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How do pine needles affect my water garden? I’ve heard everything from poor water quality to no change at all. – Decorative Water Gardens Q & A

How do pine needles affect my water garden? I’ve heard everything from poor water quality to no change at all.

How do pine needles affect my water garden? I’ve heard everything from poor water quality to no change at all.
Betsy – Hinesburg, VT

Your evergreens may hold on to their color during the winter but they will have no trouble shedding a few pine needles. If your pond is pine tree adjacent you most likely have been dealing with the presence of pine needles in your water. Your pine trees can provide an excellent source of shade and privacy but do the negative effects of loose pine needles put your pond or fish in harms way?

As you already know, an abundance of organic debris in your pond can lead to algae blooms, turbid water and unbalanced water chemistry. Organic matter like grass clippings or leaves from nearby trees will eventually turn into an intimidating layer of muck if left at the bottom of your pond. Unlike leaves pine needles are not a huge contributor of tea colored water however, pine needles are acidic and can lower the pH of your pond water to an unhealthy level if left to accumulate. Because of their size, shape and density pine needles are a bit trickier to catch and clean out of your pond. They can easily fall through netting with larger openings and they tend to clog up pond vacuum hoses. To better protect your pond from fallen pond needles use Pond Netting with smaller mesh holes. As pine needles tend to float for a while make sure your Skimmer is active and running to help catch as much debris as possible. Your skimmer may require more frequent cleaning to prevent loss of water flow. Any needles that venture to the bottom of the pond can be rounded up with a Skimmer Net and your Pond Vacuum or you can don a pair of Aquatic Gloves and scoop up any large deposits that form. While pine needles decompose a bit slower than leaves beneficial bacteria products like Seasonal Defense® will help break them down and remove any strays you might have missed.

To be fair to all of the evergreens out there, pine needles are not any more harmful than leaves; they just come with their own unique set of challenges. At the end of the day you treat them just like you would any other form of unwanted excess organic material. Keep your pond clean and it will keep you happy, whether you have pine trees, oak trees or no trees at all!

Pond Talk: What kinds of trees do you have around your pond? What methods have you found to be effective against debris from leaves and needles.

Keep your water garden healthy all winter long!

4 Responses

  1. How long should I keep using Defence and how long should I keep airating. I’ve left my waterfall running but will soon have to remove the pump. I have 15 fish in the pond and it is approx. 3.5 feet at the deepest point, the fish are currently not eating and I wonder if a bubbler will be neccasary thru the winter when it starts to freeze, I would really hate to lose the fish. Thanks Bill

    • William,

      The DefensePac is a pond care system that will take you through the pond season. Use the Seasonal Defense when your water temperatures are at or below 50 degrees. basically Spring and Fall. The Nature’s Defense, Clarity Defense and Muck Defense are used during the summer and when water temperatures are above 50 degrees. The Oxy-Lift Defense is a natural pond cleaner that you use as needed.

      You want to keep a hole open on the surface of your pond as this allows for the toxic gases to escape from decomposing leaves or other organic material and allows for oxygen exchange. A de-icer and/or an aeration system will keep a hole open on the surface of your pond. The added benefit of the aeration system is that if will provide more dissolved oxygen into the water. If you choose to use an aeration system, place the diffusers in a shallower part of the pond to prevent the deeper water becoming to cold for the fish.

      Make sure to store your pump in a bucket of water in a heated garage or basement to keep the seals of the pump moist.

      I have also provided a link to another Question & Answer from The Pond Guy Blog that discusses de-icers and aeration systems.

  2. I have a friend that is helping to put a pond in where there is very little sunlight. This is in the Fl. panhandle. Which plants would you recomend.
    Thank you.

    • Micaela,

      Most aquatic plants require at least 4 – 6 hours of direct sun to flourish, there are however, several varieties of water lily, marginal, and floating plants that will do well in partial shade (3 – 4 hours of direct sun). Here are a few aquatic plants that would tolerate some shade:

      Lilies: Attraction Lily ( Hardy) and Panama Pacific (Tropical)

      Bog Plants: Chameleon Plant, Lizard’s Tail, Cardinal Flower, Pickerel Rush and Sensitive Plant to name a few.
      Floating Plants: Azolla, Frogbit and Water Lettuce

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