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.
Filed under: Aeration - WG, Algae Control, Aquatic Plants, Benefits of Owning, Feeding Fish, Fish Population, Koi & Goldfish, Oxygen Depletion, Pea-Green Algae, Seasonal Care, Water Gardens & Features, Water Quality Issues, WG-Winterizing