• Archives

  • Categories

  • Pages

  • Follow me on Twitter

I’ve heard a lot about barley, some good and some bad. What do you think? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

I’ve heard a lot about barley, some good and some bad. What do you think?

I’ve heard a lot about barley, some good and some bad. What do you think?
Jessica – Jackson, MI

Pond owners are intrigued by the prospect of being able to ditch chemical treatments for a natural means of algae control. While it is true that barley straw is capable of helping your pond fend off algae it still comes with advantages and disadvantages.

Studies have shown that as barley straw decomposes it releases agents that inhibit algae growth with no adverse effects on your water garden plants or decorative pond fish. Originally customers would place bales of Barley Straw in their waterfall filter boxes, skimmers or waterfall areas where they would decompose over time. As barley straw treatments continue to grow in popularity new types of barley products have been made available. Barley Straw Pellets are available for a cleaner and easier way to implement barley treatments into your pond or for even faster results, Barley Extract. Barley Extract is basically barley straw already broken down into its beneficial byproducts.

While barley straw can help keep your pond less green this season it is not 100% effective on all algae that may form in your pond. One of the biggest issues with using barley straw and pellets is that you have to put them in your pond early in the season as they will need time to start decomposing before providing any benefits. Some may also argue that you are also adding muck and nutrients to your pond in the process. You will gain some speed by using barley straw extract but it then becomes less convenient because you will have to continuously add it to the pond. Barley also does not directly kill algae so chemical treatments may still eventually be required.

Your best defense against algae has always been a good offense. Keeping your pond clean and balanced with adequate filtration, bacteria treatments, minimal fish loads and sun exposure you will reduce your dependence and need for algae treatments in general. It is when your pond is balanced and just needs a little extra kick to keep algae at bay that your barley treatments really begin to shine as their gradual release of anti-algae agents will help maintain clear water throughout the season with minimal or no additional chemical treatment.

Pond Talk: Do you use barley straw as a part of your pond maintenance? Have you noticed a cleaner pond while using barley straw?

All the benefits of barley straw without the mess!

Do I need to replace my filter media? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

If I Order My Plants Now Can I Keep Them Inside Until It’s Warm Enough To Move Them Outside?
Do I need to replace my filter media?
Alvin – Canton, OH

The filters in your water garden are one the best lines of defense against dirty pond water, algae blooms and poor fish health. Since they play such a big role in keeping your pond healthy, you will want to make sure your filter media is up to snuff for the season.

If you’ve stored your existing pond filters over the winter and want to reuse them this season, you will want to start by cleaning and inspecting the filtration media. Check the filter media pads in your waterfall box, skimmer and pressurized filters for frayed edges, deposits of solid debris, holes and other signs of damage. Replace pads that are a bit worse for wear with a new filter media pad. A wide array of filter media pads are available starting with the cost effective “cut your own” rolls to special coated Matala® Filter Pads for extended life and performance. The foam media that comes in your pressurized or in-pond filter is usually unique to your particular make and model and can be purchased specifically for your unit. Regardless of whether your filter media pads are new or old you should seed them with PL Gel beneficial bacteria so that your filters are ready and able to biologically filter your pond from the moment you install them.

Secondary filtration media such as filter media blocks or bio-ribbon should be inspected and replaced as necessary as well. An advantage to using BioBalls™ is that they only require a thorough rinse before you reuse them for the season, as they virtually do not wear or degrade. Don’t forget to also inspect or replace filter media bags for your secondary filtration media if needed.

Keeping your filter media in working order can save you time, hassle and money by getting your pond off to a good start, so you can avoid dealing with insufficient filtration later in the season. Inspect your filter media with this in mind and purchase replacement media accordingly.

Pond Talk: What types of filtration media do you use in your water garden? Which types perform the best for you?

keep your pond clean with matala filer pads

How can I keep leaves out of my pond? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I keep leaves out of my pond?

How can I keep leaves out of my pond? Rick – Birds, IL

This Tent’s Not for Camping

You may not want to admit it yet, but the summer season is coming to a close. While we love the mild weather and the changing colors of the trees, us water garden owners have to turn our attention to the falling leaves. No worries however, we have one simple tool that you can use to avoid having to deal with leaves falling into your water garden.

We are of course talking about pond netting. If you dealt with Herons in the summer you may already have a pond net on hand. While they are great for keeping unwanted predators out of your pond they are more commonly used for keeping leaves and other blowing debris from falling in. There are two basic styles of pond netting you can purchase. The most simplistic version of this being a pre cut piece of mesh netting. This netting is available in an Economy Grade which is ideal for single season use or a Heavy Duty version. You can pull this mesh tight across the surface of your pond and secure it using stakes or rocks. This application works well for water gardens that may receive minimal amounts of debris. If you are in a heavily wooded area or are prone to massive amounts of debris you will be better off utilizing a Pond Protector Net Kit that implements a domed design to better protect your pond. The netting included with the kit extends beyond the tent-style frame allowing you to pull netting along the contours of your pond so there are no gaps left open for debris to enter.

Keeping leaves out of your pond in the fall will help keep the pond clean and manageable going into the colder seasons and will ensure a faster, easier cleanout and start up next season. Leaves left in the pond to decompose tend to create “tea-colored” water due to the tannins they release in the decomposition process. You can fill Media Bags with Activated Carbon and place them in your filter boxes to help clear the water if this happens to you. Also continue to use Nature’s Defense® and Muck Defense® to manage the muck left behind by decomposing leaves and fish waste. As water temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit you can switch from Nature’s Defense® and Muck Defense® to Seasonal Defense®. Seasonal Defense® is a cool water natural bacteria that will continue the decomposition process throughout the fall and winter.

POND TALK: Do you fight to keep leaves out of your pond in the Fall? Has a pond net helped make your end of season ponding easier and more enjoyable?

Keep the leaves out!

Spring Accessories – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens

Dyed Pond

Behind The Springs
It is truly an enjoyable experience taking in the sights and sounds of a water garden. Crystal clear water, brilliantly colored fish and lush green plants all meld together to create a picture perfect landscape. While water gardens are a wonder to behold, pond guys and gals everywhere are working hard to keep them looking their best all season long. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at some of the accessories that make that work a little less… well… hard!

What’s Your Net Worth?
Having a pond net handy for regular maintenance is a surefire way to add some ease into your cleaning regimens. Purchasing a tool like our 3 in 1 Interchangeable Pond Tool not only allows you the ability to skim floating debris from your water gardens surface, but also gives you accessories you can use to round up and relocate your fish for large scale clean ups and to clean seasonal build up from hard to reach surfaces. The added benefit of a telescoping handle ensures that the areas you need to clean are within reach. Remember, the objective of using tools is to make work easier on you. Purchase items that perform for you and work best for your specific situations.

Sayonara Sludge!
Giving your water garden a thorough cleaning in the Spring will help reduce the chances of dealing with excess algae growth and overall improving the quality of the water in your pond. Simplifying the cleaning process using the correct tools encourages us to perform our cleanings a bit more enthusiastically. While Spring cleaning is not the most enjoyable pastime for water gardeners, it can be way more convenient (and way less painful) with a pond vacuum. Vacuums like the ClearVac™ clean the built up muck from your ponds bottom while eliminating time spent bent over scooping and scrubbing. Adding beneficial bacteria like Pond Logic® Nature’s Defense® & Muck Defense® when your water temperatures reach 50° or higher will naturally break down organic debris that eventually turn into muck at your ponds bottom. Preventing sludge build up will result in easier and less frequent cleanouts throughout the season.

Using Some Colorful Expressions
So maybe this is your first season, or you are looking to add a special touch to your water garden. Implementing a variety of aquatic plants and shoreline grasses will add some color to the landscape and will have a positive impact on the water quality in your pond. Floating plants like Water Hyacinths or Water Lettuce will consume the same nutrients as algae that are present in the water column, reducing the amount of food available for potential algae blooms. Submerged plants like Hornwort give your fish an excellent place to hide. Try to include a diverse selection of plants to boost your water garden’s visual appeal and promote a balanced ecosystem.

Another great way to accent your water feature is to install pond lighting. When it comes to shedding some light on your project, it can be as simple as adding a couple Solar Floating Lights to set the tone, or installing a series of Waterfall Lights and some LEDPro™ High Output Lights to highlight the surrounding landscape. With a wide assortment of lighting styles to choose from including Halogen, LED, and colored bulbs, you can achieve a unique look that fits exclusively to your pond!

POND TALK: What approach have you taken to eliminate the hassle of water garden maintenance? Show us some pictures of your unique lighting displays.

When should I start using my DefensePAC®? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Dyed Pond

When should I start using my DefensePAC®? – Sherry in Ohio

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your… Barley?
You’ve bought the products; you’ve read the blogs; now it’s time to get your feet wet. Whether you are starting your water garden up for the first time this season or your pond is operating through the Winter/Spring transition, it’s time to break out the barley.

Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold
For those of you pond guys and gals who experience freezing temperatures, you are probably waiting for the ice to melt to start up the pumps and filters in your water garden. When that glorious day comes, take some time and install new filter media, vacuum the bottom of the pond, and clean up the rocks and walls with you Oxy-Lift™ Defense®. Now that your water garden is up and running, it is time for some Seasonal Defense®, a natural bacteria that incorporates barley and is designed to work in cooler temperatures. This bacteria will jump start your biological filters and devour organic debris, allowing you to gain control of your pond earlier in the season. As we progress into late spring and the water temperatures begin to rise above 50ºF, you can switch over to your Nature’s Defense®.

Don’t Get Lost In The Mix
So, now we know Nature’s Defense® performs best in warmer temperatures, while Seasonal Defense® goes to work for you when it’s cold. When do you break out the Muck Defense® and Clarity Defense® to really get the party started? Clarity Defense® should be used whenever your water garden is open. It will work in any temperature, locking up suspended nutrients, resulting in clearer water and increasing the effectiveness of all natural bacteria. You can start using your Muck Defense® the same time you begin applications of Nature’s Defense®. While Nature’s Defense® is working on the organics floating in the water column, Muck Defense® will be at the bottom of the pond, eating away at sunken debris.

POND TALK: How do you use your DefensePAC® to kick off the season? Which DefensePAC® products do you feel go to work the best for you?

Properly Cleaning Filter Pads – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of Matala Filter Pads.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: I have been cleaning my filter pads once a week with a garden hose because they are filled with gunk all the time. This doesn’t seem normal. How often should I be cleaning my filter pads? – Tonie of Massachusetts

A: There are quite a few customers that I talk with that don’t know why their filter pads build up with “gunk” so fast. I didn’t understand it either when I first stepped foot into water gardens, but filter pads provide a very important role in your water garden’s ecosystem and in reality should not be cleaned very often.

The Purpose of Filter Pads
Filter pads (or other filter media) contain a large amount of surface area. This surface area within time will grow increasing amounts of beneficial bacteria. This beneficial bacteria (also called nitrifying bacteria) will break down ammonia from fish waste into nitrates. Also, some customers mistakenly believe this beneficial bacteria is “gunk” and will unfortunately clean it off having to have the beneficial bacteria start over again!

The Proper Way to Clean Filter Pads
If the “gunk” on your filter pads becomes over abundant and restricts water flow from your pump, only then would it be necessary to clean them. Usually when this is the case, it has a buildup of other debris besides beneficial bacteria. To properly clean the filter pads I suggest to take a bucket of water from your water garden and dip the filter pad into the bucket knocking off any debris and leaving the “gunk”. I DO NOT recommend using tap water from your garden hose to do this because the water contains heavy metals or chlorine that will kill off the beneficial bacteria on your filter pads. After cleaning your filter pads or if you accidentally used tap water to clean them, you can use PL Gel. PL Gel is like injecting beneficial bacteria directly into your filter pad. PL Gel will reduce bacteria start-up time by up to 80%. I have found it to be very successful.

Yearly Maintenance & Replacement
You should really only have to clean your filter pads a couple times a year. Once during spring startup and again during fall shutdown. Most filter pads will last up to a year before you should have to replace them. If you are looking for longer lasting filter pads we highly suggest the Matala Filter Pads. They will last several years.

POND TALK: Tell us how often you clean your filter pads?

Using Pond Vacuums to Clean Your Water Garden – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Cleanout Out the Water Garden by Draining and Power Washing.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: Muck and leaves have built up on the bottom of my water garden and I have been climbing in and out of my water garden trying to remove as much as I can. Is there an easier way to do this without all the hard work and having to get wet? – Rick of South Carolina

A: Cleaning and maintaining a beautiful water garden takes time. We’ve all done it. We’ve all drained the water garden to try and clean out the pond. We’ve all fallen in one time or another to try and get those leaves and muck out. So what can you do? Well, if you haven’t used a Pond Vacuum yet, I highly recommend it.

Cleaning Your Water Garden with Ease with a Pond Vacuum.

“You mean you can actually vacuum your pond”?: I’ve heard that statement many times while talking to some of you on the phone or in person, and fortunately, you can! Having a pond vacuum for your water garden is similar to having a regular vacuum for your home. Think about it. Would you have carpet in your home and NOT have a vacuum? Probably not. This is similar to having a pond vacuum for your water garden. Simply one doesn’t go without the other.

First, lets consider why we need to vacuum our ponds: As time passes by, our ponds accumulate “muck” from leaves, fish waste, uneaten fish food, lily pads, etc. This “muck” is very high in nutrients and a great food source for algae! Although we do suggest a complete cleanout each and every spring, this is sometimes not an option, especially every year. So having the ability to remove waste without removing all the water is a huge advantage. In general, you will only lose about 10-15% of your water after a complete vacuuming, which is just the right amount for a small water change to freshen up the pond.

Which vacuum is right for you?
The real decision when choosing between the Pond-O-Matic XL or the Pond-O-Vac III really only comes down to a couple of questions. How large your pond is and how often you will need to vacuum?

If you have a smaller pond (less then 300 sq. ft) then a Pond-O-Matic XL will be sufficient: The Pond-O-Matic XL features a automatic fill-and-drain system that senses when the vacuum basin is full and automatically shuts off, drains and then turns back on. You will get a good 30-45 seconds of cleaning time between each drain with the drain time approximately the same. So 45 seconds of cleaning could take you up to 90 seconds.

Larger ponds (over 300 sq. ft.) and ponds that receive an excessive amount of debris would be great candidates for the Pond-O-Vac III. The biggest advantage of this “Cadillac” of pond vacuums is its ability to drain a pump at the same time. This is a real time-saving operation because it does not have to stop and drain before continuing.

Other advantages of the Pond-O-Vac III:

  • 5-year warranty compared to the 2-year warranty of the Pond-O-Matic XL.
  • Clear vacuum extension for monitoring operation.
  • Built-in rack for to conveniently store and organize accessories.
  • Built-in wheels for greater mobility.