape and life-sustaining oxygen in.

Aerator: An aerator circulates the water below the sheet of ice that forms on a pond. In areas with relatively mild winters, that subsurface water movement will keep a hole in the ice that allows harmful gases out and oxygen in—but when temps really dip, an aerator may not be enough to maintain a vent hole.

Both a de-icer and an aerator help improve oxygen levels in your pond and, therefore, keep your fish healthy and happy.

If One is Good, are Both Better?

To answer your question: Yes, your aerated pond may appreciate some help from a de-icer, particularly if you live in a region with hard freezes.

Ponds that are already outfitted with an aerator, like one of the Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kits, benefit from its water circulation—but in areas with frigid winters, those systems may need a little help keeping a hole open in the inches-thick ice. So a de-icer paired with a nearby air stone will ensure the vent hole will remain open.

The opposite is also true. If you have a de-icer in place to keep a hole open in the ice, like the K&H™ Thermo-Pond 3.0 or K&H™ Perfect Climate Pond De-Icer, it’s a great idea to couple that with aeration system. The circulating action will help to encourage the gases forming under the ice at the bottom of the pond to reach the ventilation hole and escape.

If you’re in the market for a de-icer or aeration system, consider investing in a combo unit, such as the Pond Logic® PondAir™ and Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo. It’s the one-two punch your pond needs to keep breathing all winter long!

Pond Talk: With the recent arctic temperatures that have plagued folks in the Midwest and northern states, how have you kept a ventilation hole in your pond or water garden?

Eliminate Harmful Gases- Farm Innovators Floating 1250 Watt De-Icer

Do I need to watch the water levels in my pond during the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to watch the water levels in my pond during the winter?

Q: Do I need to watch the water levels in my pond during the winter?

Paul – Wixom, MI

A: Even when winter’s chilly grip takes hold, your pond’s water level will still fluctuate. It likely won’t be as dramatic as summertime’s evaporation rates, but you should definitely keep an eye on the amount of liquid stuff in your pond throughout the cold months.

Causes of Winter Water Loss

During the summer, the sun’s warming rays heat the water in your pond and cause it to evaporate—and sometimes very quickly, depending on how warm the air and water temperatures get. But during the wintertime, water loss can be caused by:

  • Dry air: Low humidity—which is when the air contains little water vapor—can increase evaporation rates as the dry air will absorb the moisture from your pond.
  • Winds: Windy conditions can also escalate evaporation in your pond. A 5-mile-per-hour wind at your pond’s surface, for instance, results in roughly three times the rate of evaporation on a still day.
  • Ice expansion, formation: The liquid water will appear to dissipate in your pond as ice forms and expands.

A small amount of water level fluctuation is OK—but a few inches of water loss could leave your fish in ice, particularly if your pond isn’t that deep to begin with!

Keep It Topped Off

To keep water levels steady (and your fish thawed and happy), you don’t need to warm the water. Instead, you should plan to top off the pond when it dips more than an inch or two, just as you would during the spring and summer.

When you add water to your water garden, make sure it actually goes into the pond—not just on top of the ice. Feed the water through a hole in the ice using a garden hose or a thermostatically controlled hose such as the K&H™ PVC ThermoHose™, which prevents ice from forming in your faucet or hose. The unit’s built-in heating elements turn on automatically when temperatures dip below freezing so you’ll have liquid water coming out of your hose.

If you need to put a hole in the ice that’s on your pond, remember to never bust through it with a drill, hammer or other blunt object as the subsurface vibrations could harm your fish. Fill a bucket with hot water and pour it on one area of the pond to melt open a hole, preferably near the edge.

Pond Talk: How often do you need to top off the water in your pond or water garden during the winter?

Keep Your Hose From Freezing - K&H™ PVC ThermoHose™

What should I do if I have a power outage over the winter and my aeration stops? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

What should I do if I have a power outage over the winter and my aeration stops?

Q: What should I do if I have a power outage over the winter and my aeration stops?

Johnny – Point Marion, PA

A: Power outages happen. Whether they’re caused by Mother Nature, like hurricane Sandy, or the result of an accident or a blown transformer, chances are pretty good that you’ll contend with at least one lights-out experience this winter—but your chandelier won’t be the only thing not electrified.

Out in your lake or water garden, your aeration system will also shut down when the electricity stops. No aeration for an extended period of time means your pond’s water quality could suffer and your fishes’ health could be compromised.

Don’t worry: If you’re prepared, a power outage won’t be a big deal at all. Here’s what you need to know.

Your Fish will be Fine …

As long as the water temperature remains cold and your pond is relatively free of dead or decomposing debris, your fish will survive the power outage without even blinking an eye.

Thanks to one of the many unique properties of water, cold water retains more dissolved oxygen than warm water. “Think about how much bubblier a cold soda is compared to a warm one,” describes the United States Geological Survey. “The cold soda can keep more of the carbon dioxide bubbles dissolved in the liquid than the warm one can, which makes it seem fizzier when you drink it.”

It’s the same thing with oxygen. Colder water molecules are more densely packed and can therefore hold more oxygen, which your fish and other pond inhabitants need to survive.

In addition, the pond should not have a lot of dead or decomposing materials, like leaves and plant matter. All that breaking-down vegetation depletes the water of oxygen while imbuing it with harmful toxic gases like ammonia.

Bottom line: If your water is cold and your pond is clean when the power goes out, your finned friends will be just fine, short-term.

Service & Protect Your Aerator

After the power is restored and the candles are blown out, plan to head out to your aeration system and assess the situation. Any built-up air pressure could prevent the aerator from turning back on, so you’ll need to relieve the air pressure by pulling the relief valve or disconnecting the airline before you turn the system back on again. In addition, condensation could form on the motor, which will need to be wiped down to prevent rust from forming.

To protect your aerator from the elements—which could cause an isolated power outage in your pond or lake—make sure it’s protected. Larger units, such as those for ponds and lakes, should be in a cabinet; smaller units, such as those for water gardens, should be hidden within a faux rock, like the Pond Logic® TruRock™ Small Boulder Cover. It’s designed to blend into the landscape while protecting pond equipment.

Pond Talk: In case of long-term power outage, would you ever use a generator to power your aerator? Why or why not?

Protect Your Aeration Units - Pond Logic® PondAir™ & TrueRock™ Combo

Can I leave netting over my pond during the winter months? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can I leave netting over my pond during the winter months?

Q: Can I leave netting over my pond during the winter months?

Robert – Sherrard, IL

A: I don’t know about you, but the thought of one or two leaves drifting into my pristine pond after a thorough fall clean-out sends shivers down my spine—which is why, like many hobbyists, I cover my water garden with pond netting, like The Pond Guy® Premium Pond Netting, in the fall and early winter.

Even though netting makes the water feature look less than attractive, particularly during the holiday season when the yard sparkles with twinkling lights, it keeps it clean and debris-free. Not only that, but it also protects the fish from flying and four-legged predators looking for a tasty winter meal.

So why not leave the pond netting on all winter long?

In some locations, you can. If you live in a climate with mild temperatures, and minimal snow and freezing, you can leave the netting on all year-long, provided you check it regularly and remove any accumulated material.

In other locations, like those that receive heavy snowfall or freezing rain, a better place for the pond netting during the winter is in the garage. The weighty precipitation could put way too much pressure on your net, stretching it out of shape or causing it to become brittle and break.

So before the big storms start rolling through, remove your pond netting and pack it up for the season. But to keep those straggling leaves and other annoying debris out of your pond, have a handheld pond net, like The Pond Guy® 2-in-1 Heavy Duty Combo Net, readily available. The net’s 4-foot handle extends to 11 feet long, which is long enough to reach the most elusive leaf.

Pond Talk: When do you know it’s time to pack up your pond netting for the season?

Keep Leaves & Predators Out - View Pond Logic® PondShelter™ Net Kit

Can I continue to run my waterfall over the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can I continue to run my waterfall over the winter?

Q: Can I continue to run my waterfall over the winter?

Constance – Broomfield, CO

A: The short answer to your question: Sure! Many pond and water garden hobbyists keep their waterfalls running all year long—of course, those in warmer climates are probably more successful than those of us further north when the temperatures dip below freezing!

If you live in a colder region that freezes and you’re thinking about keeping your falls flowing through the wintertime, consider these important points:

  • Is your pump in a skimmer? If so, you may want to move it to a deeper area of your pond that doesn’t freeze.
  • Are you home to keep an eye on things? Ideally, someone should be home to periodically check on the waterfall and make sure it’s not freezing. If it does begin to freeze, the water may begin to divert out of the pond—leaving your fish high and dry.

Keeping your waterfall running during the wintertime has some definite benefits. Snow-covered and shimmering with crystals, a partially frozen waterfall can be a stunning attraction in your backyard. But that’s not all. You may also attract thirsty animals to your pond that decided to brave the winter elements!

Pond Talk: If you keep your waterfall running during the winter, why do you do so?

Protect Your Prized Fish - Pond Logic® KoiAir™ Aeration Kits

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