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How do I divide my pond plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I divide my pond plants?

Q: How do I divide my pond plants?

Karen – Fort Worth, TX

A:  It’s that time of year, isn’t it? After a long winter’s nap, your aquatic plants are a great place to start flexing that green thumb of yours. Potted water lilies and bog plants will need to be divided, but how you do so will depend on the type of plants you have. In general, bog plants will need to be divided every one to two years, and water lilies will need to be divided every two to three years.

Here are simplified, step-by-step instructions for how to divide your aquatic plants. Pull out your waders, pruning tools, extra plant baskets, planting media and garden hose – and let’s get to work!

Divide Bog Plants
Bog plants include species like corkscrew rush, dwarf cattails and irises. Some have clumping roots, some have runners and some have rhizomes. Regardless of the type of root mass, here’s what to do with them:

  1. Lift the pot or container out of the pond and gently remove the root mass.
  2. Use your garden hose to wash the soil off of the root mass and trim any dead leaves and foliage.
  3. Divide the root mass depending on the type of root system.
    • Clumping Roots – Like corkscrew rush, separate the roots into sections, leave some roots intact with each section.
    • Runner Roots – Like dwarf cattails, cut the runner root and leave the root base with each section of the plant.
    • Rhizomes – Like irises, simply divide them into sections.
  4. Replant each section of plant in its own container and dispose of any plant overgrowth.

Divide Water Lilies
Water lilies – both tropical and the hardy variety sold in our Grower’s Choice collection – are also easy to divide. You’ll know it’s time to separate them when you notice fewer lily pads, reduced blooms or splitting pots.

  1. Lift the pot or container out of the pond, locate the tuber and gently remove it.
  2. Rinse off the soil, and trim away root growth and old foliage.
  3. Identify the crowns, or the little buds where a new lily pad group will sprout, and cut between them with a sharp knife. Keep the pieces 3 to 4 inches in length. Each one of these will become a new water lily plant.
  4. Using aquatic planting media, plant each section separately at a 45-degree angle so that the growing tip is still exposed above the soil.
  5. Place your repotted lilies in a shallow area of your pond where only a few inches of water cover the plants.
  6. Once new growth appears, move the lilies to the deeper areas of your pond.

Fertilize and Tend
After you divide and replant your aquatic plants, don’t forget to give them regular doses of fertilizer to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need to thrive and produce vigorous blooms. Keep your colorful beauties looking good by keeping them trimmed and regularly removing dead foliage throughout the growing season.

Pond Talk: When you divide your aquatic plants, what do you do with your extra cuttings?

Add Beauty To Your Pond - Grower's Choice Hardy Water Lilies

 

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If I can’t do a big spring cleanout on my pond, what is the best way to get the debris out of the pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: If I can’t do a big spring cleanout on my pond, what is the best way to get the debris out of the pond?

Q: If I can’t do a big spring cleanout on my pond, what is the best way to get the debris out of the pond?

Maggie – Amherst, OH

A:  An annual spring cleanout is an important chore when you own a backyard pond. It’s when you remove all the decaying organics that collected over the winter, trim back dead foliage, kick on your filtration and aeration systems, and generally spruce things up around your water garden wonderland.

But what if your pond was well-sheltered and protected from leaves and debris, or you live in a temperate climate where a total pond shutdown was unnecessary? Or what if you simply don’t have time to dedicate to all that cleaning and maintenance?

Well we have some shortcuts for you. Though it may be better in the long run to do a thorough cleanout at the start of the season, these five tips will cut down the time it takes to do your spring chores.

  1. Do a Partial Water Change: To help remove some floating and suspended debris, do a partial water change. Let 10 to 20 percent of your water drain from the pond, and add fresh water along with some The Pond Guy® Stress Reducer PLUS to remove heavy metals and prevent your fish from getting too stressed.
  2. Add Some Shine: Oxy-Lift™ Defense® will quickly shine up your waterfalls and shoreline rocks. It’s simple to use: As you’re doing your partial water change, sprinkle Oxy-Lift™ Defense® on scum-covered rocks, streams and liner before you refill your pond. In just 24 hours, you’ll see the gunk break free with no scrubbing at all!
  3. Vacuum Debris: Use your ClearVac™ Pond Vacuum to easily suck up gunk, sludge and decaying organics on the pond bottom. It has four different attachments – gravel, string algae, narrow and wide – along with extension tubes, so you can vacuum almost any surface. For debris larger than 3/8 inch, simply pull out your Collapsible Skimmer and Fish Net and scoop it out.
  4. Add Seasonal Defense®: To break down debris that your pond vacuum missed, add some Seasonal Defense® beneficial bacteria to the water. The microorganisms, which are designed to work in cooler temperatures, will break down leaves and sediment that have collected over the winter. It also kick-starts your pond’s biological filtration system, priming it for summer.
  5. Rinse Your Filter Media: Finally, remove your filter media and give it quick rinse with your garden hose to break up and wash away any accumulated gunk. No need to scrub it too thoroughly; the bacteria living in the pads or BioBalls™ will come back to life once temperatures rise.

Of course, for a truly healthy pond, we still recommend a complete cleanout. We’ll describe those chores in depth over the coming weeks. But for now, this quick fix will get the debris out of your pond, giving it a facelift for spring soirees.

Pond Talk: What shortcuts do you use to skirt spring chores?

Reduce Timely Pond Maintenance - The Pond Guy® ClearVac™ Pond Vacuum

 

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When should I start using the Seasonal Defense in my DefensePAC? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: When should I start using the Seasonal Defense in my DefensePAC?

Q: When should I start using the Seasonal Defense in my DefensePAC?

Chuck – Essex, MD

A:  Seasonal Defense®, contains aerobic bacteria that’s specially designed for cooler water. In the spring, it replenishes bacteria lost over the winter, jump starts the growth of the waste-gobbling microorganisms and breaks down accumulated waste. It’s a great way to kick off pond season!

Add It At 40 Degrees

Plan to start treating with Seasonal Defense® once your pond is up and running and the water temperature is greater than 40° Fahrenheit. You can expect to use it for about one month, or until the water hits 50°F. Once the thermostat tops 50°F, switch to Nature’s Defense®.

Distribute Evenly

Don’t just pile the Seasonal Defense® packets in one place in your pond. Put a packet in each corner to ensure even spread of the beneficial bacteria and breakdown of accumulated muck. Add some to the filter to concentrate and accelerate new bacteria growth on the filter media. Distribute them evenly—but, of course, follow the package recommendations for dosage rates.

Help the Bacteria Work

Don’t forget to aerate the pond and give it an old-fashioned cleaning to make those bacteria’s jobs easier. Along with running your pond’s pump and filtration system, keep your aeration system going to help move the water, add oxygen and disperse the bacteria throughout the pond.

And before you add the packets, clean out any large debris from the pond. Branches, dead foliage, fallen leaves and any other easy-to-remove organic materials that wound up in the water over the fall and winter should be removed so that the bacteria can better spend their time breaking down fine debris and muck.

Pond Talk: What changes do you have planned for your pond this year?

Jump Start Your Pond This Spring - The Pond Guy® Seasonal Defense®

 

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What’s the best way to get debris off the rocks when I clean out my pond this spring? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What’s the best way to get debris off the rocks when I clean out my pond this spring?

Q: What’s the best way to get debris off the rocks when I clean out my pond this spring?

Jake – Grand Junction, CO

A: There’s nothing like spring cleaning – especially when it gives you a chance to remove some of that icky, slimy scum and debris that’s been growing on your waterfall, rocks and gravel all year-long. With the water drained from your pond (after your fish are safe in a temporary tub), you have easy access to those hard-to-clean spots. Here’s our two-step solution to scrub everything clean.

Step 1: Power Wash
Without a doubt, power washing with a pressure washer or high-pressure nozzle is the quickest way to blast debris off larger rocks and features. Once your pond is drained, and you’ve removed large debris and trimmed away dead plant material, start power washing from the top and work your way down, being careful to avoid growing plants and curious frogs. Some of that debris contains viable beneficial bacteria, so it’s OK to leave a little behind.

Because all that stuck-on debris is easier to remove when it’s wet, start power washing as soon as possible after your pond is drained. Believe us: It’s harder to clean off that debris once it’s dried out and crusty!

Step 2: Oxy-Lift
Next, use Oxy-Lift™ Defense® to lift and remove tough debris on larger rocks, waterfalls and streams by pouring it directly on the trouble spots. While you’re at it, sprinkle some on the smaller rocks and hard-to-power-wash gravel, too. You will instantly see it start to foam and remove stuck-on scum. After about 10 minutes or so, hose everything down, drain the dirty water and debris, and repeat as necessary; it might take a few cycles for a thorough clean-out.

After your pond is spick and span, your rocks and gravel are in place, and your plants are repositioned, fill it back up with water and add a chlorine remover or Stress Reducer Plus to condition the water and make the freshly cleaned aquatic environment safe for your fish. While your filters and pond are being reestablished with beneficial bacteria, keep your finned pals on a light spring diet.

For more tips on how to perform a spring cleanout, check out our video that details what you need to do to prepare your pond for the warmer months.

Pond Talk: When your pond is drained while you’re spring cleaning, what other maintenance chores do you do?

Lift Debris Away in Seconds - The Pond Guy® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

 

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What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish?

Q: What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish?

Sherry – Raleigh, NC

A: The term “cycle” refers to the nitrogen cycle – and it’s an important process to understand if you plan to keep fish in your pond. The nitrogen cycle provides the biological filtration in the water, which keeps the water free from toxic compounds created by decaying organic matter. The process is a complicated one, so here are the basics.

Nitrogen Cycle 101

Before we discuss cycling a new pond, let’s dive into how the nitrogen cycle looks in an established, mature pond. As organic material – like uneaten food, dead plant matter and fish waste – decay, the bacteria that break it down release ammonia, which is toxic to living organisms. One particular microorganism called nitrosomonas, however, loves ammonia. It feeds on ammonia and oxygen, and releases a chemical called nitrite.

Nitrites are also dangerous to fish and aquatic critters, and so another group of microorganisms – nitrobacter – enters the nitrogen cycle picture. These bacteria transform nitrites into relatively harmless nitrates, which are then absorbed by algae and plants or reduced by water changes.

New Pond, New Bacteria

A new pond doesn’t have healthy populations of nitrosomonas and nitrobacter yet, and so the pond must be “cycled.” This refers to establishing and maturing your pond’s biological filtration system so that it’s able to turn ammonia into nitrates. To do so, you need to start the process with an ammonia source (a few hardy fish) and seed the pond with these beneficial bacteria, which can be found in Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® and in Microbe-Lift® PL Gel.

Nurturing Nitrosomonas

In the early spring when established ponds are waking up after a long winter, a similar cycling process will take place. Some nitrosomonas and nitrobacter will survive in your filtration media and gravel and begin to colonize, but it’s a good idea to give them a boost. Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® is formulated for use in cooler temperatures – making it perfect for early spring applications. Since those microorganisms live in your filtration media, avoid washing it when you’re doing your spring cleaning.

Cycled and Ready for Fish

The cycling process can take four to six weeks, though in the warmer spring and summer this time may be reduced. Keep an eye on your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels with a test kit, like our API® Pond Master Test Kit. Once it indicates that nitrates are present, your pond is considered cycled. Add only a few fish at a time to prevent ammonia levels from spiking again.

Keep in mind that this ammonia-nitrite-nitrate cycle is always occurring, so test your pond regularly to ensure the health and wellbeing of your finned friends.

Pond Talk: What has been your experience in “cycling” a pond?

Keep Pond Water Safe for Fish - API® Pond Master Test Kit

I’m starting my pond up for spring. Do I need to leave my aerator running? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m starting my pond up for spring. Do I need to leave my aerator running?

Q: I’m starting my pond up for spring. Do I need to leave my aerator running?

Nikki – Glen Forney, PA

A:  As winter gives way to the sunny days of spring and summer, you should absolutely plan to leave your aerator running. That water-churning system that benefits your pond over the cold months will also benefit your pond during the summer—and then some.

Winter Bubbles
As most pond owners know, an aerator, like The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit, used during the winter serves two purposes: to aid de-icers in creating and keeping a hole in the ice, and to circulate water to vent gases when filtration systems are shut down for the season. The circulation also encourages contact between the water and the environment, which will increase the dissolved oxygen level in your pond.

Summer Aeration
In the summer, aeration provides some extra benefits. Besides moving the water and boosting the oxygen level in the water molecules, aeration does these things:

  • Circulates the water in areas where filtration may not reach, preventing stagnation and low-oxygen pockets in your pond. Filtration systems only move the top of the water column, not the bottom. But an aerator works from the bottom up, circulating the water and increasing dissolved oxygen levels throughout the pond.
  • Keeps oxygen distributed throughout the water column much more efficiently than a water feature, like a waterfall, spitter or stream.
  • Provides bubbly camouflage in which fish can hide.
  • Stirs up debris on the pond bottom, allowing it to be filtered out or broken down by beneficial bacteria. If that debris is allowed to collect, muck will build up and release harmful gases as the organic materials decompose.
  • Helps beneficial bacteria thrive and flourish, thanks to the circulation and oxygen. Higher oxygen levels stimulate and increase the number of natural aerobic bacteria living in your pond. More bacteria means more efficient filtration.

As you’re prepping your pond for spring, jump start the season with DefensePAC® Pond Care Package. It contains Oxy-Lift™ Defense®, Nature’s Defense®, Clarity Defense®, Muck Defense® and Seasonal Defense® — everything you’ll need for spring cleaning, bacteria boosting and water clarifying.

Aeration definitely has its benefits, no matter what the season. If you want a balanced ecosystem with healthier fish and plants, keep your aerator running.

Pond Talk: Have you started up your pond yet? What’s on your spring to-do list?

Enhance Oxygen Levels All Year - The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit

Do you have any tips for adding plants to my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do you have any tips for adding plants to my pond?

Q: Do you have any tips for adding plants to my pond?

Patricia – Charlestown, WV

A: Water lilies and lotus … blue flag iris … hyacinth … so many aquatic plants, so little time. A pond full of these colorful beauties – along with the hardworking, submerged oxygenators – adds splendor and life to your waterscape. Not only that, but birds will visit, bugs will buzz through and aquatic critters will stop by, attracted by the blooms and foliage.

Like your terrestrial garden, a water garden needs some planning and forethought; without it, you could end up with an aquatic jungle. Here’s what we recommend for adding plants to your pond.

Choose Wisely
Before you get your feet wet (and your hands dirty!), first consider what types of plants you want in your water feature and how many you’ll need.

Aquatic plants are typically categorized by their function in a pond. They include floating plants, like water hyacinth and water lettuce, that have roots that reach down from the water’s surface; submerged plants, like vallisneria and hornwort, that live on the pond’s bottom and release oxygen into the water; bog plants, like cattails and iris, that ring the perimeter of the pond; and water lilies and lotus, which provide dramatic surface color and underwater shade.

When browsing for plants, select a mixture of floating, submerged, bog and lilies/lotus, with the goal of covering about 60 percent of your water’s surface. A sample plant shopping list for a 50-square-foot pond looks something like this:

  • 6 to 12 floating plants
  • Several submerged plants
  • 2 bog plants
  • 1 water lily

Don’t forget to add aquatic plant media, fertilizer and containers, like pots, plant bags, planting baskets and floating planters , to your list. You’ll need them when you transplant and care for the new greenery. Speaking of which …

Planting How-To
Once you’ve planned out and purchased your plants, it’s time to move them in to your water garden. The different types of aquatic plants need to be handled differently:

  • Floating Plants: Simply place these easy-care plants in the water. They will float freely and take up nutrients through their root systems.
  • Submerged Plants: Grow these underwater plants in plant bags or other planters. Fill your container with planting material, plant several bunches of them together and submerge into the desired section of your pond. Another option: Tie a bunch to a weight and drop it into the pond, using one bunch for every 2 square feet of surface area. Their roots will take up nutrients from the water.
  • Bog Plants: Best grown in containers filled with aquatic plant media, bog plants like their roots wet. Position them around the edges of your pond in 6-inch-deep water, or inside your pond with a floating island planter.
  • Water Lilies and Lotuses: These beauties thrive in pots, like those found in our Water Lily and Water Lotus Planting Kits. To transplant, fill your tub with clay and a clay/soil mix, and add some aquatic planting media on top. Position the tuber inside the soil with growing tip pointed up. Submerge the pot so the plant’s tip is 3 to 6 inches deep. Once the plant starts to grow and its leaves reach the water’s surface, place the pot in a deeper area of your pond.

Feed for Healthy Growth
Your newly planted plants will need nutrients for beautiful blooms, so don’t forget the fertilizer! Aquatic plant fertilizers come in two forms: spikes and tabs.

Fertilizer spikes, like Laguna Plant Grow Fertilizer Spikes, slowly release plant food over a 12-month period. The balanced nutrients encourage foliage growth, root growth and flower production, while their low phosphorous and no-copper formula ensures no adverse effects to fish, plants or water quality. Spikes are easy to use: Push them into the soil (one for every 1 to 2 gallons of planting container space) and forget about them until next year.

Tabs, like CrystalClear® Thrive™, feed aquatic plants throughout their growing season. As with the spikes, the balanced nutrients in tabs encourage greenery and bloom production, but they need to be added to the soil every 2-4 weeks for best results. Use one tablet to two tablets per gallon of potted soil, and push it deep into the media 3 inches from the crown of the plant. Pack the hole with dirt to prevent the fertilizer from being released into the water, and you’re good until next month.

Pond Talk: How do you choose what plants to add to your water garden?

Essential Nutrients for Your Plants - CrystalClear® Thrive™ Plant Fertilizer