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Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder?

Q: Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder?

Ed – Norton, OH

A: This time of year, many aquatic plants—including weeds—seem to be no longer actively growing. Triggered by dropping temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight, the cold-weather slowdown sends perennial plants into dormancy, and it can be hard to tell if they’re dead or just holing up for the winter.

Because you’ll see little or no greenery, treating those weeds can be a challenge. Plus, most chemical treatments, like herbicides and algaecides, don’t work well in colder temperatures. Algae Defense®, for example, stops working when the water is below 60°F, and the beneficial bacteria in PondClear™ almost slow down completely when temps fall below 50°F.

So what options do you have for treating weeds when it gets cold?

  1. Rake Out Dead Vegetation: First, pull on your muck boots and gloves, and manually pull weeds and dead foliage from the water with a weed rake or other weed removal tool. This will take out growing plants and cut down on decaying organics, which means fewer weeds and fertilizer for them next spring.
  2. Dose with Pond Dye: Next, add some Pond Dye to the water. Available in convenient liquid quarts, gallons and water-soluble packets, it will shade the water blue or black and reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the bottom of your lake. Pond Dye can also be used regardless of the temperature or time of year.
  3. Aerate the Water: Unless you plan to use your lake for winter recreation, make sure your Airmax® Aeration System is up and running. It’ll keep your water circulated, which will reduce the muck buildup throughout the winter, and it’ll keep a hole open in the ice, which will allow for gas exchange. Your fish will thank you for it.

If you’re concerned about weeds as fall and winter approach, give these three tricks a try. By removing existing weeds and reducing the decaying buildup (i.e. weed fertilizer) now, you’ll have less work to do next spring—and won’t that be a treat!

Pond Talk: What kinds of aquatic weeds grow year-round in your area?

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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?

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I think I have either milfoil or coontail. How do I tell the difference, and what chemical should I use? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I think I have either milfoil or coontail. How do I tell the difference, and what chemical should I use?

Q: I think I have either milfoil or coontail. How do I tell the difference, and what chemical should I use?

Paul – Greenfield, OH

A: Invasive aquatic plants like milfoil and coontail can cause trouble in your pond or lake. Though they provide food and shelter for birds, insects, fish and other pond critters, they can form dense colonies, reducing access to open water, limiting fishing access, and interfering with boating and swimming.

Milfoil and coontail look similar and – thankfully – can be treated with similar chemicals. Here’s what you need to know about identifying and managing these nuisance plants.

Milfoil Identification

When you think milfoil, think feather-like.

Many different species of milfoil and watermilfoil exist in North America. In general, milfoil is found in water that’s less than 20 feet (6 meters) deep. In water less than 15 feet (4½ meters) deep, it can form dense mats over the surface. The plant is comprised of long stems with air canals and flat, feather-like, whorled leaves that are pinnately divided.

Milfoil is an important food source for waterfowl, but these nuisance plants can aggressively invade lakes, ponds and waterways. Once they’re established, they’re almost impossible to eradicate, and so periodic maintenance is necessary to keep them under control.

Coontail Identification

When coontail comes to mind, think of a Christmas tree.

Also known as hornwort, coontail also thrives in water less than 20 feet deep. The rootless invasive plant grows below the surface, and it has a central hollow stem and dark green leaves that are spiny, forked and bushy near the tip, giving it its “coontail” or Christmas tree appearance.

Like milfoil, coontail provides food for waterfowl and cover for young bluegills, perch, largemouth bass and northern pike, but it needs to be managed to prevent it from taking over your pond or lake.

Keeping Them Under Control

Many of the submerged weed chemicals available treat both milfoil and coontail. Depending how you use your pond, the best choices are:

  • Ultra PondWeed Defense®: This liquid herbicide has short-term drinking (three days for human consumption; one day for animal consumption) and irrigation restrictions (five days).
  • Navigate: A granular herbicide, Navigate is great for spot-treating problem areas. It has longer consumption and irrigation restrictions (21 days) than the others.
  • Fluridone (Sonar™): If your entire pond is infested, try Sonar™. It can kill the invaders down to their roots, but expect slower results (it can take up to 90 days for full protection) and longer irrigation restrictions (30 days). Note: Sonar™ should only be used in ponds with little to no flow.
  • Clipper™: To use Clipper™, you’ll need to mix the quick-dissolve granules with water – but you can start using the water again for irrigation in just five days.

Regardless which one you choose, the best time to apply it is when the weeds are actively growing.

Help from the Experts

If you can’t figure out which aquatic weed is growing in your pond, pull one (or more!) from the pond, snap a picture and email it, or mail us a sample in a dry paper towel. We can help you identify the invader and suggest the best chemical to control it.

Pond Talk: What’s your go-to herbicide to treat invasive aquatic plants?

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We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this?

Q: We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this?

Kym – Lake Butler, FL

A: Your concern is justified. According to the CDC, mosquitoes – specifically the Aedes species (Ae. Aegypti and Ae. Albopictus) – are one of the main transmitters of the Zika virus. The bite of an infected mosquito can cause fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis and other unpleasant side effects.

Mosquitoes should be eradicated from your property – and here are six ways to decimate their population.

  • Create Water Movement. Ever notice how mosquitoes avoid moving water as much as possible? This is because the movement isn’t conducive to their life cycle. A female mosquito lays her eggs in stagnant water that’s full of nutritious algae, plankton, fungi and bacteria. When the eggs hatch, the larvae and pupae thrive and grow, developing into adult mosquitoes that perpetuate the population. Stop that cycle with aeration. The water movement created by the pumped-in oxygen creates an inhospitable environment for the mosquitoes while promoting your pond’s overall health.
  • Check for Standing Water. An old tire, ceramic flower pot, cracked bucket – mosquitoes aren’t particular about the vessel of standing water they use to lay their eggs. If it holds stagnant water and contains some type of food source, it’s fair game. The CDC recommends a once-a-week check for standing water around your property. Empty containers, scrub them clean, and turn them over or cover them to reduce your overall mosquito population.
  • Eliminate Food Source. Developing larvae and pupae need algae to fuel their rapid growth to adulthood, and so another way to reduce their population is to reduce their food source. In your pond or lake, use algaecide to remove suspended plant matter and muck reducers to break down detritus on the bottom of your pond.
  • Trim Shoreline Vegetation.  Unlike their developing larvae, adult mosquitoes live in the plants and vegetation along the pond’s shoreline. Evict those pests by clearing out and trimming back grasses and aquatic weeds. Use some herbicide to kill aquatic weeds and grasses, and use weed removal tools, like a weed cutter, rake and debris skimmer, and remove the dead plants and overgrowth.
  • Boost Fish Population.  Fish and other mosquito-eating pond life, like tadpoles, minnow, bass, bluegill and catfish, love gobbling those mosquito larvae and pupae. If you don’t already have a fish population living in your lake, consider adding some! The American Mosquito Control Association, in fact, recommends adding predacious minnows or native fish to lakes and ponds for biological control of the insects.
  • Keep Unused Standing Water Bug-Free.  Despite your best efforts, it can be impossible to completely eradicate mosquitoes in places with standing water – like around a pond or lake. Likewise, vessels like stored rainwater, water troughs and even bird feeders can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. So what can you do? Consider mosquito dunks or bits. These handy little disks or bits contain a specially formulated biological pesticide designed to kill mosquito larvae. You simply toss them in unused bodies of water and let them go to work.

Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases are a real concern. Plus, all that buzzing can be annoying when you’re trying to enjoy your pond or lake during the warm days of summer. Use these tips to keep your yard mosquito-free – and your family and friends happy and healthy.

Pond Talk: Have you stocked your pond with mosquito-eating fish? If so, what types?

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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?

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If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work?

Q: If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work?

Amy – Linn Grove, IN

A: That all depends! Because you’re applying chemicals to water, you’d think that rain would have no affect on the herbicide—but it actually might. How long it rains, how heavily it rains and how soon it rained after you applied the treatment could impact its quality and effectiveness.

If wet stuff from the sky is a threat and you’re thinking about spraying algaecides or herbicides to control nuisance plants in your pond or lake, here are four general guidelines to follow:

  1. Check the Weather: Is steady rain forecast for the day? If so, postpone any treatment of emergent weeds. Many treatments need to be absorbed by the plant’s leaves to be effective. A day-long stint of rain will rinse the chemical off the weed before it can be fully absorbed.
  2. Check the Weather, Part II: If you’re expecting heavy precipitation, definitely put off treatment to another day. The applied chemical could rinse off the plants and overflow from the pond before being taken up by the target weed.
  3. Reapply If Necessary: A light sprinkle will generally not affect the chemical’s potency in a pond that’s already been treated. If a downpour occurs within a few hours of application, however, plan to reapply the herbicide in a few days to fully control that target plant.
  4. Make Your Treatment Count: Use a pond sprayer to apply the chemical as close to target weeds as possible, and use a sticky surfactant to help the chemical absorb into the plant like Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Treatment Booster™ PLUS breaks down the surface of the weed or algae and allows the active ingredient to penetrate.

Even though you’re treating aquatic weeds, wet weather can still impact the chemical’s effectiveness. Check the short- and long-term forecast and plan accordingly – because you don’t want all that hard work (and costly treatments) to be for nothing!

Pond Talk: How has the weather affected your pond or lake so far this summer?

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How can I control the duckweed in my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How can I control the duckweed in my pond?

Q: How can I control the duckweed in my pond?

Kyle – Burke, KY

A: Duckweed is a tiny menace that definitely needs to be managed. Brought to your pond or lake by humans and their equipment or on the feet and feathers of visiting waterfowl, dense colonies of these plants can proliferate and eventually cover the water surface. It’s not something you want in growing your pond.

Duckweed or Watermeal?

Duckweed a very small, light green, free-floating plant with a single hair-like root and three 1/16- to 1/8-inch long leaves, or fronds. It tends to grow in dense colonies in quiet water that’s undisturbed by waves. You can fit six to eight of these plants of the tip of your finger.

Watermeal – another invasive plant that can be mistaken for duckweed – is also light green and free-floating, but it has no roots and is more of a grainy, seed-type plant. It’s also much smaller than duckweed; at less than 1 millimeter in size, you can fit 10 to 20 of them on the tip of your finger.

Duckweed and watermeal colonies can provide a habitat for microscopic critters and forage for hungry ducks, but the plants can reduce oxygen in the water if they grow to cover a lake’s or pond’s surface. That could compromise your fishes’ health and cut off sunlight to underwater plants.

Treat Effectively

To control duckweed, think short-term and long-term.

Short Term: Ultra PondWeed Defense® or Clipper™ used with Treatment Booster™ PLUS are your go-to herbicide products for short-term control of duckweed and other invasive aquatic weeds. They provide broad-spectrum pond weed control in slow-moving water and kill what’s actively growing in your pond. If duckweed hasn’t completely taken over your water surface, you may notice algae growth mixed in with the weeds – in which case you’ll need to treat the algae first. (Pro tip: Clipper™ will control both algae and duckweed.)

Long Term: For long-term control, you’ll need an herbicide like fluridone, which is found in Sonar™ A.S. When applied in early spring (or when you begin to notice weed growth), you’ll see the product controlling established plants in 30 to 60 days, and in 90 days, you’ll have full pond protection. Because exposure to sunlight can reduce Sonar’s effectiveness, use in combination with Pond Dye. If you use your pond water to irrigate, you will need to wait 30 days following treatment.

Improve Overall Pond Health

In addition to managing your menace with herbicides, you should also reduce muck and aerate the water to keep your overall pond healthy. The products in the ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package – including PondClear™, MuckAway™ and EcoBoost™ – will help reduce the submerged and suspended organic debris. Combine that with some Airmax® Aeration, and your water will stay crystal clear all season long.

Pond Talk: What else do you do to control duckweed in your lake?

Treats Floating & Submerged Weeds - Valent® Clipper™ Aquatic Herbicide