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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

I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Austin – Breesport, NY

A: Leaves. There’s really no getting around them. Every fall, those deciduous trees drop their colorful foliage and leave behind a headache for those who have to clean them up.

Natural bacteria will do a great job breaking down the fallen leaves in your pond or lake – but only when water temperatures are above 50° F. Take your pond’s temperature with a pond thermometer; as long as your water is at or above that 50° F mark, keep using MuckAway™ and PondClear™. The microorganisms in those products will continue to work hard to break down organic debris.

Going into winter as temperatures dip below that number, however, the bacteria go on vacation. But there are some things you can do to keep your pond healthy as the cooler weather approaches. Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Rake Up the Leaves: As powerful as natural bacteria are, they will still take a long time to break down fresh leaves that blow into your pond. Help those microorganisms out by raking up and disposing of as many leaves as possible.
  2. Rake Out the Leaves: If they do float into your pond, use a Pond & Beach Rake or Weed Raker to skim and rake those leaves out of your pond. If an abundance of leaves remains in the pond as ice begins to form, this could lead to poor water quality. As the leaves continue to break down, they will release toxic gases that will edge out available oxygen – and if there is ice covering your pond, that’s bad news for your fish.
  3. Aerate All Winter: Unless you plan to use your pond or lake as an ice rink this winter, keep your aeration system running. This will help keep a hole in the ice, circulate the water and keep your oxygen levels higher.
  4. Maintain Your Landscape: In addition to raking up leaves around your pond, keep the foliage around your pond maintained. Prevent that organic debris from getting into the water and turning into algae and pond weed fertilizer.

Bottom line: Yes, bacteria will still work while temperatures are above 50° F, but help them out by removing as much leaf litter and organic debris as possible. There’s no way to fully prevent leaves from falling into your pond – but the fewer that do, the better.

Pond Talk: Have leaves started falling in your neck of the woods yet?

Remove Leaves & Debris - The Pond Guy® Pond & Beach Rake

I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit?

Q: I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit?

Doug – Hamilton, KY

A: Regular maintenance will extend the life of your compressor, but an air compressor can lose its pumping power for a number of reasons. To help deduce what the problem could be, start with a quick evaluation:

  • Is your air filter cleaned or replaced? (Check!)
  • Is your intake filter and aeration cabinet clean?
  • Have you checked the diffusers for clean membrane sticks?
  • Have you checked your airline for any loose connections?

If you’ve checked off these chores and your compressor is still low on the air flow, it might be time for a maintenance kit – especially if it’s been a while since you’ve installed one.

Maintenance kits are available for both shallow water (diaphragm) and deep water (piston) compressors. They include replaceable parts like O-rings, seals and hardware that’ll get your compressor humming again. You’ll need some basic tools, like a screw driver and Allen wrench, but they’re fairly easy to install. Simply watch one of our kit installation maintenance videos and follow the included step-by-step instructions.

If you need specific replacement parts, like an air filter, diffuser stick or extra air line, be sure to check our inventory. Chances are good we’ll have just what you need.

Waiting too long to install a maintenance kit could cause the device to become too warm, which will hasten the breakdown of those replaceable parts. Before long, you’ll need to replace the compressor. Save your money: Take the time to maintain your current compressor instead of spending a pretty penny on a new one!

Plus, if you plan on running your aeration system this coming winter, do your maintenance now so you don’t have to chip your system out of the ice in the middle of a cold snap.

Pond Talk: How often do you do basic maintenance on your air compressor?

Restore Aeration to Full Potential - Piston Compressor Maintenance Kits

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™

I have a lot of cattail growth. Should I spray it now or just wait until spring? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of cattail growth. Should I spray it now or just wait until spring?

Q: I have a lot of cattail growth. Should I spray it now or just wait until spring?

Thomas – Afton, MN

A: As long as those cattails are green and growing, you should spray them. Fall is actually an ideal time to treat pesky pond weeds because that’s when the matured plants soak up nutrients through their leaves to prepare for the coming winter. They’ll do the same thing with the herbicide—but it will cause their demise!

If you don’t spray the cattails, they won’t dry up and die. No, that would be too easy! When the weather gets cold, the leaves and stems will turn brown and dry up while the tuberous root systems in the soil below the surface lie dormant. Those tubers, having stored up energy all winter, will explode with new shoots and growth in the spring.

Plus, all that dead and dried up foliage will fall into your pond, adding decaying organics to the mix. That detritus—which is like fertilizer to pond weeds and algae—will cause an even bigger headache next year.

Spraying cattails now when they’re still green is your best bet. Here’s how we recommend you do it.

  1. Spray Growth: Using your tank sprayer, treat the cattails with Shoreline Defense® with Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Apply the herbicide, which has no usage restrictions, directly to all above-water foliage. The plant will draw it in through its leaves and die—roots and all.
  2. Spray Again: Wait about two weeks for the herbicide to kick in, and then repeat the process again to be sure you get that weed under control. This will be necessary in ponds with thick, abundant cattail growth.
  3. Remove Dead Foliage: As the cattails die, cut and rake out dead debris with your weed removal tools, like a weed cutter and pond rake. This will cut down on decomposing organics left in the pond, making it easier to get on top of any new growth in the spring.

Take some time during this late summer and fall to treat cattails. You’ll be glad you did!

Pond Talk: How do you manage cattails in your pond or lake?

Broad Spectrum Emergent Weed Killer - Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS

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

I try to keep my pond clean, but is there anything else I should do to prevent my fish from getting sick? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I try to keep my pond clean, but is there anything else I should do to prevent my fish from getting sick?

Q: I try to keep my pond clean, but is there anything else I should do to prevent my fish from getting sick?

April – Colorado Springs, CO

A:  Prevention really is the best medicine—and that’s true for humans as well as fish. Keeping your pond clean, filtered and well aerated is a great start at preventing disease, but there’s more you can do to ensure your finned friends stay happy and healthy. Here’s what we prescribe:

  • Vacuum Debris: Decomposing organic matter gathered at the bottom of your pond can be home to all sorts of parasites, fungus and bacteria. It’ll affect water quality and fish health, so use a ClearVac™ pond vacuum as needed to suck up all that sludge, debris and algae.
  • Add Natural Bacteria: In addition to vacuuming up debris, use the all-natural beneficial bacteria found in the DefensePAC® to help clear the water column, and break down and remove muck and organic waste.
  • Don’t Stress: When you do water changes in your pond, be sure to add some Stress Reducer PLUS to the pond to keep your fish stress-free. The water conditioner detoxifies heavy metals, chlorine and chloramines, and it promotes a healthy slime coat—which will keep your fish’s immune system functioning swimmingly.
  • Toss Them Some Salt: Pond salt, at low concentrations, will help soothe your fish, build their slime coats and improve their gill function. Here’s how to determine how much pond salt to add to your pond.
  • Add Aeration: Fish need fresh oxygen just like humans, and the best way to do that is with an aeration kit. It pumps O2 into the water and keeps the water moving—two things that ensure a healthy environment for your fish.
  • Quarantine Newbies: Before you add new fish to your pond, keep them in a quarantine tank for two to four weeks to be sure they have no infectious (or contagious!) diseases.
  • Knock It Out: Fish fungus, parasites and ick can be treated with KnockOut™ PLUS as a 7 day treatment or as a preventative measure.

If your fish are showing signs of illness, chances are good that it’s due to stress or water quality. Unless you see visible signs of a disease, test your water quality with a test kit and then do a partial water change (25 percent or so) to help relieve your fish’s stress.

If you do see visible signs of disease, like red patches, sores, white spots, odd behavior or anything else out of the ordinary, identify the problem using our Common Fish Diseases and Treatments chart and treat accordingly.

After you’ve identified any disease and begun treatment, take some time to reevaluate your pond routine. Did something change that caused (or led to) the illness? Sick fish are no fun. Do what you can to keep them healthy—but know what to do when they’re under the weather.

Pond Talk: Have you ever nursed a sick fish back to health?

Prevent Infection & Heal Tissue - Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS

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