Ponds are another form of water feature. Ponds can incorporate streams, waterfalls or decorative sprays of water. They can look natural, sculpted, formal or stylized. Before you start building a pond, consider the time and effort you are willing to invest as well as cost. Don’t skimp on price when building a pond because cutting corners can create future disasters that will be frustrating and expensive. Consider calling in a designer if you want something special. Also, realize that in addition to the cost of installing the pond, there will be maintenance: pumps will wear out, liners can tear and wear out over time, concrete can crack – especially if it was not installed carefully.
You will need to give a pond daily or at least weekly care. For the first year or two, before a pond reaches balance, it requires relatively low maintenance. Ironically, once the pond reaches balance, it requires more effort to keep water from getting too acid, fish from becoming too numerous, algae from accumulating, and mulm (the dark brown cloudy material that settles to the bottom as organic matter deteriorates) from collecting on the bottom and in filters. If you don’t have fish, you need to make sure you are not breeding mosquitoes. If you want a planted water garden, you’ll need to be careful about the chemicals you use. And if you do have fish, although they will help with the mosquito issue by eating larvae, your aquatic friends will introduce a whole list of other considerations to handle. If you are willing to commit to caring for a pond, there are no garden features to compare with the peace and beauty this water garden can offer.
There are a number of wonderful water plants whose growth cannot be equaled by the land-lovers. Water lilies come in all sizes and colors. There are even varieties with variegated pads striped and splashed with purples, white and pinks. The stately lotus with its huge mellow leaves and gigantic flowers, lives up to it mystical reputation. Delicate parrot’s feather not only decorates the surface of a pond, it aerates the water for the fish. Bog irises are serene with their kaleidoscopic colors and sword-like foliage. Marsallia (the four-leaf clovers) give a light airy look while cattails grow tall and graceful producing stalks that can’t help but bring out the child in us. And if you haven’t been totally mesmerized by the magical forms of the water plants, you can check out all the shapes and colors available in fish!
Water plants grow very quickly and can provide surprises daily. Watching fish – be they koi, goldfish, mosquito fish or any other kind of pond fish — can be more fascinating and soothing than TV or an hour in effective therapy! Ponds have a lot to offer both as a resource for wildlife, a focal point in the landscape and a therapy aid with visual and audio relaxants.
Water features add a lot to our surroundings. Be realistic about how much time and energy you will have to devote to yours. A badly maintained water feature is ugly and a health hazard. Ponds are not for folks seeking low maintenance. But if you choose the right feature for your style of garden and your lifestyle, you may very well find your water feature becomes your favorite part of your garden.
Like all of the most successful gardening techniques, ponds are most successful when they copy nature’s construction and systems. If you want your pond to be a healthy and eye-catch feature in your garden, you will want to keep the structure and systems running cleanly. This means you need to do seasonal pond care. Here are the basics to keep in mind.
Spring pond care needs to be done as your pond is coming out of dormancy. Clean it up, re-pot plants and check fish for any sign of disease. Test pipes, filters and look for leaks. If any replacement parts or repairs are needed, take care of them before the season gets rolling. Spring cleaning means to clear out string algae, and if it bothers you, treating for green water. Start feeding fish winter food for easy digestion when water temperatures rise over 50’F. You can switch to regular food once temperatures creep over 60’F and fish are fully active.
Summer pond care is best handled by regular inspections of the water, filters, fish and plants. While fully active, the pond is a self-contained system that interacts with all its parts. Regularly keep filters cleaned, surfaces free of unwanted growth, dead leaves and flowers removed so they don’t rot in the pond, and fish regularly examined to keep disease from getting a foothold. Whether you have koi, goldfish, game fish or any other swimmers in your water garden, don’t over-feed them. Nature provides plenty of fish food naturally so any food you feed them is an extra treat. Uneaten food can pollute the water so, again, don’t overfeed. If you have seasonal problems with predators fishing in your pond, consider using deterring statues, sensor sprays, pond netting or even low-shock fencing (preferably on a timer to avoid unpleasant contact with people or pets).
Autumn season pond care is all about winding down and preparing for winter. Keep up with regular inspections and the maintenance you did in the summer. But start preparations for winter dormancy. As water temperature cools, drop water lilies to the bottom of the pond where they will stay a little warmer. Return to feeding fish winter food until water falls below 50’F then withhold feeding altogether. Remove tender water plants to a warmer place if you live where temperatures will freeze. Turn off pumps and other systems before the first hard freeze and drain pipes so they won’t break from expanding ice. Prepare fountains and other water features for cold weather, too.
Winter pond care: In warm winter areas you can run your pond all winter or you can let it rest. In cold winter areas your pond will go dormant. Having prepared your pond in the autumn for freezes, there will be little work to do. One thing you want to keep in mind, however, is that you do not want to let your pond freeze completely on the surface if you are over-wintering fish. You need to leave some open water so the pond can ‘breathe’: fish, even when sluggish and semi-dormant still need fresh oxygen in the water. If the surface freezes over, do not hit the ice to break it open. The impact can cause shock waves in the water that can injure or kill fish below. Instead, melt a hole with a pan of boiling water set on top of the ice layer. There are mobile floaters you buy to keep open areas on the surface of the pond. Just set them on the water surface before a freeze takes place and they will move around keeping ice from forming. In very cold areas you will need to remove the fish altogether if your pond could freeze solid.
Ponds are not low-maintenance features in the garden. But they can be the most fascinating and beautiful events in your landscape. Make sure you give your pond regular care and it will be the highlight of your garden. Watching fish can be as healing as hours of hypnotherapy while the sound of water can be cooling in the heat of summer. Enjoy your water feature and keep the job of maintenance as low as possible by regular pond care year round.
It’s time for spring pond care. Fish that have been staying down at the bottom of the pond are rising to the surface to bask in warming sunlight and pond plants are sprouting. But this is also the time that the water will turn hazy and, in some cases even become an opaque pea green in color.
Start feeding your fish once the temperature of your pond water rises above 50′F. It’s best to use a specially formulated ‘winter’ food for easy digestibility. Being cold-blooded, fish do not digest food so well when water is still cool. Switch to regular fish food once the water rises above 60′F. Feeding too early with regular food can lead to lot of uneaten uneaten food that can pollute the pond water.
Springtime is the time to clean up any remaining dead or damaged foliage that may remain on bog or water plants. You don’t want it to rot down into the water. This is also the best time to pull out overgrown water plants and divide them up so they’ll have plenty of room to grow in the coming year. While repotting, you can slip in water plant food sticks into the potting soil. Water and bog plant material that you don’t want makes an excellent addition to the compost heap.
Warming temperatures can cause string algae to develop in your pond which will need your attention in spring. String algae can swirl through your pond and clog up everything so it should be removed. The fogging or opaque green water I mentioned above is also caused by algae, but this type will do no harm. It is just unsightly for us humans, but the fish love to eat it. As the water warms, the green water algae will go away on its own.
Pay special attention to your fish during the spring. This can be a time when the fish can stress with temperature changes and that might make them more vulnerable to parasites and other diseases. Inspect your fish daily for any suspicious changes in behavior and look for visible lumps, spots, stringy growths, sores or other abnormal changes. Most illnesses can be treated quickly to avoid problems from spreading. You should be able to get advice and medications at your local pond supply store.
Pumps that have been idle all winter will also need inspection before starting up your systems. Make sure all pipes are clean before turning them on again. Also check for any winter damage to pipes like cracking or splitting. Expect there might be some rotting odor from accumulated mulm in pipes and at the bottom of the pond. Any discolored water and unpleasant smell should clear up in a matter of minutes if all the filters and leaf traps are cleaned and working properly.
Cleaning up your pipes, pumps and filters and checking all connections at the beginning of the season will help your pond start out right. All ponds need attention in the spring, but if you clean, repot and feed plants and check your fish regularly, it’s likely you will avoid many of the problems that arise at this time of year.
Ponds are beautiful and offer a soothing feature to your garden. They also help restore some of the natural environment being destroyed with urban sprawl. A successful garden pond helps offer water for wildlife and homes for displaced native creatures like frogs, dragonflies and water bugs. Unfortunately, it also invites those native pests who would happily dine on your precious fish like raccoons, herons, egrets and other predators! Here are some tips on how to keep garden pond fish safe from would-be predators.
Build your pond with fish safety in mind. Avoid those steps so often shown in common pond designs if you have raccoons. They will use them to wade into your pond and help themselves to dinner. Build smooth, straight sides to the pond to make fishing more difficult. Raccoons don’t mind getting their toes wet, but they aren’t keen about taking a swim. You can also add hiding spaces for your fish to flee when the pond is invaded. Sunken milk crates and painted cinder blocks (painted to prevent the leaching of lime into the water) provide safe harbor where you fish can flee from those prodding little raccoon hands and the long, expert fishing beaks of herons and egrets. (Do paint anything made of cement with an acrylic or vinyl paint before submerging it in a pond. Otherwise, the lime in the cement can leach into the water and throw off the acid-alkalinity balance.)
Add some decorative discouragement. Fake owls and snakes can intimidate and sculptures of herons might detour the real things since they think the territory is already taken. (Herons are very territorial and usually will not invade another’s space.) You will have to move your sculptures and model critters every now and then as even the wildlife will catch on to them being no threat if they are always in the same place.
Try some kinetic defense systems. There are whirligigs, water squirters and light flashers you can set up around your pond. Some are motion sensors and display their scare tactics
whenever an invader trips their motion sensors. These are most successful after dark. That means the nighttime motion sensors are most likely to help with the nocturnal pests like raccoons. Be aware they will also go off if a pet approaches the pond.
Sometimes all these efforts are still not enough. Occasionally some individual pests are remarkably resourceful and need to be held at bay with a low voltage electric wire – raccoons being most likely to qualify here. It is best to set these mild shock-giving fences for activation after dark on a timer to avoid accidental shocks when people are around the pond. The electric shock is not harmful but it is definitely unpleasant! Also be careful of pets. Raccoons are surprisingly clever, so make sure you set the electric fence so it is not easily avoided.
Another thing that can be problematic with netting is snakes. Most snakes are of the good kind out here. Gopher Snakes and Red Racers may look menacing, but they keep the population of rodents down considerably. They’ll even eat baby rattlers. (Yes, we do have some of the bad kind of snakes, too.) Water does attract snakes since, like all living things, they need to drink. It is easy for a snake to get caught in a bit of netting. The snake will then roll its body trying to extricate itself which will likely only roll it up in the netting even worse. So netting tends to be a better choice to use in the autumn and winter when they keep leaves out and snakes are less active in the cooling air.another alternative. I do this anyway to keep the leaves out of the pond in the autumn. It isn’t very attractive, though. So you probably won’t want to use netting as a permanent deterrent. It is also a bit more difficult to use if you have actively growing pond plants that can grow shoots through the netting and become entangled.
The occasional predator is likely to visit your pond every now and again. If you try some of these tips, you should be able to minimize any damage. It’s also a good idea to keep your pets away from ponds to avoid any potential disaster for either the pet or the pond. With a little extra care, you can keep your pond a thing of beauty to be enjoyed year ‘round – safely!
Water gardening has become very popular all over the country. The romantic image of an oasis in the desert has always held a magical quality. Though here in Southern California it may be more correctly considered chaparral rather than desert, the magic retains its allure. In the dry heat of our summers, a little running water can sooth the soul and lower the temperature psychologically. Water can be introduced from a tiny source or a large focal point. It can be in the form of a fountain, a pool, a waterfall or a pond. Here is some information on water garden design and care.
Fountains can be as simple as little table structures for the patio. Or you can build a natural looking fountain in your garden with local rocks so it appears to be a natural upshot of ground water, blending in with the environment. You can chose from a large selection of pre-formed fountains in all sizes, shapes and colors at specialty or home stores. Or a fountain can be constructed on site as a major feature in the landscape.
Waterfalls are often incorporated into the design of many pools and Jacuzzis. ‘Pondless’ waterfalls have become especially popular recently. The idea is to build a waterfall that spills into a recycling area filled with rock or another medium that makes issues with pond, fish and mosquito maintenance mute. Waterfalls can be built of rock to look natural, or may be built with a variety of other materials to look artistic, contemporary, humorous, or reflect any other style. Most important is that these waterfalls are designed to blend with the style of the surrounding garden and home.
Ponds can be small or can take the form of a lake. Some enthusiasts even create areas big enough for stocking and catching fish. Ponds can be designed to look oriental, tropical, formal, to blend into the local landscape, or to take on many other guises. You can have a pond for fish, plants or with neither, just for the water effect.
There are a number of issues to keep in mind if you are considering building a water feature. In the heat and dry of our climate, the heavier the water flow, the greater the evaporation. Consider designing a water fall with just enough water to create a soothing sound. Pounding water is not only a waste, but it is less relaxing than the sound of a serene trickle. Your water feature will need to be topped up regularly, depending on evaporation. If you do not have fish, you will have to consider ways of thwarting the mosquito population. If there are no living critters in your water world, then you can use chlorine, bleach, or buy water conditioners made for this use at pool supply retailers. If your focus is on water plants, consider using mosquito dunks. They work biologically and will not hurt your plants (or fish). Maintaining a population of fish should keep the mosquito population under control consuming the mosquito eggs and hatchlings as a natural dinner treat. I don’t recommend koi for a pond smaller than 1000 gallons. And be aware that koi love to up-root plants as they grow. For smaller ponds there are lots of colors and forms of goldfish available as well as the usual orange color. Try comets for reds and whites and Shibunkins for fancy patterns, multiple colors and longer fins and tails. Try to avoid bubble-headed or double-tailed fancy goldfish as these have a better chance of survival in an indoor tank. If you want minimum care and a simple tough fish, try mosquito fish. Sometimes you can even find the peach colored version referred to as ‘ruby’. Make sure you do not let mosquito fish into local waters as they can breed and become pests.
Water gardens can be a source of fascination. But they are a lot of work – especially ponds. New ponds actually take the least work, but after a year or two, when they reach a good balance, it will require much of your time to keep that balance. If you want water-lilies, for example, you need to make sure your pond gets at least six hours of sun. This same sun that will make most water plants grow best, will also encourage the long stringy algae that may clog up your pond and equipment. Raising koi or larger numbers of goldfish makes a biological filter a must, and that will need regular cleaning, too. In short, stick to fountains unless you want a pond badly enough to do the time-consuming maintenance. Pond spring cleaning is essential and regular checks and cleaning during the growing season will avoid disasters.
Different types of water gardens will vary in cost and maintenance. But with the right water garden design and care, the payback will be worth every bit!
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