Monday, October 26, 2009

Earthen Pond Solution


About a month ago I received a call from the homeowners to provide them with an estimate for the installation of a waterfall on their existing pond. After talking with the homeowners, one main thing that upset them was the amount of maintenance that the pond requires in the fall of the year.

This past week we installed a natural skimmer on the pond that feeds a constructed wetland filter which cascades down a thirty foot long waterfall and returns back to the one acre pond. Take notice the amount of leaves in the before pictures versus the after pictures. Next spring we will install wetland plantings as well as a sub-surface aeration system.

Natural Skimmer Installed

Wetland Filter Under Construction


No Leaves on this Pond

Friday, October 16, 2009

Another Pond Season Comes To An End

Leaves and Debris
Leaves and debris are one of the main issues of concern when looking at fall maintenance. Our main goal is to keep the leaves from getting into the pond in the first place and if they sink to the bottom where they can decay, it upsets the biological balance of the pond ecosystem. Leaves release tannins into the water and can turn the water a tea color. This can be avoided by netting the pond before the leaves fall. We did discuss the importance of this in our last newsletter. Solution to tea colored water is to use activated carbon. So, you should be either removing the leaves from your pond every day or you will have already netted the pond. The skimmer can only take so many leaves in the net. If you do not net the pond, do a daily maintenance of removing the sunken leaves from the bottom of the pond. Pond Nets and Pond Kits are now available so give us a call.

Plant Fall Maintenance
Marginal Plants Cut off the tops of your marginal plants to the water level after the first frost or before you net the pond. Discard the tropical floating plants as they will not survive the winter. Dispose of them in your compost pile. Water Lilies For the water lilies, they will begin to die back so remove the pads and blooms as they die off and cut any remaining growth off at 2 to 3 inches above the crown of the plant. If your lilies are in pots, you can then move them to a deeper portion of the pond for safe keeping over winter. Tropical marginals and bog plants can be either treated as an annual which means you would plan to replace them each year. Or the other process is to bring them indoors and treat them like a houseplant for the winter months. Not all tropical water plants will winter well as houseplants, but if you have a green thumb, the reward will be year-round enjoyment of your plants, and larger tropical specimens for next year. Tropical Water Lilies are not easy plants to winter over, even if you have a green thumb. If you want to give it a try, first, you are going to winter these plants in a dormant state, so remove the pot from the water and let the tuber dry out. When dry, clean the tuber with an antifungal soap or spray and place in a pot of dry sand. The pot should be stored in a cool, dry location with temperature above 50 degrees F. Remember only about half the tubers will survive. Floating aquatic plants make up the last category of aquatic plants and they are almost impossible to winter over. This is the Floating Lettuce and Hyacinth. But they do make good food for your compost pile. Wait until spring to fertilize. Before winter sets in, plant a few spring bulbs around your pond landscaping for spring color.

Winterizing Your Pond
The main goal of performing winter preparations is to ensure the survival of your fish and other aquatic life. In addition to the survival of the living creatures, we are also interested in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. With the proper winter precautions, everyone should make it through these long cold months just fine. In certain climates it is possible to run the waterfall all winter long and avoid some of the winter preparations. Of course keeping the system running requires a special set of rules.

We recommend that the Pondless Waterfall be shut down and the pump removed for the winter. Release the water from the check valve by disconnecting the check valve from the pipe and store the pump in a bucket of water in a place where it will not freeze. If you keep the waterfall and stream running, there is more maintenance to make sure you do not have ice dams or leaks. Along with watching for ice dams, you will have to keep the basin topped off. It's just easier to shut it down for the winter. December is a good time to do this unless you live where the snow is already falling. In the spring we recommend the basin be flushed and refilled. Then install the pump for the season.

Fish Maintenance
Most of us over feed our fish and feed them too often. Fish are cold-blooded creatures and therefore their systems slow down as the winter temperatures decrease. This slowing down affects the digestive system and prevents the fish from processing food as quickly or completely as it otherwise would be able to. An overfed fish or fish who are feed well into winter may experience health problems due to the rotting, undigested food in their digestive system. You can begin to feed them Low-Temperature Fish Food in time to prepare them for the winter. It’s easier to digest. Fish food that contains Wheat Germ is best in the fall as it is easier to digest. Fish need to be able to draw on valuable winter resources or use energy to fight off disease as their immune system becomes inactive. As fall approaches we should monitor the water temperature of our ponds.Every pond owner needs a Pond Thermometer. When the water temperature falls to 65 degrees F, we should begin feeding them low temperature food. Continue monitoring the water temperature and when it reaches 55 degrees F stop feeding them altogether. The fish will not need any food and will use their fat reserves to survive the winter. Koi are temperate zone(not tropical) fish and can survive in water temperatures to 39 degrees F.
Fish Requirements for Winter
These include shelter, oxygen and a healthy environment. Ideal Conditions: Shelter comes in the form of a well-designed pond that has at least 2 feet of depth that will provide the fish with a winter sanctuary. The surface of the pond may freeze but the lower level of the pond will remain liquid. Oxygen and Water Oxygen levels in a winter pond are usually higher because cold water holds a higher concentration of oxygen than warm water. The fish and other creatures in the pond are typically cold blooded and therefore their respiration rate slows during the winter. Therefore, they use less oxygen. Keep a hole in your ice and this will provide gas exchange for the winter and will also provide extra oxygen. Gas Exchange Decaying organic material gives off gasses that are harmful to fish and other living organisms in your pond. Gasses are released in the summer through the surface of the pond and waterfall. During the winter, gasses cannot escape if the pond freezes solid, so therefore, it is important to keep a hole open in the ice throughout winter.

How do you keep a hole in the ice for your fish?
There are several methods that will keep a hole in the ice. 1. Just leave your pond running all winter. This works well in areas of the country where winter does not get severe. Moving water keeps the area around the waterfall and skimmer open. You will, however, have to add water to your pond and if you have a stream, you will have to watch for ice dams. When you keep the pond running and do live in the part of the country that gets below 25 degrees, we recommend you have a heater de-icer and place it near the opening of the skimmer. First the pond is going to lose some water due to ice formation. We need to maintain the water level to feed the pump, and most likely we will have to add water manually in the winter because the auto fill valves should be drained to keep from freezing. You do get some evaporation in the winter. Keep a close watch on the stream and waterfall because any ice dams that may form may divert the water outside the liner. 2. Shut Down the Pond If you have decided to winterize your pond for the winter, then you will be removing your pump from the skimmer. Ideally, you want to keep the pump submerged in a basket of water and store in an area that will not freeze. This will prevent the seals from drying out and damaging the pump. Also, make sure you disconnect the check valve from the pipe. If you do not release the water from the pipe and check valve, it may freeze and could crack the check valve.
Remove your debris net or debris basket, clean and store for winter. You can also remove the filter mats. Clean and store the mats for the winter. Skimmers can freeze solid in the winter without any damage to the unit. Your spring clean up will be much easier if you follow these procedures.
BioFalls Filters
Your biological filter uses beneficial bacteria to colonize naturally in the filter mats and other media such as bio media or lava rock. As the water temperature begins to drop in the fall, these bacteria begin to die off and become dormant. For easier spring clean up, remove the media bags and filter mats. Clean them and store in a dry location. Wet vac the BioFalls box to remove any sediment.
Winterizing Pressurized Filters
Pressurized filters function by using a pump to force water through the filter canister. When the pump shuts off, some water remains in the filter. Additionally, the filter mats and biomedia should be removed, cleaned and stored in a dry location.
After storing away all your filter media and your pump, you will install a pump on the first shelf of your pond. This pump is a solid handling pump and is easy to use, just plug it in and place it on the first shelf and adjust the divert valve for the height of the water. The effect you want to get is to have the water agitating or bubbling. There are two sizes of this pump but the 1000 gph is most often the one used for this purpose. When you have temperatures consistently below 30 degrees F then you will need the heater. The 200 watt floating heater will keep a hole in the ice when the temperatures get below 25 degrees F.
Climate Considerations
It is up to you to understand your climate conditions and consider whether you can let your pond run all winter long or you need to winterize your equipment and pond. It is possible in some milder winter climates to run your pond all year round.
The Bottom Line
Seventy percent of pond owners shut their ponds down for the winter to avoid the maintenance required during the bitter cold weather. If you are one of those who let your pond run all winter, we would love to post a photo or two on our blog at Send photos in .jpg format to

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall Pond Maintenance

Autumn Pond Plant Chores

The seasonal change from summer to fall is apparent by the beautiful, multi-colored leaves and the dip toward cooler temperatures. How will that chill you feel in the air affect the plants in your aquatic paradise?

Hardy Marginals

As with terrestrial (plants outside the pond), perennial plants, dropping temperatures signal your hardy aquatic plants to prepare for their winter dormancy. At this time, you should stop fertilizing them as you see leaves begin to yellow and brown. It’s ok to leave these plants where they are in your pond to weather the cold of winter, just be sure to trim the dying foliage of your marginal plants down to 2” above the water level.

Tropical Marginals

Water gardeners who live in Zones colder than 8 or 9 (Mich igan is zone 5), will need to treat these plants as they would any garden annual by replacing them each season. A fun alternative to this is to treat them as tropical houseplants and bring them in for the winter. Most tropical marginals will do well potted in heavy garden soil in a sealed clay pot with no drainage holes. When kept wet, the plants will do well in a sunny window or sunroom.

Water Lilies

Water lilies will also begin to show their dislike for the cold with yellowing leaves and fewer flowers. When this happens, the leaf and flower stems of hardy water lilies should be cut back to about 2 to 3” above the base of the plant. If you have tropical lilies and you live in zone 5 like me and where freezing is likely, plants should be overwintered indoors. This can be a difficult task, therefore many gardeners choose to simply buy a new plant each season.


As with the marginals in your pond, the foliage of your lotus plants will need to be trimmed back after they have died back and turned brown. It’s important not to cut the leaves while they are still green because the freshly cut, hollow stems are susceptible to disease which can spread to the plant’s tuber, possibly killing the plant. Lotus tubers will not withstand freezing, so any plants that are growing in the shallow areas of your pond should be moved to the bottom, away from freezing water.
Caring for your aquatic plants in the fall will mean less work and healthier plants come spring. And if you live where it gets cold in the winter, use some of your tropical aquatics to water garden indoors!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pond Project Update

Well it's up and running now and here are a few shots of the project. We still have a lot of details to finish up on and then on to adding plantings to soften the boulder walls and hardscapes. This will tie everything in together and bring out the beauty of the project.

Filling the pond (30,000 gallons)

A view from the deck.

Main waterfalls, stone staircase and flagstone land bridge.

Main Wetland Filter Planted