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My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw?

Q: My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw?

Katie – Johnson, VT

A: More and more people are using barley straw as an all-natural (and duck friendly) way to control pond scum—and for good reason. Barley straw is a safe, natural alternative to manufactured chemicals and one of the compounds produced by submerged, decomposing barley straw may actually help keep your pond clear.

You need a lot of it to be effective.

In your quarter-acre pond, you’d need between 25 and 50 pounds (1 to 2 standard bales) of barley straw, depending on your pond’s condition. That straw would then need to be broken up, divided among several permeable bags and placed around the perimeter of the pond with weights in water no deeper than 6 feet.

That’s a lot of work!

And if you don’t replace the barley straw as it decomposes, it just turns into more decaying organic debris in the pond.

So what are your options?

Focus on the health of your pond. Reduce the decomposing plant matter, fish waste and other nutrients by adding a stout aeration system and wildlife-safe beneficial bacteria.

You can give barley straw a try or you may want to reconsider manufactured chemicals, like Algae Defense®. The algaecide has no water use restrictions, and it’s safe to use around ducks and other wildlife. And because it only needs to be used when algae growth is occurs, you could use it as a one-time algae bomb. Not all chemicals are bad!

Pond Talk: Have you ever used barley straw? How did it work in your pond or lake?

Promote A Healthy Ecosystem - Pond Logic® PondClear™ Natural Bacteria

 

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A friend suggested I use pond dye. I’m nervous because we swim in the pond. Is it safe, and which one do I use? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: A friend suggested I use pond dye. I’m nervous because we swim in the pond. Is it safe, and which one do I use?

Q: A friend suggested I use pond dye. I’m nervous because we swim in the pond. Is it safe, and which one do I use?

Wayne – Camden, NC

A: You have a wise friend! Pond Dye can provide some important benefits to your pond. It helps to shade the water from the sun’s rays, and create drama and aesthetic appeal in your landscape.

Safe and Non-Staining

If you’re worried about the dye coloring your skin when you swim, don’t worry: After 24 hours of being applied to the pond, the dye will not stain. The concentrated form, however, is a different story. It will turn your hands colors, so be sure to wear gloves and work clothes when adding dye to your pond.

Once mixed with the water in your pond, pond dye is completely safe for agriculture and irrigation purposes. Immediately after treatment, you can use your pond for recreation, fishing and other activities. It’s safe for swimming ponds, as well as watering horses, livestock, birds, pets, fish and wildlife.

Color Choices Aplenty

Pond dye color is really a matter of personal preference, but different shades are better suited to different situations. When selecting one, first consider your environment and what looks natural in your surroundings. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have a decorative pond or lake? Try Nature’s Blue™ dye or The Pond Guy® PondShade™ Pond Dye– our customers’ favorite choice. It’s the ideal color for large ponds that double as a view as it contrasts perfectly with lush green landscaping. Folks in the Great Lakes area may feel more at home with a natural blue color.
  • Do you prefer a more natural look? Try Twilight Blue™ dye. It maintains a neutral blackish-blue tint that shades and protects your pond without making drastic changes to its natural coloring.
  • Do you want to showcase your landscape? Consider using Black DyeMond™ dye. It creates a mirrored surface that reflects surrounding trees and natural rocky landscapes, making it perfect for natural ponds in wooded areas.

Application Process

Adding dye to your pond or lake is easy. Every four to six weeks (or as needed depending on rainfall and evaporation), simply pour the concentrated Pond Dye into the water in several spots along the pond’s edge, or drop the easy-to-use water-soluble Pond Dye Packets in the water. Easy peasy!

If you notice your pond is full of suspended debris, you may want to try Pond Dye Plus. It contains both dye and the beneficial bacteria that’s found in PondClear™, so it will both shade your pond and help clear the water.

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite shade of pond dye?

Shade & Protect Your Pond - The Pond Guy® PondShade™ Pond Dye

 

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I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too?

Q: I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too?

Matt – Burton, MI

A: Bandit-masked raccoons are a familiar sight just about everywhere because they will eat just about anything, including your fish. Found in forests, marshes, prairies, suburbs and even cities, raccoons can be a nuisance around ponds and lakes. Here’s what you need to know to keep them away from your pond – and your garbage cans.

ID, Please

With the exception of 75-pound Bandit that holds the world record for “World’s Fattest Raccoon,” these nocturnal foragers are typically between 15 to 23 pounds and 30 to 37 inches long, or the size of a small dog. They sport heavy fur streaked in brown, black and gray, and have black eye stripes that resemble a mask. Raccoons have bushy ringed tails that grow up to a foot long, and their dexterous paws and long fingers make distinct prints in the mud or snow.

Sushi for Dinner

Though raccoons love to eat mice, insects, and tasty fruits and vegetables (particularly sweet corn) plucked from your garden and garbage can, the opportunistic water-loving critters will happily take a dive in your lake to hunt for crayfish, fish, turtles, frogs and worms. They’ll use their lightning-fast paws to grab both aquatic and terrestrial prey.

Tracking a Bandit

Raccoons aren’t exactly stealthy. If they’re prowling around, they’ll leave telltale signs around your home and property – like knocked-over garbage cans, overturned rocks and flower pots, rooted-through plants and disheveled yard decor. They’ll also leave tracks in the wet soil around the pond. And, if you’re lucky, you may even find a shelter or den made in a hollow tree, culvert, woodchuck burrow or under a building.

Evicting Raccoons

Mother Nature provides her own raccoon control in the form of coyotes, foxes, great horned owls and bobcats, but you can give her a hand in several different ways.

  • A live-animal trap baited with cat food or tuna will allow you to capture and relocate your problem raccoon.
  • The Nite Guard Solar® deterrent keeps raccoons away with its solar-powered LED lights. Activated at dusk, the red lights resemble a predator’s flashing eyes flash and cause the critter to run away.
  • Keep garbage cans securely sealed and manage other easy-access food sources, like cat food bowls and compost bins.

With hundreds of thousands of raccoons traipsing across the countryside, you’ll likely discover one or two (or an entire family!) living on your property near your lake. But if you use some wildlife management tactics like these, you can keep them under control. Good luck!

Pond Talk: How do you manage the raccoon population near your pond?

Protects Against Nighttime Predators - Nite Guard Solar®

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

 

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I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Jerry – Cass City, MI

A: Ducks certainly make an entertaining and colorful addition to a pond or lake. Various species of these plumed wetland visitors grace just about every continent and climate on planet earth – including sub-Antarctic islands like South Georgia and the Aucklands to oceanic locales like Hawaii and New Zealand.

Despite their worldwide distribution, getting ducks to call your pond home can be a challenge. But you can attract them if you understand their specific needs.

Pondside Open House

The duck types that frequent ponds include mallards and wood ducks, along with Muscovy ducks, black-bellied and whistling ducks. Ducks are omnivores and like to eat a wide range of foods, from small fish, eggs, snails, worms and bugs to grass, weeds, seeds and berries. In general, they require a lot of space and copious amounts of water in the form of marshes, lakes or large ponds. Aquatic plants, like reeds and water lilies, make them feel at home, as does concealed areas with tall marsh grass and shrubby cover for nesting and hiding.

Attracting the Flock

Providing a duck friendly habit is the best way to convince the feathered visitors to stop by, but here are some expert tricks to make your pond more appealing:

  • Create a Mess Hall: Set up feeding areas by clearing out an area or providing large, low platforms, and toss out some cracked corn, spilled birdseed and kitchen scraps. Don’t feed them by hand, but use goodies to pique their interest.
  • Plant a Duck Garden: Berry bushes can help draw ducks. And if you have a garden area near your pond, use mulch to attract tasty insects and earthworms.
  • Offer a Nest Box: Though ducks will nest in a variety of places, from ground nests in grassy areas near the pond to brush piles and hollow logs, provide them with nest boxes to help attract nesting ducks.
  • Install a Fountain: Ducks flock to the sound of splashing, so consider installing a fountain or waterfall in your pond.
  • Use Natural Décor: Add some half-submerged logs, overhanging shelves, marsh grasses and marginals, aquatic plants and brush piles to your landscape.
  • Add Some Decoys: A duck decoy pair floating quietly on your pond will attract the attention of the real-life things. They’ll swoop down to investigate and (hopefully!) decide to stay for a while.

Duck Dangers

Unlike a Great Blue Heron, ducks will leave your fish alone – but they can trigger other problems. If a lot of them are visiting, they can cause water quality issues (which can be remedied with the beneficial bacteria in Pond Logic® PondClear™). They could bring in unwanted weeds, like duckweed and water milfoil, that weren’t present before. The ducks, ducklings and eggs could also attract feral cats, raccoon, skunks and other predators.

Having these colorful beauties visit your pond, however, is worth the hassle. When they do stop by, observe them from a distance – and enjoy bird watching!

Pond Talk: Do ducks visit your pond regularly?

Help Attract Ducks To Your Pond - Flambeau® Storm Front™ Mallard Decoy Pair

 

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We just bought a house with a half-acre pond. Where do we start? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We just bought a house with a half-acre pond. Where do we start?

Q: We just bought a house with a half-acre pond. Where do we start?”

Hans – Brandon, MS

A: Some home buyers look for granite countertops or in-house movie theaters – but a half-acre pond is an amenity that makes us giddy! Because you likely don’t know the history of the pond, how it was built or how it was maintained, it’s best to give that new pond a complete rehab from the bottom up so you can use it to its full potential.

Here’s a five-step process that will make the job easy:

  1. Assess the Pond’s Condition. Before you begin rehabbing your pond, take some time to examine it, including measuring its size and depth, identifying weeds and beneficial aquatic plants, checking for fish, and inspecting pre-existing structures like a dock or an aeration system. These details will help maintain your pond or get it back into shape.
  2. Give It an Oxygen Boost. Your real work begins with installing a bottom-diffused aeration system, like one of the Airmax® Aeration Systems. The units, which include a diffuser, compressor and airline, circulate oxygen throughout the water column so that it’s readily utilized by critters living in your pond, including fish, frogs and beneficial bacteria. It also helps remove harmful gases from the water. If your pond already has an aeration system, thoroughly inspect all its parts and tune them up as necessary.
  3. Control Weed Growth. Treat prolific growth of aquatic weeds and algae. Invasive plants like cattails, chara, phragmites, bulrush, watermilfoil and even out-of-control water lilies can become real problems in a closed ecosystem. Depending on your situation, you may need to use an herbicide and/or algaecide to get them under control before they take over and negatively impact your water quality. For help, check out our Weed Control Guide, which can help you ID and choose the right remedy for the weed.
  4. Remove Unwanted Vegetation. Before and after you treat the weeds and algae, mechanically remove growing and dead vegetation with a Weed Razer™ and Weed Raker™. If you don’t pull that growth out of the water, it will break down into detritus and pond muck, which will actually fertilize the weeds and algae you’re trying to eliminate!
  5. Do Your Maintenance Chores. Now that your pond is on its way to being clean, clear and usable, keep it that way by maintaining it with beneficial bacteria and pond dye. Beneficial bacteria, like those found in ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package, will break down any residual pond muck buildup and keep the water clear. Pond dye will tint the water blue or black, preventing ultraviolet rays from reaching problem plants like algae while adding beauty to your waterscape.

With a little work, you can transform your new pond into a dramatic part of your landscape – particularly if you decide to add a decorative fountain or other feature to it. Have fun with your new aquatic playground!

Pond Talk: What advice can you share with new pond owners?

All-In-One Pond Care Package - Pond Logic(r) ClearPAC(r) Plus

 

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Do I need to cut down 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® Shoreline Defense®

 

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