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I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Barney – Andalusia, AL

A: Treating weeds is a tricky task. Despite dosing them with aquatic herbicides to clear your pond or lake of plant pests, they seem to grow back over and over again. It seems like a never-ending cycle! Why does this happen?

Well, chemical treatments have their benefits and drawbacks: On one hand, they work great as a quick fix to decimate actively growing weeds. But once those plants die, they become a food source for future weeds and algae, acting as a fertilizer for the very things you’re trying to get rid of. The herbicides do nothing to prevent future growth, and so you’re left with yet another growth spurt of pond weeds, which you’ll then treat with chemical herbicides – and around you’ll go again.

So how do you break the cycle? Here is a four-step approach that will help put an end to it.

  1. Remove the Dead Weeds: Once the weeds have browned, use a Pond & Beach Rake or PondSkim™ Debris Skimmer to remove as much dead material from the water as possible. This prevents dead plant material and muck from accumulating and fertilizing future weed growth.
  2. Be Proactive: Debris will still find its way into your pond, so add some beneficial bacteria to the water to manage the excess nutrients before they feed your weeds. The products found in the ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Packages – including PondClear™ and EcoBoost™ for suspended debris, and MuckAway™ for accumulated bottom-of-the-pond debris – naturally break down that organic material.
  3. Add Aeration: If you don’t have one already, install a Airmax® Aeration System that’s sized for your pond or lake. By circulating and adding oxygen to the water column, the beneficial bacteria will thrive. In turn, they’ll eat through even more debris and prevent weed and algae growth.
  4. Shade and Color:  Pond Dye is another offensive tactic in your battle against aquatic weeds. Pond dye shades the water, preventing ultraviolet light from reaching the plants.

Throughout the spring and summer, weeds will grow. But with some pond management practices, you can keep those pesky plants to a minimum.

Pond Talk: How often do you treat your pond or lake for weeds?

Skim Dead Algae & Vegetation - The Pond Guy(r) Pond & Beach Rake

Should we leave cattails in the pond for the animals? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:Should we leave cattails in the pond for the animals?

Q: Should we leave cattails in the pond for the animals?

Cynthia – Greenfield, OH

A: Cattails may be a nuisance in ponds and lakes, but they’re not all bad – particularly if you’re an animal. All kinds of critters, in fact, use the plant as a source of food, shelter and supplies.

Cattail Basics

Cattails are common aquatic plants that grow from 3 to 10 feet tall in dense colonies around the margins of ponds and lakes. In the spring, the green strap-like foliage grows from large, creeping, below-the-ground rhizomes. As the seasons progress, the cattail’s leaves and spikes—or the plant’s brown cylindrical flower—grow. And when the flowers open and let loose their fluffy seeds, the cattails spread and propagate new plants throughout the lake.

Cornucopia for Critters

A small, managed area of cattails can provide an ideal habitat for amphibians, insects, birds and fish. These aquatic critters use the plants for all sorts of things, including:

  • Nesting Spot: Red-winged blackbirds often use cattails for a perching and nesting spot. Water fowl, like mallards and Canadian geese, also use the tall, tightly bunched leaves and stalks for nesting. Turkeys—as well as deer, raccoon and other mammals—use cattails as cover from predators.
  • Hatchery/Nursery: Birds and mammals aren’t the only ones that find refuge in cattails. Insects and amphibians, like dragonflies, frogs and salamanders, will lay their eggs in the brush and water between the stalks. Below the surface, fish and other aquatic creatures will hide and nest in the growth.
  • Multi-Purpose Material: The cattail fluff that explodes from the plant’s spikes makes excellent nest-making material for birds –and that’s not all it’s good for. Native Americans used it to cushion moccasins and papoose boards. Pioneers used it to dress wounds, start camp fires, and stuff quilts, cushions, mattresses and dolls. And the military used the water-resistant, buoyant fluff to stuff life vests. Besides the fluff, the cattail’s leaves were used to make mats and webbing, and the stalks were used to make fiber and adhesive.
  • Grocery Store: An integral part of the pond ecosystem’s food chain, cattails’ leaves, shoots and roots make a tasty buffet for muskrat, geese and snails, while the plant’s underwater stalks feed fish, frogs and turtles. Humans can eat cattails, too. The rhizomes can be used like other root vegetables, and they can be dried and ground into flour. Young green shoots, which taste like cucumber, can be chopped into salads. Green flowering stalks can be boiled and eaten like sweetcorn.

Pond Owner Considerations

Allowing a cattail stand to grow in your pond for the animals’ benefit is a great idea—and those critters will appreciate what you leave for them—but there are some things you should keep in mind.

If you’re trying to deter troublesome predators, like raccoon and muskrats, keep the cattails cut back. This exposes their hiding and hunting spots, so they’ll be less likely to stop by for some sushi. Use pond weed cutters and a rake to remove dead debris and growing cattails, particularly around the pond’s perimeter. While you’re at it, add some MuckAway™ to the water to help break down muck and other decomposing materials.

Your best bet is to mark out an area where you’d like your cattail stand to grow, and then clean up what grows beyond the border. You’ll provide an ecosystem for the animals while preventing your pond from being overtaken.

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

Cut Through Tough Pond Weeds - The Pond Guy® 28” Weed Cutter

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

Is it better to rake out as much of the weeds and algae as I can before treating? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Is it better to rake out as much of the weeds and algae as I can before treating?

Q: Is it better to rake out as much of the weeds and algae as I can before treating?

Sherry – Casselton, ND

A: It makes sense to want to remove as much of the plant nuisance as possible before spraying them with algaecides and herbicides. But, in general, it’s better to treat and kill the unwanted growth first – and then rake out the dead debris. Why? Let’s take a look at how weed and algae destroying chemicals work.

Contact Chemicals

A contact chemical, like Algae Defense®, needs to make contact with algae in order to kill it. If the chara, filamentous algae or planktonic algae are cut or broken into smaller pieces, it’s harder for the chemicals to make contact. Because algae grows by fragmentation rather than a defined root system, it’ll just keep on growing. So it’s better to leave the algae as-is before treating.

Systemic Chemicals

A systemic chemical, like Shoreline Defense®, works by being absorbed into the growth system of emergent shoreline weeds, like cattails, via their leaves and roots. As it does so, it kills the plants. Cutting the plants down stops the absorption process and prevents the chemical from getting into their system. As with contact chemicals, treat first.

Treat, Then Rake

After you’ve treated and killed the problem plants, then you should pull the dead debris from the pond with a weed cutter and rake. That will prevent all that decaying matter from becoming fertilizer for future algae blooms.

If you miss some of it, your aeration system and natural bacteria can do the work for you. An Airmax® Aeration system keeps the water oxygenated and moving, while the beneficial microorganisms in our natural bacteria products break down the debris.

Pond Talk: How have your algae blooms been this year? Better, worse or the same as last year?

Skim Dead Algae & Vegetation - The Pond Guy® Pond & Beach Rake

The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out?

Q: The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out?

Ed – Adairsville, GA

A: What an eyesore. As the snow and ice melt, those brown, dried-up cattails and phragmites do little to enhance a landscape. They can, in fact, cause water quality and weed management problems, especially as spring approaches and those green shoots emerge from the dead growth. You need to do something about them, and here’s what we recommend.

Frosty Water

With water temperatures still on the chilly side, it’s likely too early to start treating your pond or lake with beneficial bacteria, like those found in Pond Logic® MuckAway™. Those little detritus-destroyers prefer water that’s at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit – and chances are good that it’s well below that mark (unless you’re in sunny Florida or California …). Besides, even with some oxygen-infusing aeration, it would take a long time before they would be able to decompose large cattail or phragmite stalks.

Winter Management

One option is to leave those dead weeds in the water until spring. They may attract wildlife and create an ideal home for insects, amphibians and birds – as well as small rodents and other possibly unwanted visitors that will hide out in the shoreline brush.

Right now, your best bet is to pull out your weed whacking tools and get to work.

We offer a range of cutters and rakes that’ll make the job easy. From a double-sided cutter with an 11-foot reach to a V-shaped cutter that sinks to the bottom and slices weeds at their base, these tools help you cut down those dead plants. And a rake, like one of our weed rakers, will help gather the cut stalks for easy pickup and removal.

Spring Solutions

In the spring when the water temperatures rise and the weeds start to grow again, treat them with an herbicide formulated to tackle the toughest weeds. Remember: those chemicals only work when they’re absorbed by a growing plant, so there’s no sense in using them when the cattails and phragmites are dried up and dormant.

Happy winter weeding!

Pond Talk: What features do you prefer in a weed cutter?

Cut Through Tough Weeds - The Pond Guy® 28 Inch Weed Cutter

Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them?

Q: Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them?

Charlene- Brandon, VT

A: Slashing through cattails would certainly be cathartic, wouldn’t it? Well, we don’t recommend it – at least not yet. The best way to rid your pond or lake of those nuisance plants is to use a systemic herbicide with a surfactant, like Shoreline Defense® and Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Apply the mixture on the plant’s leaves with a sprayer. The herbicide then kills the entire plant, rhizome and all.

Destroying that rhizome is critical to controlling cattails. Along with cottony seeds that explode from their brown, conical flowers, cattails propagate via their rhizomes, or root systems, which produce shoots in the fall that sprout in the spring. When you stop their underground spread, you can manage their footprint in your pond or lake.

If you’re new at removing cattails from your pond, here are some tips to make it hassle free.

  1. Treat the cattails between late July and first frost, when the plant is actively growing.
  2. Use a tank sprayer, like the Specialty Pond Sprayer, to apply the herbicide to the leaves that are growing above the pond or lake’s surface. Make sure they’re at least 12 to 18 inches out of the water.
  3. Completely wet the foliage for maximum results when rain is not in the forecast for 24 hours.
  4. Once the plants have completely died and turned brown, you can get out your Weed Cutter and slash through those dead stalks. Aim for the base of the plants, which will allow for easier removal with your Pond & Beach Rake.

Cattails aren’t all bad. Besides adding to the aesthetic value of your landscape, they also make a good home for a variety of birds, insects, amphibians and underwater inhabitants. Consider leaving a few of the cattails around for those critters – but keep the plant carefully controlled with Shoreline Defense®.

Pond Talk: Various parts of the cattail are edible, including its rhizome, young shoots and green flower spike. Would you ever consider harvesting and eating your cattails?

Treats Shoreline Weeds & Cattails - Pond Logic(r) Shoreline Defense (r)

I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Barney – Andalusia, AL

A: Treating weeds is a tricky task. Despite dosing them with aquatic herbicides to clear your pond or lake of plant pests, they seem to grow back over and over again. It seems like a never-ending cycle!

Why does this happen?

Well, chemical treatments have their benefits and drawbacks: On one hand, they work great as a quick fix to decimate actively growing weeds. But once those plants die, they become a food source for future weeds and algae, acting as a fertilizer for the very things you’re trying to get rid of. The herbicides do nothing to prevent future growth, and so you’re left with yet another growth spurt of pond weeds, which you’ll then treat with chemical herbicides – and around you’ll go again.

So how do you break the cycle? Here’s a four-step approach that will help put an end to it.

  1. Remove the Dead Weeds: Once the weeds have browned, use a Pond & Beach Rake or PondSkim™ Debris Skimmer to remove as much dead material from the water as possible. This prevents dead plant material and muck from accumulating and fertilizing future weed growth.
  2. Be Proactive: Debris will still find its way into your pond, so add some beneficial bacteria to the water to manage the excess nutrients before they feed your weeds. The products found in the ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Packages – including PondClear™ and EcoBoost™ for suspended debris, and MuckAway™ for accumulated bottom-of-the-pond debris – naturally break down that organic material.
  3. Add Aeration: If you don’t have one already, install a Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration System that’s sized for your pond or lake. By circulating and adding oxygen to the water column, the beneficial bacteria will thrive. In turn, they’ll eat through even more debris and prevent weed and algae growth.
  4. Shade and Color: Also found in the ClearPAC® Plus package is Pond Dye, another offensive tactic in your battle against aquatic weeds. Pond dye shades the water blue or black, preventing ultraviolet light from reaching the plants.

Throughout the spring and summer, weeds will grow. But with some pond management practices, you can keep those pesky plants to a minimum.

Pond Talk: How often do you treat your pond or lake for weeds?

Remove Floating Debris Quickly - The Pond Guy(r) PondSkim(t) Debris Skimmer

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