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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

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

I have a plant that looks like a cattail, but it has a plume on top instead of a catkin. What is it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

I have a plant that looks like a cattail, but it has a plume on top instead of a catkin. What is it?

Q: I have a plant that looks like a cattail, but it has a plume on top instead of a catkin. What is it?

Mike – Cottonwood, AZ

A: It sounds like you’ve got phragmites. Also known as “common reed,” certain invasive varieties of this plant have taken root on the East Coast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest – and, apparently, in your pond! To identify the species of phragmite in your pond, check out Cornell University’s “Morphological Differences” website here.

Phragmite 101

Generally speaking, phragmite is a perennial wetland grass that can grow to 6 to 15 feet in height. Its stems, which are erect, smooth and hollow, measure nearly 1 inch in diameter and are topped with 12-inch-long dense panicles, or purple-brown pyramid-shaped plumes of flowers, that emerge between July and September. The leaves that arise from the stem are 10 to 20 inches long and up to 2 inches wide.

The plants propagate mainly via an extensive network of underground rhizomes, or horizontal stems, that produce roots and shoots that grow as deep as 39 inches, with their root systems growing down another 3 feet. They’re hardy – and unfortunately, they can be tough to control.

A Substantial Threat

These invasive, non-native bad guys can do some serious damage to your lake or pond. Not only do they create tall, dense stands that crowd out native plants and animals, but they also block your shoreline views, create fire hazards from dry plant material, and reduce areas for swimming, fishing and hunting. They’re definitely not something you want on your property.

Treatment Options

Once phragmites has taken root in your lake or pond, you’ll need to develop a long-term management plan to control them. Unfortunately, because the plants spread through their rhizomes, they could be difficult to eradicate entirely. That’s where chemical and mechanical control can help.

  • Chemical control: First, you can spray an EPA-registered herbicide and surfactant product, like Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS Combo, in the late summer or early fall. Mix 8 ounces of Shoreline Defense®, 4 ounces of Treatment Booster™ PLUS and 2 gallons of water, pour it into pond sprayer and spray on the plants with your The Pond Guy® Pond Sprayer, completely wetting the surface of the leaves. Allow the mixture to absorb into the plant and the root system – the most difficult part of the plant to kill – for two weeks.
  • Mechanical control: Once the herbicide has had a chance to soak into the phragmites’ root system and kill the plants, use a weed cutting and removal tool, like the Weed Cutter and Pond & Beach Rake, to slice at the base of the plants and remove them. If you can control your pond’s or lake’s water line, you can also cut the phragmites 2 to 3 inches below the water surface to cut off the plant’s supply of oxygen and drown the plant.
  • Destroy what you’ve removed: To prevent the accidental spread of the plant, collect the cut material and bag it before disposing of it. In extreme cases, prescribed burning after herbicide treatment can provide additional control.

Before you begin, check with your local environmental agency to see if a permit is required for the treatments of these buggers. Plan to repeat this routine several years in a row. Patches may emerge even after regular treatments, but once you’ve wiped out the majority of the phragmites, the plant will be much easier to control. Just remember: early detection is key!

Pond Talk: How do you control phragmites in your lake or pond?

How Do I Get Rid Of Phragmites? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How Do I Get Rid Of Phragmites?

Robert – Steamboat Springs, CO

Phragmites, also known as common reeds, are wetland grasses that can grow up to 15 feet in height. They quickly become a nuisance because they form dense patches that choke out native plant and wildlife species, block shoreline views, and reduce access for swimming and fishing.

Completely eliminating phragmites takes several treatments. The majority of the plant is an extensive underground root system that is very difficult to fully eliminate. You can control the density and spread of phragmites with regular chemical treatments applied with a pond sprayer. Consider using an herbicide such as Shoreline Defense®, which carries no restrictions on recreational use or livestock consumption of water from the treatment area.

Once phragmites have died, you should cut or burn the dead vegetation. The best time to treat phragmites is the summer when the plant is actively growing and seeding.

How do I get rid of cattails and phragmites? – Pond & Lake Q & A

How do I get rid of cattails and phragmites?

How do I get rid of cattails and phragmites? Fran – Disco, TN

Rough Around the Edges?

As you’ve enjoyed your pond over the spring and summer, all of a sudden you begin to see that our pond have built what seems to be an impenetrable wall of Cattails and Phragmites. No worries! Emergent weeds won’t ruin your summer fun. Here are the right tools to get even!

Treating emergent weeds in your pond is a two step process. You will want to focus on dealing with your existing growth first. You can kill Cattails and shoreline grasses down to the root by spraying them directly with Shoreline Defense® . If you are dealing more with Phragmites, Water Primrose or Loosestrife then you will see better results using Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS Combo. Make sure you are spraying the plants when they are alive and actively growing so that the aquatic herbicide is carried throughout the plant’s root system. A Pond Sprayer is a great way to apply these aquatic herbicides. Also note if the emergent weed growth is very thick, a couple applications may be needed to gain complete control. Once you see all of the target weeds brown and wilt you can cut them down and drag them away with a Weed Cutter and Pond & Beach Rake.

Once the weeds are cleared away from the edge of the pond you will want to focus on keeping them from growing back. While you can not keep every cattail seed from blowing into your pond, you can extinguish their food sources to deter then from making a repeat performance. Apply some MuckAway™ pelletized bacteria around the shallow areas of your pond to help digest any nutrient-rich slime that has accumulated on the bottom of the pond over time. This layer of muck acts as fertilizer for new weed growth, smells bad, and as if you needed another reason, it feels terrible between your toes when you are swimming in the pond. Aquatic weeds can also use sunlight as a means to grow so you can benefit from using Pond Dye to shade the pond as well. Not only will you reduce the amount of sun exposure your pond receives you can also choose a color that accents your pond and improves the appearance of the water body.

Some people enjoy the look and coverage that emergent weeds like Cattails provide. If you have considered keeping a few around for aesthetic purposes rest assured it is absolutely harmless to do so. You can still control and maintain these areas of growth using Avocet and Kraken, just be sure to mark off boundaries to keep the weeds from slowly creeping their way back out into the pond and out of control.

POND TALK: Has a wall formed between you and your pond? How did you gain the upper hand over Cattails, Phragmites or other emergent weeds?

Controlling Phragmites – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Phragmites.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: How do I control invasive Phragmites in my lake?

A: The common reed, Phragmites australis, may seem innocent enough, but these tall grasses topped with feathery tufts can quickly crowd a farm pond or lake. Native and non-invasive varieties of the plants have thrived in wetlands for centuries throughout the United States, but invasive varieties have taken root on the East Coast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest, and in your lake, creating a nuisance along shorelines.

Phragmites Explained
Growing along streams and ponds, phragmites is a perennial wetland grass that can grow to 6 to 15 feet high. The stems, which are erect, smooth and hollow, may be nearly 1 inch in diameter and are topped with 12-inch-long dense panicles, or purple-brown pyramid-shaped plumes of flowers, that emerge between July and September. Leaves arise from the stem are 10 to 20 inches long and up to 2 inches wide.

The plants propagate mainly via an extensive network of underground rhizomes, or horizontal stems, that produce roots and shoots that grow as deep as 39 inches, with their root systems growing down another 3 feet. Dense above ground and below, stands of these plants crowd out native plants and animals; block shorelines, reducing access for swimming, hunting and fishing; and create fire hazards from dry plant material. But they can be controlled.

Controlling the Common Reed
Once phragmites has invaded your lake or pond, you’ll need to develop a long-term management plan to control the plant. Unfortunately, because the plants spread through their rhizomes, they could be difficult to eradicate entirely. That’s where chemical and mechanical control can help.

Herbicidal Control: First, you can spray a herbicide and surfactant product, like Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS Combo, in the late summer or early fall. Mix 8 ounces of Shoreline Defense® and 4 ounces of Treatment Booster™ PLUS with 2 gallons of water. Pour into pond sprayer (like the The Pond Guy® Specialty Pond Sprayer) and spray on the plants to completely wet the surface of the leaves. Allow the mixture to absorb into the plant and the root system, the most difficult part of the plant to kill, for one to two weeks.

Mechanical Control: Once the herbicide has had a chance to soak into the phragmites’ root system, you can use a weed cutter to cut at the base of the plants, allowing for easier removal with a pond rake. If you can control your pond’s or lake’s water line, you can also cut the phragmites 2 to 3 inches below the water surface to cut off the plant’s supply of oxygen and drown the plant. To prevent the accidental spread of the plant, collect the cut material and bag it before disposing of it.

Plan to repeat this routine several years in a row. Patches may emerge even after regular treatments, but once you’ve wiped out the majority of the phragmites, the plant will be much easier to control. Good luck!

POND TALK: How do you control phragmites in your pond or lake?

Controlling Emergent Weeds – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of cattails with a pond in the background.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: What do I use to kill the emergent weeds on the shoreline? What sprayer should I purchase? NOTE: My kids swim in pond. – James of Wisconsin

A: At first sight or when controlled properly, cattails and other emergent weeds can add natural beauty, structure for fish and act as a buffer to reduce nutrients and sediment caused by runoff. But, beware! Emergent weeds can take over a pond very quickly if left alone for too long. It is best to pick an area of emergent weeds that you are acceptable with and mark it with boulders or other pieces of landscape. This will allow you to control only the emergent weeds that grow outside your acceptable boundary. There are 3 simple steps to control emergent weeds: 1) Spray… 2) Cut… 3) Repeat…

1.) Spray – Select the best product for the job. Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS Combo is best at providing long-term control for all types of grasses and cattails. It will also work for phragmites and/or purple loosestrife. Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS are mixed together with water and sprayed directly on to the target plant with a tank sprayer (We suggest using the The Pond Guy® Pond Sprayer). This will allow you to control all areas or select areas that you have set aside for this type of growth. Also note: Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS have no swimming use restrictions.

2) Cut – Emergent weeds can sometimes have a root base deep within the ground so removing them before they are completely dead will allow them to come back very quickly. Most emergent weeds are best treated when the foliage is around 12″ high. This will allow enough contact for the aquatic herbicide. After a successful treatment, they will turn brown and become limp within 7-14 days. After this occurs, use an Aquatic Weed Cutter to cut the weeds at their base and then simply rake them out with the Pond & Beach Rake.

3) Repeat – Repeat these steps as necessary. In some cases it may take several applications to gain control.

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